Dog Constipation Symptoms – Recognize Them Before It’s Too Late!
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Unfortunately, it’s inevitable. At one time or another, every living being suffers from it. When you ‘have to go’ but can’t, it’s just a terrible feeling. I honestly don’t know what’s worse – having diarrhea or being constipated. Both are hard to deal with, and both are miserable. But when it comes to your dog constipation symptoms, how can you tell if it’s something that you can quickly treat at home or if it is an emergency?
Many different things can cause constipation in dogs. More so than in humans. Some of these things are easily remedied, but sometimes there are underlying issues that can cause it. With that said, let’s take a look at some signs that your dog is constipated and how you can help them.
Dog Constipation Symptoms
Have you ever looked outside and have seen your pup wander around aimlessly, circling here and there, seemingly looking for somewhere to poop? The chances are good that they’re not LOOKING – they’re TRYING. Here are some other ways that your dog may be trying to tell you that something’s wrong:
- Dragging or scooting their rear-end around the yard (or floor).
- Squatting, but nothing comes out. Sometimes your dog may even whine or cry.
- Passing tiny, dry stool.
- Passing what may look like diarrhea, but it is actually a dark, mucusy liquid that is probably tinged with blood.
- Eating very little, or not eating at all.
- Lethargy (Your dog won’t want to move, eat or drink. If this happens, call your vet as soon as possible!)
Dangerous Illnesses That Can Seem Like Constipation
Even though your dog is probably suffering from mild constipation, you should be aware of these other medical conditions. I have added them to let you know that there are things that only a vet can diagnose and treat safely and effectively.
- Colitis – You will see many small stools and probably blood and mucus.
- Obstructed bladder – Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate (male dogs) are only two of the few reasons for an obstruction.
- Bowel Obstructions – Never, ever pull something out of your dog’s rectum! Something as small as a string can cause damage to your dog’s intestines, and pulling will only make things worse!
- Megacolon – This is a condition when the rectum stretches with hard fecal mass and damages the nerves and muscles. There are different ways to treat this, but only by a vet.
What Could Be Causing Your Dog’s Constipation?
A few different things can cause constipation in dogs, but here are a few of the most common ones.
- Little to no exercise.
- Not enough, or too much, fiber in their diet.
- A sudden change in their diet.
- Excessive self-grooming (licking themselves clean, digesting too much hair).
- Pain medications, especially from surgery.
- Stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Blocked or abscessed anal glands.
- Dehydration from heat or illness. Dehydration is also common in older dogs.
- Tumors in the digestive tract.
- A piece of a toy, a string or bit of cloth, bone, or another hard object got swallowed. It can cause a blockage, and you need to get to the vet as soon as you can.
- Medicines for other health conditions, including antibiotics.
- Long-haired dogs can get what is called ‘mechanical constipation.’ This is when their hair gets matted under their tail, around the anus. It can get so bad that stool can’t pass through it.
While this might seem like an impressive list, many more things can be causing the problem. Old age often brings joint pain (arthritis and other similar conditions) and can make it very uncomfortable for your dog to squat, therefore making them hold it in for as long as they can, trying to avoid the pain. Of course, the longer they hold it in, the more dangerous the situation.
How To Treat Dog Constipation Symptoms
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do at home when you first notice that your dog can’t go.
- If you don’t already, you can take them for a walk or play a bit more, making him (or her) run around a bit more. Doing so will stir up energy in the body, making the blood pump faster and hopefully give the digestive system a boost.
- Add some fiber to their diet. Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber, and you can use it from a can or use a ‘real’ pumpkin, but boil it to make it soft. If buying it canned, please make sure that you purchase PURE pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling. It’s pretty easy to grab the wrong can, but *usually* the pure pumpkin comes in the smaller can.
I know there are many different brands, but the one that I’ve always used is Libby’s. You can get it at a great price HERE.
A lot of people are switching to organic. You can find the organic version HERE.
(The above links lead to Amazon, where I am an affiliate. This means that if you order something from their site, I might get a small commission.)
- Canned dog food will give extra oils and water and can soften up the stool so that it can pass. There are many different types of canned food, so you may have to try one or two kinds to see what your dog prefers.
- If caused by matted fur, trim hair carefully under the tail and around the anus. Use a warm washcloth to soften and clean skin gently. **I would highly suggest that you let a vet do this, but you can do it at home. Of course, your dog won’t like this at all, so you should have two people. One to hold the dog steady, and one to do the cutting and cleaning. (The proper way to hold a dog, to keep everybody safe from injury, is to have one arm around the neck, and the other arm around his or her chest, gently hugging them against you.)
I once had a situation where my Mom’s dog (11 years old) was passing very dark, mucusy stools that were tinged with blood. Of course, our immediate thought was that she was bleeding internally.
After a quick call to the vet, we found out that she may have been constipated, and they advised us to try the canned food and extra liquid. *Of course, the vet told us that if Mia started acting lethargic or not eating or drinking, we were to take her in asap!*
I started scouring the internet and found something interesting – coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil, or virgin olive oil, is very beneficial for both dogs and humans alike when given in SMALL amounts. I thought it was weird, but I went out and bought a coconut and a jar of coconut oil.
Let me tell you – opening a coconut is NOT an easy thing to do! But a few you-tube searches and a bit of work later, I finally did get it open. I gave her a little piece at a time. As it turns out, she hated the coconut water itself but loved the coconut fruit!
I gave her a small piece of that, plus half a teaspoon of coconut oil. I gave her the same amount that evening. She was eating, drinking, and playing, so there was no immediate worry. The next day, I gave her some oil in the morning and a piece of fruit in the afternoon. That evening, she was able to poop with no problem.
**This is our own experience. Thankfully, it worked. I would not have done this if Mia started to act lethargic or not drink anything. If you are unsure of this or are hesitant to try anything else, PLEASE get your pup to a vet. **
When Should You Call the Vet About Your Dogs Constipation Symptoms?
While a ‘normal’ bout of constipation can last 24 – 48 hours, you should not let it go past that amount of time. If your dog hasn’t had a bowel movement for two days, it’s time to call your vet. They may suggest you try something at home, or, depending on your dog’s health history, it may be best to take him in for a visit.
If you see black tarry stools or bright red blood, it means that there is bleeding somewhere inside their body. Only a vet can diagnose and fix this, and it needs immediate attention!
Another critical thing to be aware of is fecal impaction, which is a mass of hard stool in the rectum and colon. Symptoms are much like the other dogs constipation symptoms – passing very little stool, or none at all. Your dog can become lethargic quickly. Severe vomiting and a swollen belly are also symptoms, as well as your dog looking like its back is hunched up.
This is another thing that only a vet can diagnose and treat. He or she will do a rectal exam, which will show a sizeable tube-like mass.
In mild cases, a vet can treat this with a small enema and/or laxative. You should never try to give an enema to your dog at home! It may seem like you can do it easily, but you can perforate the rectum very easily. It is dangerous, and in my personal opinion, should never be done except by a trained professional.
In conclusion, constipation is something that happens to just about every living creature. It sucks, and it can hurt. But when you can spot the signs early and take steps to treat them, your dog will feel better fast.
As I will always say at the end of each of my posts – if you are leery of trying something or feel that something is very wrong, PLEASE do not hesitate to call your vet! I know they can be costly, so if you’re afraid of the expense, ask about options. Sometimes they will work with you.
When you can catch dog constipation symptoms early, you will be able to provide quick relief for your fur-baby.
I wish you the very best and hope your pup feels better fast!