Many dog owners are familiar with pets getting diarrhea, but often have less experience with constipation. Constipation occurs when there isn’t enough fiber or water consumption in the pet’s system to adequately eliminate waste products in a timely manner. Other factors will also be discussed.
Your pet postures for relief, keeps straining and nothing happens, or the stool is dry and hard due to solid waste staying too long in the colon, and subsequently all the moisture is absorbed prior to the animal’s bowel movement.
GI Track Design and Function
The design of the GI track is fairly straight forward. Food enters the stomach via the esophagus, and exits the stomach via the first part of the small intestine, termed the duodenum. Very little digestion occurs in the stomach.
After the stomach comes the small intestine, which is divided into three parts: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. 100% of digestion takes place in these three segments. So that once the ingesta leaves the ileum it is done being digested, and only waste material remains.
After the ileum, the ingesta enters the large intestine, also called the colon. Although not technically accurate, we often use these two terms interchangeably.
The digested waste product that leaves the ileum and enters the colon has the consistency of pudding. It is devoid of nutrition, but has not yet taken the form of firm stool.
The sole purpose of the colon is to remove moisture from the waste product and form firm stool. That’s it. It is basically just a dehydrator for stool. Constipation occurs when the colon does its job too well.
There are many different reasons why this can occur, but the common factor is stool staying in the colon too long. This can be caused by neurogenic, hormonal, nutritional, or other reasons, but for the sake of this post we’ll concentrate on nutritional causes.
Major Reasons for Constipation in Dogs
Here are some of the most common causes of constipation in dogs:
- Low fiber meals causing slow peristaltic contractions
- Out of balance intestinal flora
- Dehydration, not consuming sufficient amounts of water – this is a major cause
- Lack of exercise
- Changing foods
- Eating rocks, sticks, clothing, shoelaces, large bone treat, large bully stick, pigs ear, or any foreign object
- Intestinal obstruction, including tumors
- Infected and / or swollen anal glands
- Prostatic hypertrophy in males
- Magnesium or Folic Acid deficiency
- Lack of B-Complex Vitamins
Should you be concerned?
In general, any pet that goes more than two days without a BM should be evaluated by your vet. Chronic constipation can lead to a cascade of problems that each builds upon the previous. So a good rule of thumb is to not allow your dog to have constipation more than 2 days.
Easy Ways to Prevent Constipation in Dogs
Here are some easy fixes you can incorporate into your everyday routine to help your pet stay regular:
- Exercise pet briskly once or twice daily
- Adding dietary fiber to meals
- Flax seed Powder- adds mucilaginous fiber
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Coconut fiber
- Fish Oil
- Canned Pumpkin
- Apples – be sure to include the peel
- Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes
- Organic Aloe Vera juice
- Massage Therapy
- Herbs: Dandelion root, Senna, Cascara Sagrada, Boldo