Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

When Your Pet Just Can’t Go: Constipation in Pets

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If your pet is straining to defecate, this is considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.


This blog is all about your pet’s poop – or rather, the lack thereof! Constipation is when your pet is having difficulty pooping, or infrequent defection, of dry stool. This can lead to obstipation – a very severe complication or form of constipation which results in an extended period of time without defecation and the impaction of very hard, dry fecal material in your pet’s colon and rectum. To help prevent constipation and obstipation, it’s important for pet parents to be informed about the possible causes and to know when to seek immediate veterinary care!

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Common Causes 

There are many reasons why your pet may become constipated. The most common reasons include: 

  • Eating something irritating or indigestible (such as bones or hair)
  • Pain from arthritis
  • Dehydration due to an underlying disease
  • Obesity
  • A rare possibility but something that can happen in the frozen tundra of Minnesota is pets that refuse to poop outside because it’s too cold but they are too well-trained to go in the house 

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When to Seek Veterinary Care 

If your pet hasn’t pooped in 2-3 days but is otherwise acting normally, contact your family veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Your veterinarian may advise you to bring your pet in or they may be able to suggest an over-the-counter remedy.  

DO NOT give your pet any medications or perform enemas (inserting liquid or gas into the rectum) on your own without speaking to a veterinary professional. There are various medical risks with enemas and there are several types of over-the-counter enemas that are toxic to pets.  

Seek immediate veterinary care from your family veterinarian or your local animal emergency hospital if your pet hasn’t pooped AND is: 

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Treatment 

At the animal hospital, bloodwork and x-rays will likely be recommended.  

  • Bloodwork will help determine how dehydrated your pet may be and will look for any other metabolic diseases that could contribute to dehydration and constipation.
  • X-rays will help determine the severity of the constipation (and if it has progressed to obstipation) and if there are any structural reasons (such as a previously fractured pelvis that healed improperly) that could lead to constipation. 

The primary treatments for constipation are aimed at softening the feces and may include one or more of the following: 

  • Rehydration
  • Subcutaneous fluids in mild cases
  • Hospitalization and IV fluids in more severe cases
  • Stool softeners and laxatives
  • Enemas may be recommended and should only be performed by a veterinarian due to the risk of perforating the rectum and colon
  • Medications to help decrease the risk of vomiting stimulated by enemas and straining to defecate
  • In severe cases, pets are placed under general anesthesia and the stool is manually removed

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 How Can I Help Prevent Constipation in My Pet at Home? 

Preventative measures at home such as increasing water intake, feeding canned pumpkin, or using Miralax may ultimately be recommended by your family veterinarian.  Please do not administer mineral oil though, as there is a great risk of aspiration into the lungs causing severe respiratory disease. 

If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your family veterinarian. If it’s after-hours, you can call Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota for guidance. 

More Reading:  

Dr. Bruns, ER vet, emergency veterinarian, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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