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What is Constipation (Severe)?

Most forms of constipation in dogs are mild, but severe chronic constipation can be related to hypertrophy or overstretching of the muscles in the large intestine. This condition, called megacolon, can reduce intestinal motility and make it difficult for a dog to pass feces. Megacolon is rare in dogs. In some cases, it is the result of an inherited abnormality, but more often it develops from chronic, untreated forms of constipation. If fecal matter remains too long in the colon, it becomes dry and impacted and may cause permanent damage to the smooth muscles of the intestinal tract. This will make it even harder for the dog to defecate normally, and usually leads to a lifelong problem with constipation. Dietary indiscretion, lack of fluids, bowel obstruction, or a neuroglial condition that limits muscular contractions can all cause constipation. If untreated, these conditions can develop into obstipation, a form of constipation in which the colon is severely impacted. The origin of megacolon is not fully understood, so it’s not known what degree of impaction leads to permanent muscular damage. Even if the condition is not directly inherited, there may be a genetic tendency toward the disease. Megacolon is rare in dogs, but once it has developed, treatment is difficult and the dog may need to stay on a strict diet to avoid recurrence.

Expansion and weakening of the large intestine can be present with severe forms of constipation. Veterinarians call this condition megacolon. The muscles that normally contract to pass feces become permanently weakened and the dog may have continuing problems with constipation.

Constipation (Severe) Average Cost

From 44 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$3,000

Symptoms of Constipation (Severe) in Dogs

Symptoms will be bowel related at first, but over time failure to adequately pass stool can lead to systemic problems. See a veterinarian if you notice any of the following signs.

  • Constipation – difficult and infrequent passage of stool
  • Obstipation – severe constipation
  • Frequent unsuccessful attempts to defecate
  • Dry incomplete stool
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal distention
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Mangy coat

Types

There are three types of constipation.

Intraluminal

  This is due to a problem inside the colon. Often the cause is fecal matter that is difficult to pass because it contains indigestible material such as fur or bone. Low fluid intake and intestinal tumors can also cause intraluminal constipation. This is the most common type of constipation in dogs.

Extraluminal

  This is due to colon compression, often from other organs in the body. Enlarged glands, a poorly healed pelvic fracture, or a stricture in the colon can cause extraluminal constipation.

Neurological

  This neuromuscular deficiency in the colon can also cause constipation. Megacolon is included in this type, as well as other conditions that affect neurological control such as hypothyroidism, hypokalemia, or hypercalcemia.

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Causes of Constipation (Severe) in Dogs

Megacolon can be congenital or acquired. Congenital forms are not well documented in dogs. Acquired conditions may be related to some of the following factors.

  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of fiber in the diet
  • Lack of fluids or severe dehydration
  • Some dietary supplements
  • Some drugs
  • Pelvic fracture
  • Trauma or injury
  • Recent surgery
  • A foreign body in the colon
  • Neuromuscular lesion in the colon
  • Neuromuscular condition that affects the spinal cord
  • Idiopathic
  • More common in large breed dogs
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Diagnosis of Constipation (Severe) in Dogs

The veterinarian will be able to tell that your dog is severely impacted on a physical examination. The colon is usually hard and distended. A rectal exam will be necessary to check for a tumor or stricture that could be blocking the passage of stool. A history of constipation often indicates the possibility of megacolon, so the veterinarian will need to know about prior problems as well as how they were treated. Injuries, recent surgeries, drug treatment, or any other known condition could all be relevant.

Abdominal x-rays are usually ordered for severe constipation. With megacolon, the colon will appear enlarged and impacted. Bloodwork and urine tests will be needed to evaluate the overall health of your dog and check for any other issues that could be causing or contributing to the problem. A colonoscopy could also be ordered to check for lesions or tumors in the colon, but in many cases the impacted feces will have to be cleaned out before this is possible.

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Treatment of Constipation (Severe) in Dogs

Many different medications may be prescribed for constipation, including laxatives, stool softeners, suppositories, and enemas. Most dogs with severely impacted bowels do not respond to these type of treatment and the feces often has to be flushed out manually with enemas and warm water. The dog will be anesthetized during this process. Dehydrated dogs may need intravenous fluids and electrolytes to make their system stable enough for anesthetic.

Once the impacted feces is removed, the veterinarian will try to ensure the problem doesn’t recur. Diet change is often recommended; either high or low fiber diets may be effective depending on your dog’s condition. Regular exercise is recommended to stimulate the bowels. The veterinarian may also suggest daily laxatives or stool softeners. Prokinetic drugs, especially cisapride, are often prescribed to encourage intestinal motility.

If your dog has recurring problems, surgery is sometimes an option. A sub-total colectomy or a total colectomy can remove all or part of the colon, either connecting the small intestine to the rectum, or retaining the ileocolic junction. This surgery has been more effective at treating cats with megacolon than dogs, but in some cases your veterinarian might recommend it. There will be a three week recovery period after surgery and the dog may have loose bowels for several months. A low residue diet is usually prescribed for life and the veterinarian will need to monitor your dog for any post-surgery metabolic problems.

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Recovery of Constipation (Severe) in Dogs

Many cases of megacolon can be prevented by treating constipation promptly. If the condition disrupting colon motility is identified and treated before megacolon develops, your dog will have a good chance of recovery. In general, a healthy diet and adequate exercise can reduce the likelihood that severe constipation will occur. You should call a veterinarian if you believe it has been at least 48 hours since your dog had a bowel movement.

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Constipation (Severe) Average Cost

From 44 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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Constipation (Severe) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Afghan Hound

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6.5 yrs

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation

Dog has had 2 surgeries perianal hernia repair x 2 plus bowel attached to inner abdominal wall to prevent hernias 2 1/ 2 yrs ago. Possible dx of neurogenic bowel disorder. Cisapride plus lactulose for about 2 yrs with periodic dose increases through time .still needing manual cleanout of fecces by vet under anesthesia and times between cleanouts becoming shorter and shorter. He is alert active good appetite urination etc this is his only major Heath issue but vet recommending euthanasia due to too frequent cleanout trauma. Please advise professional opinion. Thank you.

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello I'm sorry to see that your pet has been through a lot. It sounds like he's had some extensive surgeries with chronic bowel issues. If he has be put under anesthesia to have his bowels cleaned out, that is not good for his liver. It sounds like euthanasia should be considered at this point if he is suffering. I know that this is a very difficult decision to make. Good luck.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Simba

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Chow Chow

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Pain Lying Down And Stand

My dog was extremely backed up and we got his feces removed by a veterinarian yesterday. He had blood work done and everything came back great. He went to the bathroom this morning and there was a very small amount of blood in his fur. I called the vet back and he said not to worry if it happened again bring him in. He is currently on some laxative, pain and anti inflammatory medication. However he is still crying every once in awhile when he lies down or gets up. My question is, is it normal for him to still be sore?

Aug. 17, 2018

Simba's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

That level of impaction can be quite painful, and that feces can be very hard. If he had to have his colon evacuated manually, it wouldn't surprise me if he is sore, and if there are small amounts of blood. As he continues to have more normal bowel movements, his colon will heal.

Aug. 17, 2018

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Stoly

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German Shepherd

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lathargic
Will Not Eat
Severe Constipation
Straining To Move Bowels

Severe constipation. X-rays show a lot of feces . Have been giving propulsid and pumpkin for 3 days. Still nothing. She farts a lot. Tries to go, but nothing. Has a history of lupus, but is in remission. German Shepard female 9 years old

June 22, 2018

Stoly's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

If Stoly is still having difficulty with defecation, you should return to your Veterinarian if the Propulsid (cisapride) and plain canned pumpkin haven’t worked; the specific location of any blockage would have a bearing on the next step in the treatment process. However, if medical management isn’t successful, an enema or in severe cases surgery may be required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 23, 2018

Thank you, we took here back to vet and they manually cleared the blockage. She is doing much better

June 26, 2018

Stoly's Owner

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Oscar

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Dobson

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation

I think my dog is extremely constipated or maybe strained a muscle. He couldnt hardly walk for 2 days, thats gotten better but still not normal. You can see the the muscles so tensed up it you can see them like flexed all the way around. Could constipation be causing all this or a strained muscle? And is tere any way to help him at home.

May 1, 2018

Oscar's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without knowing whether Oscar is constipated or has a muscular problem, I am not sure how to help him with anything at home, since we don't know what we are trying to treat. It would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they will be able to see him, identify the problem, and treat him appropriately. I hope that he is okay.

May 1, 2018

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Jadey

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schnauzer

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16 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Thrist Appetite

My dog is 16 years old and is having chronic constipation. Giving her pumpkin seems to help, but then have to watch her all day and night to make sure she has no accidents in house which she never would have done before. She does have Cushing and weakening of muscle . I think she has some atrophy going on. Been check by vet...no blockage. Do you think could be just a decline given her age. She is a schaTrying to make that hard decision if it’s time.

Jan. 6, 2018

Jadey's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. You may be able to adjust the amount of pumpkin that you give her to give her more normal stool consistency, or your veterinarian may be able to recommend a food for her that will help regulate her stools. As Jadey ages, it will be important to have regular checkups for her so that your veteirnarian is able to advise you on her quality of life. I hope that she continues to do well.

Jan. 6, 2018

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CiCi

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Labrador Retriever

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation

My 14 yr old, 98 pound lab hasn't pooped in 4 days. She has severe arthritis of hip and rear legs and is unable to position her hips in order to defecate due to pain. She is able to squat to pee without much of a problem. X-rays at the Vets revealed soft stool, nearly filling the colon. They gave an enema but nothing was passed. She's been taking Miralax stool softener (8 gm) for about a week to help, but the pain of squatting to poop makes her stop trying. I tried various NSAID meds for the pain, but she has liver and kidney failure, so now I'm giving only CBD oil (85 mg) in her food. Now, they are suggesting it may be time to euthanize. I hate to do it, since he's extremely alert, has a great appetite, drinks water, as necessary and generally seems happy.

Constipation (Severe) Average Cost

From 44 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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