Constipation in Dogs: Symptoms & Causes

By on October 27, 2011

As your dog grows older, the muscles of the colon and rectum may lose some of their ability to propel and expel faeces adequately during a bowel movement. Reduction in stomach and intestinal digestive secretions can produce a bulkier, firmer stool as can diets very high in dry food content if there is insufficient water intake. Your dog will squat and strain to force the faecal mass slowly out. She may even cry from the discomfort. Most people have, at one time or another, suffered with short bouts of constipation and it really is horrible. In dogs, a sudden change in toilet frequency can be a precursor to more serious health problems. Our guide will show you what to look out for.

Constipation in dogs

Prostatic disease can mechanically cause constipation as the prostate gland enlarges and presses up against the floor of the rectum. Similarly, tumours in the rectum or on the anus can interfere with the passage of faeces. Any dog may have an isolated difficult bowel movement on occasion. This should be no cause for alarm if he is otherwise in good health and there is no bleeding or excessive pain.

Repeated bouts of constipation can slowly stretch the rectal muscles, causing permanent dilatation and resulting in chronic constipation. Once this occurs, your dog will need frequent enemas as well as faecal softeners to help him eliminate. The increased time the stool remains in the colon and rectum will allow bacteria that normally live there to act on the stool, causing putrefaction and excessive gas production.

Constipation and Your Dog's Diet

People who support the idea of feeding your dog on a raw food diet argue that foods on their natural state contain the optimum balance of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that we need. They suggest, with good evidence to support, that the enzymes contained in raw food and which are killed off by cooking, will help people to digest their food more fully and so derive more nutritional value from it. That places less stress on the body to produce its own digestive enzymes.

Raw feeding supporters also believe that the processing, extraction and cooking of dog food destroys their natural vitamins and minerals and that food takes longer to digest in this cooked, unnatural state. The processed  food therefore hangs around longer in the gut while the body attempts to digest it.

The proteins, carbohydrates and fats which have not been fully digested therefore become waste products. These waste products slow down the food’s transit through the gut, causing constipation, bloating, stomach cancer etc, while the fats tend to clog up the arteries. A raw food diet, which is higher in fiber too, pushes the food more quickly through the gut and there are fewer waste by-products which are left around to cause problems to the body.

Feeding your dog a balanced, complete diet in accordance with veterinary guidance is key in helping your dog avoid or overcome constipation but, more importantly, if your dog is suffering with constipation have him checked, quickly. It can be an early warning sign to a more serious illness.

Dog Food Quantity: Your dog's feeding schedule must be adjusted so he produces firm, formed stools at every bowel movement. The number of feedings per day should equal the number of bowel movements. If stools are loose, the feed quantity should be decreased 10%. This assumes that the stools are not loose because of internal parasites or another medical problems.

The amount fed is continually reduced in ten percent steps until a firm stool is produced. If the stools are chalky and very dry, the quantity fed should be increased until a firm stool is achieved. A dog suffering from either constipation or overly loose stools cannot be expected to control its bowel movements on a schedule. Again, recognising that unusual toilet habits can be an early warning sign for more serious problems is worth re-stating. Don't ignore constipation or its opposite, diarrhoea.

Older Dogs & Constipation

Constipation may be brought on by a loss of muscle tone in the bowel area, or, in older male dogs, by an enlargement of the prostate. Adding bran cereal, liver, or vegetables to the diet of an older dog who is constipated may provide the laxative effect needed to get rid of the problem. Iron can be a cause of constipation so if your dog is receiving supplements, again alert your vet if their bowel movements show any signs of fatigue.

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