Chances are you know when and where your pet is having bowel movements. There was a time when the answer to this question was mostly unknown, but with leash laws and the awareness of health reasons for cleaning up after our pets – even in our own yards – it’s normal for pet owners to be aware of their pet’s bathroom habits.
If your pet is having diarrhea, likely you are taking your pet to the vet ASAP. But what if they aren’t producing any stool? What should you do at home? And when should you bring them to the vet? Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital answers these and other pressing constipation questions.
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation is the inability to produce normal stools on a regular basis. For a dog, this is generally 1-2 times per day, and for a cat, 1-3 times per day. Pets suffering from constipation will not “go” at all, will strain to go, or will produce only hard, small stools or tiny amounts of liquid stools.
Some causes of constipation can be relatively simple, such as a diet lacking in fiber. Other causes can be much more serious and require veterinary attention. In extreme cases, constipation can become so serious that it may cause a veterinary emergency and, without treatment, even death. It’s important to contact us right away if you suspect your pet is constipated.
Common causes include:
- Dietary issues
- Discomfort, pain, or orthopedic disease
- Motility disorders
- Adverse reactions to medication
- Traumatic injury
- Neurologic disease
What Can You Do When Your Pet Is Constipated?
If the problem has just started – within a day – you can try some home remedies to get things moving again. Be sure to call us and let us know the situation, and don’t let constipation go on for longer than 2 days before coming in to have your pet evaluated.
One other important consideration for cats is problems urinating. If your cat is straining in the litter box, pay close attention. Urinary obstruction in cats is a medical emergency.
Add fiber – a tried and true remedy, giving canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) can get things moving in the right direction. A handful of steamed (and cooled) green beans, 1- 3 TBSP of steamed mashed sweet potato, or a sprinkle of Metamucil also adds extra fiber.
Be aware that these and other veggies have other nutrients that may not be beneficial for your pet if they have other health problems, such as kidney disease. We can help you determine the best vegetables based on your pet’s health condition.
Water – encouraging your pet to drink more water is a great way to keep their digestive tracts healthy. Try a circulating pet fountain to increase interest.
Exercise – a lack of exercise not only causes slow weight gain, but decreases the motility of the gut. You might try taking your dog for a walk if she’s constipated, or get your kitty involved in a good game of feather wand catch. It’s worth a try!
When To See A Vet
Long term constipation may lead to a buildup of fecal matter in the colon known as obstipation. This may cause the colon to become distended and lose its ability to move stool along normally (known as megacolon).
If your pet is not defecating normally after one or two days, it’s time to see us. When you come in, we’ll want to know:
- The last time your pet defected
- Stool color and consistency
- Changes in your pet’s diet or routine
- Non food items your pet may have eaten
- If straining or pain happens upon trying to defecate
- Any drugs or treatments your pet is taking
- Any other signs of discomfort or abnormal behavior
Depending on your pet’s condition and general health, treatments may include:
- Laxatives, stool softeners, or other drug therapy –please do not administer at home unless under the direction of your veterinarian!
- Enemas – see above
- De-obstipation (manual removal of impacted feces while under anesthesia)
- IV fluid therapy
- Surgical intervention
In most cases, future problems with constipation can be resolved with dietary changes, adequate water intake, and regular exercise.
If you have any questions about your pet’s bowel movements, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team is ready to help!