By Dr. Karen Burgess

What is constipation?
Constipated animals experience infrequent or difficult defecation with stools being unusually hard or dry. Some pets with constipation may appear to have diarrhea. In actuality it is merely fecal liquid that is escaping around the fecal obstruction. In severe cases of constipation pets may experience loss of appetite, lethargy, abdominal discomfort, and vomiting. Ultimately sepsis or infection of the blood can develop and create a life threatening situation.

What are potential causes of constipation?

  • Dietery related (insufficient fiber intake, ingestion of abnormal substances such as hair, bones, foreign material, lack of water consumption)
  • Environmental related (changes in daily routine, hospital stay, moving, change in litterbox, dirty litterbox, lack of exercise)
  • Medical related (aging or debilitation, masses or lesions involving the rectum or anus, spinal disease, numerous other metabolic, hormonal, or systemic diseases)
  • Idiopathic constipation is diagnosed when all other causes are ruled out.

What is involved with treatment for constipation?
If your pet’s constipation is severe, a hospital stay, fluid therapy, enemas, or manual removal of the stool all may be required. Injectable pain medication and/or sedation are often required as the condition can be quite painful. In cases of chronic recurrent constipation surgical removal of the large intestine may be indicated.

How are pets with constipation treated at home?

Potential at home constipation treatments (consult with veterinarian prior)

  • High fiber diets (i.e. Hills W/D, Purina OM)-these increase water retention in the intestine which then softens the stool.
  • Brushing long-haired animals frequently to remove excess hair.
  • Maintaining a clean litterbox for cats and exercising dogs 30-60 minutes after eating.
  • Always having fresh water available.
  • Fiber supplementation-All-Bran cereal (Kellog’s, etc) 1-5 TBSP daily with food, canned pumpkin pie filling 1-5 TBSP daily with food, Metamucil, Fiberall 1-5 TBSP daily with food, Laxatone, Kat-A-Lax 1-5 ml by mouth daily
  • Do not administer enemas at home to your pet unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Some products can be toxic to cats and the wall of the rectum/colon can be unintentionally torn or damaged during improper administration.