Right at the outset, allow me to state clearly that this is one instance when you really don’t want the pet owner to try, on his/her own, to relieve the constipated animal.

For one thing, the animal might not be constipated at all, and your ‘home’ diagnosis might be quite incorrect. Anyway, taking for granted that you have accurately diagnosed the problem, what are you going to do about it?

The first thing that usually comes to mind is to use a laxative. Well, that in itself is a problem. For example, if the constipation is caused by a firm blockage of the intestine by a foreign body (an awara seed, say), the use of a laxative is contra-indicated (a definite ‘no-no’). The use of a laxative in this case could cause a rupture of the intestine, and that would be an even more serious condition which you would have precipitated.

Then again, what type of laxative would you use?  Laxatives can be bulk forming; they can be lubricating; they can be soothing (emollient); or stimulating, acting on the intestine wall to create movement (peristaltic) of the gut. Some laxatives work in a way (osmotically) that allows water to be retained in the bowel, and this softens the stool.

Looking for a home: This appealing male dog (he has been neutered) is waiting at the GSPCA for the offer of a good home.

From the above, it should be obvious that you need to seek out the assistance of a vet. If a vet is not available and you consider the condition serious, then you should first try to define what is the cause of the constipation.

A mild constipation can be treated simply by changing the animal’s diet. By the way, please remember that a dog’s diet should not be low in fibre, nor should you feed the animal too many ‘bone shavings,’ which many pet owners collect from the butcher, or which are included in the ‘dog meat’ package butchers/ supermarkets sell.
A simple change could be the increase of dietary fibre (high residue foods). I am talking here about bran cereal, whole wheat bread, pumpkin, squash, pawpaw, celery and so on. This high fibre diet, by adding bulk, stretches the muscles of the intestine (colon). The gut reacts by contracting as a response to the ‘stretching’ stimulus. It is this contraction that moves the stool along towards the anal exit.

There are some commercial high fibre diets on the international market that are specifically targeting pets. I can’t remember seeing any here on the pet store shelves. If there is indeed no such product on the supermarket shelves, then you could agitate for the importation of such dog foods.

Also, if these veterinary anti-constipation products are not available, then we can use the commercial high fibre diets for humans which are on the market.

I mentioned above that there were different types of laxatives, and that your vet should advise you on their usage, relative to your pet’s particular problem and case history.

In more severe cases, retained stool (faecal impaction) could be evacuated by using enemas, or by manual (digital) extraction. (Sometimes this manipulation can be so painful as to need general anaesthesia for the animal. Of course, only the vet can do that.) I will continue next week with some comments on the use of the enema, and we will deal with other treatment possibilities/alternatives.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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