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Digestive System: Dogs and Constipation

Overview:

Problems related to dogs and constipation are common. It refers to any condition where there is difficult, infrequent or partial defecation from the gastrointestinal system. The term obstipation refers to a condition where the stool hardens to the point where in cannot be removed by the body. Tenesmus refers to straining to defecate with no stool produced after trying.

There are a number of conditions and diseases that can prevent the feces from moving through the colon.

Dog Constipation Symptoms:

Causes:

Dogs and constipation may be caused by any interluminal, extraluminal or Neuromuscular factors in the gastrointestinal tract.

Diagnosis

A simple clinical examination and dietary history is usually enough to diagnose dogs and constipation. In terms of determining the cause, referred to as differentiation, several procedures may be required to identify the exact cause. Radiography may help in diagnosing any obstruction, tumor, hyperplasia or defect in the pelvis. Recurring constipation is more common in dogs with neuromuscular disorders. Neurological tests therefore are recommended in chronic, recurring cases.

A diagnosis of constipation will need to be differentiated from colitis (causes frequent attempts to defecate) and stranguria caused by cystitis which is an inflamed urinary bladder.


dogs and constipation
Dogs and Constipation
Dog with anorexia, abdominal distension, weight-loss and constipation.
Sent to ultra-sound and X-ray examination. The diagnosis was intestinal obstruction.
Source: Washington Sate University

Treatment:

Most cases of dog constipation treatment usually are usually rectified with the intake of large volumes of water and changes in the diet. Constipated dogs should be fed highly digestible fiber accompanied by a significant amount of water to drink. Consider a dog food that is 7% to 13% fiber such as Hill Prescription Diet w/d.  Dogs also can benefit from an increase in exercise.

Laxatives can be used along with dietary adjustment. Laxatives are identified used as a lubricant to enhance and regulate bowl movements. Laxative should never be used in dehydrated dogs. Laxatives soften fecal material, forms bulk and improves contractility.

Docusate sodium and docusate calcium at dose rate of 50 mg capsules for 2 – 3 days act as an effective emollient or moisturizing laxative. Laxtulose at the dose rate of 0.5 mL/Kg, per oral is considered as an osmotic laxative, which retains water in the colon and thus softens feces and improves bowl movements. Bisacodyl at a dose rate of 5 – 20 mg if used, depends upon the size of dog, and acts as stimulant laxative, increasing the propulsive activity of the bowel muscles. Stimulant laxatives should never be used in dogs with an obstruction of the GI Tract.

An enema solution is used to moisten fecal material and initiate a bowel movement. A practical and effective approach is the use of warm isotonic saline or tap water, containing mild soap at the rate of 5 mL/Kg may be introduced in the rectum. Docusate sodium can be added to this solution in severe cases. Some toxicities and side effects are associated with the use enema solutions, such as depression, ataxia (failure of muscle coordination), and hemorrhagic diarrhea (bloody).

If the dog constipation is chronic and does not respond to medical treatment, a colectomy is indicated. Colectomy is a surgical operation of the colon by either resection (surgical removal of part of the colon) or correction of any abnormality of surgical importance. Colectomy is used in the case of injuries, neuromuscular disorders, tumors or pelvic disorders associated with the colon.

Do not use mineral oil or white petrolatum to treat dogs and constipation due to the risk of fatal lipod aspiration pneumonia. Owners should monitor the frequency of defecation 2x per week, with reduced monitoring as the dog returns to a normal cycle.

Home Remedies:

There are several home remedy for dog constipation choices that can be helpful for mild constipation.  Note if problems related to dogs and constipation last more than a day or is accompanied by other signs such as blood, be sure to have a veterinarian check for an underlying cause such as an obstruction (grass, bones, ingested cloth etc.).

Prevention:

In order to prevent dog constipation symptoms or its recurrence, dog food must contain highly digestible fiber, access to drinking water and a dog must be allowed to defecate frequently.  Also follow some of the home remedies for dog constipation tips and make it a part of your dog's routine.  One other tip is to not make food available throughout the day so that a dog has periods where they can digest the food that was eaten.

Fact Sheet:

Dogs and Constipation (PDF, Source: Best Friends Veterinary Center)


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