Just like their human caregivers, pets can experience constipation as well. On average, both cats and dogs pass stool one to two times each day. However, when constipated, it can be two or three days between bowel movements. This time can be very difficult and painful for the pet. The good news is there are many options for finding constipation relief in cats and dogs.
Constipated pets will display a number of symptoms. Both cats and dogs will become bloated and lethargic. Additionally, pets may pick at their food or refuse to eat altogether.
It is also important to monitor a pet during times when they are at higher risk for constipation. These times include mid to old age, dehydration, introduction of or change in medication, and after ingestion of a foreign substance (such as a toy, household item, etc). In cats, caregivers should be especially attentive in cases where hairballs are present. For dogs, caregivers should pay special attention during house training.
Both cats and dogs can benefit from many of the same treatments to relieve constipation. First, a high fiber diet can not only treat constipation, but can help to prevent it. Many commercially prepared weight loss meals provide high fiber options. For cats, hairball prevention products offer a high fiber supplement and also work to reduce the instance of constipation caused by hairballs. As an alternative, some veterinarians have found that a diet low in carbohydrates may be better in treating constipation then the high fiber diet.
Laxatives can provide immediate constipation relief in pets when used correctly. Stimulant laxatives, such as Dulcolax, can be used in small doses (between five to twenty milligrams daily). However, repeated stimulant usage can cause colon function issues. Bulk-forming laxatives are a safer alternative to stimulant laxatives. Adding wheat bran, canned pumpkin, or Metamucil to meals can help promote bowel movements without long term colon effects. In dogs, caregivers can also try soaking the pet's kibble in water. Mix the kibble with the same amount of water (i.e. one cup kibble and one cup of water) and then let the mixture sit for 20 minutes prior to feeding. Dogs can also benefit from products containing lactose. Caregivers can try adding milk to their dog’s meals. Slowly increase the amount of milk until the constipation is relieved. Do not attempt to give a cat milk in any circumstance unless directed by a veterinarian. Contrary to popular belief, most cats are actually lactose intolerant.
It is important to determine if a pet is indeed suffering from constipation alone and not a more serious issue. Many times constipation is a symptom of a much more urgent disorder. Caregivers should look for symptoms associated with colitis and obstipation in order to rule out these conditions.
Colitis is an inflammation of the colon which is usually brought on by inflammatory bowel diseases. Numerous bowel movement attempts, straining, and flatulence are symptoms in common with constipation, but if stools passed are mixed with blood or mucus, pets should be taken to a veterinarian for an exam.
Obstipation can also be very dangerous. Obstipation is when constipation is brought on by a blockage in the intestine. A blockage, or obstruction, in the pet's digestive tract can present in various ways.