Just like their owners, just about all dogs will periodically suffer from constipation; some more than others. In most cases, simple precautions and home remedies work enough to help them. However, if the problem gets out of control, it could become serious, expensive and possibly fatal.
Owners of dogs on medications, inactive, older and senior dogs should pay extra attention when their dog goes about the business of eliminating. They are commonly known to be more prone to constipation difficulties.
Dogs with pica are also prime candidates. Pica is a disorder where by a dog routinely eats inappropriate, usually indigestible items. For example: bottle caps (metal or plastic) coins, balls, screws, nails, rocks, string, wood, concrete, clothes, pillow and toy stuffing and toys. These items can cause a blockage, preventing them from eliminating.
Forms of physical blockage due to health issues are: tumors, polyps, and intestinal intussesception. Intestinal intussesception occurs when one section of the intestines telescopes into another section causing an obstruction. These are serious conditions, requiring immediate veterinary attention!
Certain medications can cause eliminating problems. Know what the side effects are of all medications prescribed for your pet. If you are aware of the side effects, you may be able to prevent them.
Stress, thyroid problems, parasites, low fiber dog food, trauma, lack of exercise and dehydration are also on the list of possible sources of blockage.
Rawhides are a common cause of not only choking, but also blockage. Do your dog a favor. Play Mr. Wizard by cutting off a piece, put it in a glass of water overnight and watch it grow! Even a small chunk caught in their intestines could not only cause a blockage, but it could also possibly cause their intestines to rupture.
Most likely, your dog is telling you they need help. Watch for if they are straining when eliminating, vomiting, appear lethargic, have difficulty walking, have a mucus discharge when eliminating, scooting, have dry, hard stools, whine, are restless, display weight loss or abdominal bloating, appear stressed/uncomfortable and/or show no interest in food. You and your dog, may have a problem.
If the situation has not risen to the critical stage, a few home remedies may help them through this painful time. Here are a few proven suggestions:
Be prepared. You should keep on hand, milk, canned pumpkin (not the pie filling), Mylanta Gas, GasX, and Metamucil, bran or sugar-less bran cereal, chicken or beef broth, canine stool softeners, canned wet food, and olive or mineral oil. Some also recommend aloe juice.
Ways to help your dog include:
Water, water, everywhere! Have a number of water bowls strategically placed around the house and yard. Often, just finding a new water bowl somewhere is enough to entice them to take a few licks.
Ice cubes! Most dogs love ice cubes. It’s a good way for them to think they are getting a treat… and you know they are getting hydrated.
Soften their food. Adding water or broth to dry food and letting it soften and swell in the bowl, before feeding it to your dog, often makes it easier to digest and pass. It can also help avoid bloat.
Mylanta Gas, GasX, or Metamucil may help ease the discomfort before your dog actually becomes seriously obstructed. Sprinkle or mix a spoonful of Metamucil on or in their food. Make sure your dog drinks plenty of water after the Metamucil!
One or two spoons of plain canned pumpkin (not pie filling) mixed in their food not only adds nutrition, it has lots of fiber! This can be used as either a preventative measure or remedy.
A little olive oil, mineral oil or the oil from a can of tuna fish added to their food can help lubricate them. You can even give them a little treat by adding the tuna. It may inspire a dog that is not interested in eating take a few nibbles.
Canned salmon is high in Omega-3 oils. Mix a little in with their dry food as a surprise now and then. Most dogs love fish!
Don’t forget fruits and veggies! String beans, fresh or frozen, have loads of fiber. Add a fistful to their regular diet. Some dogs love carrots, watermelon, bananas and apples. A few small pieces can add needed fiber to their diet in a pleasant way. Do not give them grapes or raisins!
Smaller portions, more feedings. Instead of feeding your pet once or twice a day, feed them their regular amount, but in smaller portions spaced out every few hours.
For those fast eaters that don’t chew, never mind taste their food, there are specially designed bowls, with a large “ball” in the center. The dog has to work around the ball, so they don’t just inhale their food.
For larger dogs, about a half cup of milk can get the plumbing back on track. For the smaller guys a tablespoon or two should work. You can also add a bit of bran or high fiber sugar-free cereal to the milk. What a special treat!
Some dog owners add a spoon or two of plain yogurt or cottage cheese to their dog’s daily diet, to keep them regular. It also makes meals a bit more appealing than just plunking down a bowl of dry food.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! If your dog is a swimmer, great! It’s a wonderful way to exercise your pet. If not, a couple of short walks per day, can help get things moving. It won’t hurt you either! Three or four 20 minute walks, spaced out over the course of the day can help.
For older and senior dogs, get them food made especially for them. Typically, they contain more fiber. Watch for the grain content. Look for low-grain dog foods.
For puppies, a warm, damp towel sometimes helps. They don’t get constipated very often, but if they do, wet and warm a towel, place your puppy on their back and gently rub their belly from front to back. Normally, it only takes a few strokes. Their mom did this with her tongue, when they were in the litter, to stimulate them to urinate and defecate.
Now for the serious stuff! If your dog has been suffering from constipation for more than two days, get them to your veterinarian. They may be able to treat them with IVs, suppositories and/or enemas before it reaches the critical stage. Complications from constipation can include what is referred to as megacolon. That is the advanced stage where the stools are too hard and dry to pass. It will require surgery.
Obstipation, also known as intractable constipation, occurs when the blockage is so dangerous neither the gas nor the stools can pass. Again, this will most likely require surgery.
Gross as it may sound, dog owners should be knowledgeable of their dog’s “normal” bowel movements and habits. Not only does that set off an early warning signal, it can also help recognize when your dog is back to normal. Note: Diarrhea does not necessarily mean the problem has been solved. Loose bowel movements can squeeze by blockages.
Bottom line: It’s always wiser to prevent a situation, than to have to deal with it. A few precautions can help prevent your dog from discomfort and pain. The most important thing to know is when you can no longer help them; get them to your veterinarian before it’s too late.
Karen A. Soukiasian, GOOD DOG! – DOG TRAINING and BED-n-BISCUITS dog boarding and training – Owner/Trainer, St. Augustine, Florida – AKC CANINE GOOD CITIZEN and S.T.A.R. PUPPY Evaluator.