Canine constipation is a problem of which pet owners may not even be aware. It’s a serious problem causing needless suffering and additional health difficulties if left untreated. In older dogs in particular constipation can be the first, and possibly the only, sign of kidney failure. Prolonged constipation in your pet can result in a condition known as Magacolon. Magacolon affects humans as well as animals and occurs when the body can no longer expel feces normally, causing a build-up of deadly toxins. As with all illness and disease, the sooner you seek treatment for your dog, the better off it will be. But since pets can’t talk, how do you know if your dog is suffering from constipation? Read on:
Symptoms of Canine Constipation
Some of the most common signs of include:
- A bloated stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Noticeable sensitivity in the abdominal area
- Evident straining while trying to have a bowel movement
- Hard, impacted stools
- Not having a bowel movement every day
As a pet owner, you should always note how frequently your pet relieves itself. If you find the time span continuously growing between your dog’s bowel movements, you may want to take a closer look at its digestive health. Monitor your dog’s actions when it goes outside for a daily bathroom break. Use a similar method for tracking its eating habits. If you find it’s suddenly not eating, you should begin monitoring your dog’s meal-to-pooping ratio very closely. Dogs usually keep to a pretty basic routine–food in, food out right? You should be able to notice a slight change in behavior pretty readily. But that’s usually after your pet has already begun to exhibit symptoms, so what happened beforehand? The next section answers this question:
What Causes Canine Constipation Anyway?
There doesn’t appear to be any single or exact cause for canine constipation. It may result from many different factors, including the following:
Not Enough Exercise
Dogs need plenty of exercise for their bodies to function properly just as humans do. Unfortunately, most owners believe tossing a ball or Frisbee® around the yard for a few minutes once or twice a week is enough exercise for their dog. This would be the equivalent of you walking up a couple flights of stairs every Thursday and figuring that’s all the exercise you need to stay fit. Although playing catch with your dog shouldn’t necessarily be “tossed” out, it needs to be supplemented with a little more.
Dogs, aged six months to two years, should engage in a daily exercise routine. Don’t just stick to the backyard but take your pet on a vigorous walk, of course while leashed, as often as possible. A formula supported by many vets involves walking your dog on a daily basis around 1 city block for every 10 pounds of body weight. For example, a dog weighing 40 pounds should be walked 4 full blocks, or about a mile and a half. Not only will this help keep your furred friend healthy but you as well. For a well-rounded exercise routine, it’s also advised your dog chews a veterinarian recommended chew toy. Surprisingly, chewing toys exercises your dog’s brain, as well as muscles in his head and neck, because it promotes mental activity beyond just sitting or passively lying around the house.
By contrast, rawhide-style bones can actually be detrimental to your dog’s health. As your dog chews them apart, they can end up swallowing large chunks of the bones. Rawhide-style bones are for the most part indigestible. They sit in your dog’s stomach until it can pass them with a bowel movement. However, a bad bowel situation can occur if your dog eats too many and the bones stay in its stomach too long, thereby blocking the flow. Speaking of what your dog eats, we need to look at:
Poor Dog Diet
Another common cause of canine constipation is lack of drinking water. If your dog is not getting enough water to drink, it can become dehydrated. Remember also-dogs cannot perspire to cool off like humans but must pant or drink cool water instead. A lack of water in a canine’s system can cause hardening of the stools, so it’s extremely important to make sure your pets have fresh water available at all times.
Poor diet is probably the main cause of canine constipation. Most dry kibble contains everything a dog needs related to nutrition; but some lower priced dog foods may use low quality ingredients and this can have an adverse affect on your dog’s digestive system. Feeding your dog too many table scraps is another way of ruining their diet and throwing their digestive system out of whack. Though it may seem like you’re being nice to your pet by sharing treats, the canine tummy really isn’t designed to eat French-fries, tacos, or even filet mignon. Dogs can be constipated just like you from eating the wrong kinds of food, or even too many otherwise healthful snacks.
Some dogs also love to chew and swallow pebbles, clumps of grass and other strange items. Needless to say, these garden-variety delectables are potential bowel blockers by default, but can also lead to other serious health issues:
Worms Can Cause Constipation
Worm infestation is yet another problem that can cause constipation in your dog and this can become a very serious problem if not immediately acted upon. Worms can enter your dog’s digestive system many different ways. Think about activities common to canines-digging in dirt, licking stuff, lying on the ground, and eating dead critters, not to mention drinking from puddles. Any of these alone can provide a vector for worm larvae to invade. Once worms enter your dog’s body, they can reproduce voraciously and start draining your pet of important nutrition by “sharing” in everything they eat. As the invaders continue to multiply, your dog’s intestine becomes literally clogged and choked with foreign matter, improperly digested meals, and residue from the worms themselves. Be very mindful of what your pet eats, and try to prevent it from consuming dirty or foreign objects just as you would a small child, which leads us to the summary topic:
How Do I Prevent Canine Constipation?
While there is no guaranteed preventative measure, avoiding a few common mistakes and treating your dog well can greatly decrease its chances of experiencing this painful situation. Make sure you feed your dog good quality, dry dog food (which is also good for the teeth). Keep your pet’s water bowl filled with clean water. Spend quality time engaging your dog in stimulating exercise routines, and give it only veterinarian-recommended chew toys. Lay off the indigestible bones, don’t let your pet eat just anything they dig up, and act quickly if you suspect your dog already has worms.
These tasks sound a lot easier in theory than in practice; but always remember–your dog’s health is ultimately your responsibility. Your loyal companion is relying on you to provide a healthy diet, walk it daily, and treat digestive problems accordingly when they begin to occur. When accomplished with a little love, these simple tasks can spare your dog from experiencing unnecessary pain and serious health risks.