Most humans are familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of constipation. But humans aren’t the only ones who get it. Dogs – who have similar digestive systems as humans – also suffer from constipation.
The causes of constipation in dogs can be difficult to identify, as there are a variety of issues that can cause it. Constipation is pretty common in dogs, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Chronic constipation can lead to additional, more serious health issues down the line.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is the inability to have regular, consistent bowel movements. Most dogs have at least one bowel movement per day. Dogs with constipation will have three or less bowel movements per week. Bouts of constipation are not a serious health issue, but if it constipation is present for long periods of time, it can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting in dogs.
Since dogs cannot speak, it can be hard to tell when they are experiencing episodes of constipation. But there are some signs to look out for, including lack of daily bowel movements and straining when trying to defecate. If your dog has not had a bowel movement in two days or more, he is likely constipated.
Causes of Constipation in Dogs
There are various things that can cause constipation in dogs. Sometimes, more than one of the following may be responsible for your dog’s digestive issues. It’s important to pay close attention to the following if you suspect your dog is constipated, and try to remedy these issues.
The right balance of fiber in the diet is essential. Both soluble and insoluble fiber can help stave off constipation. Soluble fiber keeps more water in the stool, making it softer and easier to pass through your dog’s intestines. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, which speeds its passage through the digestive system and avoids constipation.
Make sure to check the ingredients on your dog’s food to make sure it includes a healthy amount of fiber. Adding pumpkin and wheat bran can help increase your dog’s fiber intake if he’s not getting enough through his normal food.
When your dog isn’t drinking enough water, it can affect his digestive system. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation in dogs. Make sure that your dog always has a source of fresh water to drink from, and always bring along water when you exercise your dog – be it at the dog park or on a long walk or hike. You can buy a portable water bottle/dish at your local pet store.
In male dogs, constipation can be a symptom of an enlarged prostate gland – which is common in older male dogs. In fact, more than 90% of male dogs will have an enlarged prostate by the time they reach 10 years of age. An enlarged prostate can mean prostate cancer, but often, it is just part of the normal aging process. While an enlarged prostate does not cause pain, it can result in constipation.
Ingesting Grass or Dirt
Dogs tend to eat things that they probably shouldn’t. If your dog likes to consume grass, dirt, and debris, it may lead to constipation, as these things are not easily broken down in the body.
Eating grass and dirt may not affect your dog’s bowel movements at all, but if you notice blades of grass in your dog’s stool, keep an eye out to make sure he is having regular bowel movements.
Lack of Exercise
Making sure your dog gets enough exercise is the best thing you can do for his overall health. A lack of exercise can lead to all kinds of health problems, including constipation. Consistent exercise helps your dog’s body function at an optimal level, from heart health to digestive health to muscle development.
What to Do If Your Dog is Constipated
Short bouts of constipation are nothing to be alarmed about. When you notice that your dog is constipated, give him a fiber supplement or a dish of canned pumpkin. Make sure he is drinking water, and fill his bowl as soon as it is empty.
Take him for a nice jog or run. If after trying these remedies your dog continues to experience constipation, schedule an appointment with your vet, who will help determine if there are additional, underlying issues causing the constipation.