Like humans, dogs sometimes become constipated. If your dog is alert and active but has not had a bowel movement in 48 to 72 hours, don't worry. Just like people, dogs are not always regular.
However, eating wood, bones and other indigestible material is a common cause of constipation. Psychological factors can also have an influence. Have you recently changed his diet? Made any home or lifestyle changes that could have upset him? Constipation can also be a side effect of some medications.
If your dog makes frequent, unsuccessful attempts to defecate, has a decreased appetite, is vomiting, lethargic and only passing a small amount of blood-streaked, foul smelling stool, he may have impacted feces in the colon. Sometimes, longhaired dogs have a problem with hair matting over their anus, making defecation impossible. In rare cases, hairballs may be the problem. Either way, take your dog in to see his vet within 24 hours.
Your vet will give your dog a complete physical examination, palpate the intestines and perform a rectal exam. If your vet suspects a piece of bone is lodged in the rectum, he may suggest X-rays, endoscopies or ultrasound. For impacted feces, your vet may administer an enema.
Non-disease related constipation could best be controlled by diet. If your dog has a tendency toward constipation, avoid feeding dry dog food or moisten dry food with water. It may also be helpful to feed your dog a small amount of bran. The dose is 1 tablespoon to six ounces of wet food. The bran has no side effects and may be added indefinitely or as needed. Make sure your dog is drinking sufficient water.
For mild constipation, add mineral oil, 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds body weight to your dog's food. Warning! Never administer mineral oil directly in your dog's mouth! It can pass into the respiratory system and cause aspiration pneumonia. Or you can give one Maalox tablet daily until symptoms disappear. Do not give Maalox if your dog has a history of kidney or heart disease!
The intestinal muscles of older dogs move food more slowly along the digestive tract. To help keep things moving, add finely ground raw or stewed fruits and vegetables to his diet. Make sure he is drinking an adequate amount of water.
Under psychological stress, some dogs react by refusing to defecate, which leads to constipation. For dogs with a history of reacting to stress with constipation, anticipate his reaction to any changes in his life by adding bran to his food.
For longer-haired dogs, trim matted hair and feces from the anus. Regular dog grooming will prevent this problem in the future.