Constipation describes the prolonged passage of ingested material (ingesta) through the intestines. As a result, the stool forms hard and dry lumps that may be cause severe discomfort when passed. In severe cases, it is possible for the ingesta to block the intestinal passage completely.
Constipated animals make repeated and unsuccessful attempts to pass stool while showing signs that they are in severe pain. Their abdomen may appear distended. Their appetite usually seizes. Constipated dogs are usually restless and uneasy and may be constantly shifting their position. In severe cases dehydration and fever may develop.
Insufficient fluid intake and/or a diet low in fiber can cause dogs to become constipated. Strictures–an abnormal narrowing of a passage in a dog's body–or a narrowing of the intestinal lumen, (the space inside the intestine), and certain drugs can predispose dogs to constipation.
In mild cases laxatives can ease the passage of hardened stool. Rectal flushing or manipulation can also help to remove larger lumps lodged in the rectum. In very severe and chronic cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a blockage.
Measures listed in the "Tips" section of Petsicon can be helpful to relieve constipation in your dog and save a trip to the vet. If your animal has not passed stool in 48 hours, consult with your veterinarian.