Dog Manual


An animal is said to be constipated when the bowel movements are either infrequent or incomplete or when the stool is more or less retained in the intestines. In this condition a large part of the moisture of the stool is often absorbed into the body and the stool comes out gray to whitish in color. In itself constipation is not a serious condition, for it can usually be remedied quite readily by administering a simple laxative such as milk of magnesia or mineral oil, or by giving an enema or using a children's size suppository. But where it is neglected it can cause serious complications which might even result in the death of the animal. While there are many possible causes of constipation, it is most commonly due to lack of exercise, which results in a general sluggishness of all the body functions.

One of the complications that may result from neglected constipation is a stomach upset with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. For it is logical that when there is a rectal obstruction, a point is reached where any food that is eaten is likely to be vomited. If this condition is permitted to go untreated, it can lead to significant inflammations of the stomach and intestine, with all the attendant consequences.

The best thing to do in the ordinary case of constipation is to clean out the animal's bowels and then to feed a bland diet of milk, cereal, or cooked rice mixed with meat broth, while withholding water, meat, and dog food. This diet is continued for a few days until the animal returns to normal, at which time there is a gradual return to the regular diet.

A more serious complication of neglected constipation is impaction. In this condition, the retained stool becomes so firmly lodged in the intestines that the animal cannot pass it unless it has considerable assistance. Sometimes the stool become so massive and hard that it feels like a rock in the intestines. The animal loses its appetite, vomits, and strains pitifully in its unsuccessful efforts to pass the stool. Poisons from the stool are absorbed into the body after a few days, and the animal starts to develop signs of self-poisoning or— as it is technically called—autointoxication. The animal becomes dizzy, drowsy, and depressed, and runs a high temperature. Further neglect may result in paralysis of the hind legs and death. Since in treating impaction the veterinarian often finds that even the most thorough enema cannot dislodge the intestinal mass, he has to resort to digging it out with instruments. When the mass is finally removed the animal usually returns to normal in a few days. As in constipation, a bland diet should be fed for several days, and the meat and water should be eliminated temporarily from it. When the movements become normal, there should be a gradual return to the routine diet.