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Answers from vets about your dog:

I Have a Constipated Dog, What Should I Do?

Posted September 17, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

A dog laying on the couch

Is your dog having regular bowel movements? Odds are that you know the answer to this question. Gone are the days when dogs roamed freely and pet owners, when questioned, honestly had no idea whatsoever of their dog’s bathroom habits. Nowadays, between leash laws, regulations and an increased public awareness of the need for speedy and hygienic removal of pet waste, even in the backyard, many pet parents tend to be intimately aware of a dog’s schedule and output.

Unpleasant or not, this is a good thing because it’s important to be aware of, and to pay attention to, our pets elimination habits. No doubt we, as veterinarians, see plenty of dogs in our offices whose owners brought them in because of diarrhea, sometimes even very minor cases of diarrhea. This is probably because having a dog with diarrhea is not only a concern for the dog, but it also tends to be an inconvenience for the guardian. On the other hand, diminished stool output often doesn’t raise such urgent responses.

Certainly, an occasional “off day” that resolves itself naturally is not cause for alarm, but constipation can be very serious, and often does require a trip to the veterinarian.

Symptoms associated with constipation

  • Difficulty passing stools and/or straining to defecate: This is always a reason to have your dog examined by your veterinarian. Not only because he’s obviously uncomfortable, but also because male dogs especially can develop urinary blockages too and those are life-threatening emergencies.
  • Hard, small stools: Even if your dog is having bowel movement on a routine basis but those stools are small, hard or dry that is still an indication that there is a problem that should be evaluated.
  • No stools at all: If your dog has not had any bowel movements for 2-3 days he is constipated and needs to be examined.
  • Small amounts of liquid stool: This may seem counterintuitive, but if your dog is only passing small amounts of liquid it may be because he is so constipated that the immoveable, hard, mass of stool is blocking the passage of anything but little bits of liquid or ribbons of soft stool that manage to squeeze by. He should be checked.
  • Decreased appetite/activity/depression: These are non-specific symptoms of many different problems so you need a diagnosis of the underlying cause.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting is more common in constipated cats, but can occur in

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.