By Dr. Andrew Jones
If your dog or cat is constipated, you are likely looking for a quick solution; you will find that and more in this article. The signs of canine and feline constipation are explained, and you will find the exact causes of this uncomfortable condition. Constipation needs to be differentiated from other causes of straining, and you need to know what to do for obstipation. Lastly you will find the most important at home remedies for dog and cat constipation.
Constipation is defined as difficulty and infrequent defection. Dogs and cats that are healthy will have 1-2 stools per day. The signs of constipation can be that your pet cries or strains when passing stool. The stools are hard and dry. Your pet has not had a bowel movement in 48 hours. This is all much the same signs that people can have.
The causes of constipation are many and varied. Dogs often become constipated after a feast on bones. Older pets, especially cats, get constipated due to decreased activity and lowered fluid intake. Some pets, such as Manx cats, are prone to constipation. Male dogs may get an enlarged prostate gland which can obstruct the colon, also leading to constipation. . Cats that excessively groom themselves can become constipated with hair, while dogs that have unusual behaviors, such as eating dirt, and sand can be affected. In all cases this can lead to the signs of straining to defectate, with dry stools, that are often painful.
It is important to ensure that your pet is really constipated. Dogs will strain with diarrhea and this is often confused with constipation. Cats will strain with urinary tract infections or obstructions. Check your cat’s litter box to ensure that he is urinating. If in doubt, call your veterinarian.
If your pet becomes continuously constipated, the veterinary term is called obstipation. This typically happens in cats, and their colon becomes dilated filled with very dry, firm feces. Most pets are then very uncomfortable, with distended abdomens, straining and have a loss of appetite. This requires veterinary treatment, consisting of an enema, and medication to have the colon contract normally.
So what are the important at home remedies?
First, additional dietary fiber is key to having normal stools. For dogs, ground flax seed is a great source. I give 1 tsp per cup of dog food. Metamucil is another effective source. Give 1/2 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight daily. It can be made tastier by adding it to canned food. For cats, the most successful remedy I have used is canned pumpkin. I give 1 tbsp twice daily and find that several cats eat it willingly.
Ensure that there is more than adequate fluid intake. You may have to add water to your dog’s dry food. If your cat is reluctant to drink water, then try some milk or tuna juice. Regularly provide fresh clean water. For cats prone to constipation it is wise to feed only canned food. This increases their fluid intake and most often result in normal stools.
Regular exercise gets the bowels moving. If you are off-schedule and not giving your dog his morning walk, then get back on schedule. If your cat is not an outdoor cat, then get her some toys to play with and have her run after the catnip mouse 2-3 times daily.
Vaseline is a very safe laxative and is used in the compounds to prevent hairballs in cats. I give 1 tsp twice daily per 10 lbs for 3-5 days. Vitamin C is another laxative when given at a higher dose. Start with 500 mg twice daily.
Lastly the herb that has shown to be consistently effective for constipation is Cascara Sagrada. It can be found as a dried herb, as a tea, and as a tincture. A typical dosage of cascara is a 10mg per 10lbs given once daily- it usually takes 6-8 hours to have a laxative effect. As with any laxative, avoid taking it for a prolonged period of time ( ie any longer than 5 days).
Now you should have a clear understanding of the signs and causes of constipation in dogs and cats. You should be able to recognize the signs of obstipation, and be prepared to take your pet to a veterinarian for more urgent treatment. If your dog or cat has simple constipation, then I encourage you to try some of the above mentioned at home solutions.
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