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Have you ever worried your dog might be constipated but didn’t really know what to do about it? It’s not the most common issue dogs have, but it definitely happens from time to time. It’s usually easy to recognize when your dog has diarrhea, but it can be a bit more difficult to notice constipation in your dog. Don’t worry though - we’re here to help!

What is constipation?
Constipation in dogs can be described as difficulty passing stool or the inability to pass stool. While constipation is usually easy to reverse, there may be situations where it can indicate a more severe problem.

Signs of Constipation in Dogs
Some common signs of constipation in dogs include:

Straining to pass stool
If your dog is experiencing constipation, you may find that they strain to pass stool. Straining can be normal if it doesn’t commonly occur or if it only lasts a short period. However, if your dog strains for an unusually long time, he may be constipated. It is important to note that straining can also occur with large intestinal diarrhea.

Unable to pass stool
Sometimes your dog may go 24 hours without passing stool. This may be unusual for them, but there is no need to worry right away. Instead, you’ll just want to keep an eye on it. If your dog cannot pass stool after 48 hours, this would be the time to check in with your veterinarian.

If feces stay in the colon for prolonged periods, they may become too hard and compacted for your dog to pass on their own. This is referred to as obstipation and usually requires a veterinary visit to remove the impaction.

Appearing uncomfortable when passing stool
If your dog feels constipated or has trouble passing stool, they may whine when trying to go. If they yelp in pain, it may be a good idea to have them checked over by your veterinarian. This may indicate constipation, but there could also be another health issue like a urinary issue, joint issue, or muscle issue.

Changes in the appearance of stool
The stool may appear hard and dry, almost pellet-like. This occurs because more water is drawn from the stool the longer it sits in the colon.

If your male dog is experiencing an issue where their prostate has become enlarged, the feces may appear more ribbon-like. This occurs because of the compression on the colon, causing the stool to become flattened.

Blood in stool
Straining can sometimes lead to irritation of the small vessels around the anus. This can cause a small amount of bright red blood to appear in the stool. This should resolve once your dog no longer has trouble passing stool.

Not acting like themselves
Your dog may seem a bit under the weather. For example, if they are constipated, they may have some abdominal discomfort or pain that makes them not feel like doing much. They may have lower energy and lower appetite as well.

Vomiting
In more severe cases of constipation, your dog may vomit. This will usually only occur if constipation has been going on for a longer period or some other underlying medical condition. If your dog is vomiting and has constipation, it may be best to call your veterinarian for further advice.

While we don’t always focus on our dog’s pooping habits, it’s a good idea to check up on it every once and a while, especially if they ‘go’ unattended. You will be able to catch any signs of constipation early and might even be able to fix the issue for your dog.

At-home remedies for mild constipation in dogs
If your dog has started to show early signs of constipation within the past 24 hours or so, you may be able to provide them some support from home. Early interventions can help prevent constipation from getting worse.

Appropriate and well-balanced diet: what your dog eats is very important when it comes to their bowel movements. Many dog foods consist of high carbohydrates and low moisture which are not helpful for constipation.

Water: Keep your dog hydrated by making sure they have continuous access to clean, fresh drinking water. Fresh food and raw diets can also provide additional moisture. Adding water to kibble can also provide extra moisture.

Additional fiber: Adding some extra fiber to your dog’s diet may help them become more regular. For example, 100% plain canned pumpkin is commonly recommended (1 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight given with food up to twice daily).

Probiotics: probiotics are an excellent way to help your dog become more regular and improve their overall gut health.

Regular exercise may help get the gastrointestinal tract moving and help your pooch have regular bowel movements. These are also important things to consider when you want to prevent constipation in your dog!

How do I monitor my dog’s stool?
Keeping a diary of their bowel movements is a great way to catch subtle changes or signs of constipation early. Log photos and jot down notes each day using the DIG Labs Health Check (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/dig-labs-dog-health-check/id1538990152). It allows you to monitor your dogs’ digestive health and share all the information with your veterinarian.

When to see your veterinarian
If your dog experiences constipation that lasts for more than 24-48 hours, you should let your veterinarian know so they can advise you further. Obstipation (impacted feces) can occur if your dog can’t pass feces for an extended period. Obstipation can be very painful for your dog and can progress to something called megacolon. Megacolon refers to dilation of the intestines due to the impacted feces. With megacolon, the colon will then not be able to function correctly to remove the feces. Both of these situations will require veterinary care to remove the feces.

You should also see your veterinarian if your dog appears to have recurring bouts of constipation, as this may be a sign of an underlying problem. Your veterinarian will be able to perform a thorough physical exam and some necessary tests and radiographs to look for a cause. They can then provide you with the best treatment options available.

Let us know what you think or if your dog struggles with constipation in the comments below!
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