Is Constipation In Your Dog a Medical Emergency?


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Dog owners will tell you that they know more about the bathroom habits of their pet than they would care to, and are attuned to changes that could indicate illness, including constipation. Let us take a look at some of the most common causes of constipation in dogs, and instances when it is a sign that something more serious is going on.

How often does a healthy dog poop?

The number of times your dog poops in the day depends on a number of factors. Healthy dogs usually defecate after a meal as their stomach is connected to the colon with nerves that initiate the gastro-colic response. So, when the stomach gets filled up, the colon kicks into gear. On an average, dog poop anywhere between one and three times every day. Your dog is constipated if there is a decrease in the frequency of his defecation.


The most common symptoms of constipation include:

  • Straining and crying while attempting to pass stool
  • Passing small, round fecal balls
  • Passing excessively dry or firm stool
  • scooting the bum against the ground
  • Licking the rear end
  • Pain or weakness in the hindquarters and a droopy tail if the cause of the constipation is neurological

If the constipation is acute, he will show signs of pain or nausea. A lot of pet owners think that straining to poop automatically equates to constipation. That is not necessarily true. Spasms in the colon accompanied by soft stools that contain blood or mucus can cause pain and straining in dogs and need immediate veterinary attention. Prostate or urinary tract problems can also cause straining. Your dog's vet will do a physical exam to establish whether your dog's constipated or if he has trouble urinating.


Dietary changes, decreased water consumption and diets that contain indigestible material, like hair or bone, can cause constipation. Also, some medications like opioids, diuretics and antihistamines can cause your pet to be constipated. Serious conditions like an enlarged prostate, infected prostate, prostate cancer, anal gland tumors and abscesses, enlarged lymph nodes in the abdomen and per-anal hernias can cause constipation. If your dog has a pelvic fracture, that could narrow the opening of the pelvis, causing a lot of pain while defecating. Last, but not the least, any condition that messes with your dog's defecating posture can cause pain. These include, but are not limited to, intervertebral disc disease, osteoarthritis of the knees and hips, or a ligament tear in one or both knees.

How is it treated?

The treatment depends on the underlying condition. Antibiotics are prescribed for abscesses. If the diet is the problem, then the vet would recommend adding more fiber in the form of ban, canned pumpkin or a stool softener. More serious causes need targeted treatments that the veterinarian should be able to educate you about.

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