Constipation is one of the most common clinical sign seen in pets. It is described as a condition where there is incomplete, absent, less frequent and difficulty in defecation (emptying the bowels) from the large intestine (colon) associated with hardened (hard and dry) feces.
Obstipation is described as a progressive state of constipation where defecation becomes nearly impossible. It is caused by retention of hard feces. It causes loss of normal functionality of the large intestine, does not respond to medical therapy and becomes difficult to manage. It causes extreme discomfort, distress and pain.
There are numerous causes for constipation, such as swallowing objects, bones, hair, intestinal blockage, less water intake, excess fiber in diet, reactions to known drugs and medications and related diseases.
Severe obstipation can progress into Megacolon. These conditions are mostly seen in cats than dogs. It is seen frequently in adult and senior pets (over 5 years of age).
Constipation can be caused by:
› Diet (inadequate water intake, more fiber in food)
› Swallowing foreign body, objects, bones, hair
› Reactions to known drugs and medications
› Lack of Physical activity or exercise
› Environmental causes
› Low blood calcium, potassium, thyroid hormone
› Neurological diseases
› Diseases of the stomach, liver and intestines
› Tumors, Cancer and physical blockage
Clinical Signs & Symptoms
Common symptoms are:
› Swelling around anus
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Dyschezia (Painful defecation)
› Irregular and infrequent defecation
› Small amount of stool
› Hard, dry feces
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your dog which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. They are:
› Physical examination
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Biochemical profile
› Abdominal Radiograph (X-rays)
› Abdominal Ultrasound
› Electrolyte Panel test
› Colonoscopy test
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Severe cases will have to be hospitalized for professional treatment
› IV Fluids (in severe cases)
› Fluid therapy (in-case of severe dehydration)
› If any medications are causing constipation, this will have to be either › discontinued or replaced (as directed by your vet)
› Removal of feces (anesthesia) may be performed
› Increasing physical activity, long walks, exercise
› Dietary changes to include bulking agents such as barn, methylcellulose, pumpkin
› Removal of any and all foreign body such as hair, bone, leaves, sticks, sand
Constipation arises from poor eating habits, swallowing objects and known diseases. Preventing all of this may not be possible. All pets will be constipated at-least a few times in their lives. early detection followed by prompt treatment will comfort your pet.
You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicines and home procedures as directed by your veterinarian. If you observe any behavioral changes or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
› Provide a stress-free environment for your pet. Keep water and food bowls within reach, introduce exercise and physical activity, keep away from noise and any kind of commotion. Do not travel with pets.
Diet needs to change, your veterinarian will suggest you an alternate diet depending on the severity.
› You also have to monitor the frequency of defecation. If you observe vomiting or diarrhea, medications may be needed.