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Constipation in Dogs

Constipation and Obstipation in Dogs

Infrequent, incomplete, or difficult defecation, with passage of hard or dry bowel movements (feces) is medically referred to as constipation. Obstipation is pronounced constipation that is difficult to manage or does not respond to medical treatment. Obstipation is caused by chronic constipation, prolonged retention of hard, dry bowel movement; defecation becomes impossible in patients with this condition.

Symptoms and Types

  • Straining to defecate with small or no fecal volume
  • Hard, dry bowel movement
  • Infrequent or lack of defecation
  • Small amount of liquid stool with mucus in it - sometimes with blood present, produced after prolonged straining to defecate (known as tenesmus)
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Large bowel (colon) filled with hard compacted fecal material
  • Swelling around the anus

Causes

  • Swallowed bones
  • Swallowed hair
  • Foreign material
  • Excessive fiber in the diet
  • Inadequate water intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Trauma
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Paralysis/muscle weakness – muscles of intestines are unable to move fecal material
  • Low blood calcium
  • High levels of parathyroid hormone (important in calcium absorption)
  • Low levels of blood potassium
  • Low levels of thyroid hormone in the blood
  • Change of environment – hospitalization, move
  • Inability to walk to toileting area

Diagnosis

You will need to provide a thorough history of your pet's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis.

X-rays are crucial for visualizing the abdomen and intestinal tract in order to determine the severity of the impaction. Ultrasound imaging of the abdomen can return more precise images. Your veterinarian may also choose to use a colonoscopy (a diagnostic tool that is inserted into the colon to visualize the interior) to diagnose and identify a mass, stricture, or other colonic or rectal lesion.

 
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