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Pet Constipation


Putting Constipation Behind Your Pet

One of the benefits of raw feeding is that dogs and cats produce less poop, which is of a firmer consistency and less smelly than the poop of a "conventionally" fed dog. The bone content in raw food is a good source of minerals but in some instances, it can create a side effect that we don't want.

Sometimes dogs or cats can get constipated. When the colon is filled to capacity and the ability or impulse to defecate is missing, the colon contents dehydrate and become firmer and dryer. The longer the stool remains in a static and non-motile large intestine the more difficult it is for the cat or dog to pass that material. As a result of constipation the animal loses its appetite and in severe situations might become dehydrated and noticeably sick. But don't despair. There are things you can do to prevent and treat constipation.

Carnivores, in their natural environment, consume diets high in protein, bulk and roughage, not so much plant fiber, but rather indigestible or poorly digestible parts of animal carcasses, such as bones, cartilage, scales, fins, fur, feathers, tendons, and teeth. The term "fiber" as we know it, describes a group of complex carbohydrates, usually plant-derived, that resist digestion. Common sources of dietary fiber include the plant cell walls of vegetables, fruits and grains and the outer protective layer of seeds. Dogs and cats do not have an essential requirement for dietary fiber it, however; it is a common solution for pets that tend to become constipated.

Vegetables and fruit provide two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. The job of soluble fiber is to absorb water in the intestinal tract and slow down the amount of time needed to empty the intestine, making it useful food for diarrhea. Examples of soluble fiber include rice, pasta, oatmeal, barley, quinoa, potatoes, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, squash, avocados, bananas, mangoes, and papayas.

Insoluble fiber draws water into the intestinal tract, but rather than slowing down digestion, it actually speeds it up thereby increasing the amount and frequency of bowel movements. Insoluble fiber can be helpful for pets that are prone to constipation. Examples of insoluble fiber includes seeds, nuts, berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc.), grapes and raisins, cherries, pineapple, peaches, nectarines, apricots, pears, apples with skins, melons oranges, grapefruits, greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, mesclun, collards, arugula, watercress, etc.) peas, green beans, bell peppers, eggplant, celery, cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts (alfalfa, sunflower, radish, etc.) and fresh herbs.

If your dog or cat is having the occasional case of constipation or diarrhea, one of the things that might help is canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin in its pureed form (not pumpkin pie filling) is a wonderful stool softener which makes it a good natural remedy for constipation. Finely shredded or pureed vegetables and/or fruit or canned pumpkin can be added to every meal if necessary. The amount can range from as little as 1/4 tsp for a small dog to 1 tbsp or more for a large dog, depending upon results. Keep in mind too much fiber in a pet's diet can adversely affect nutrient availability. Also, over-feeding certain vegetables and fruit can cause the opposite effect - diarrhea.

Increasing meat and/or organ meats can help to balance a diet too high in bone content, which in the case of cats, may be more beneficial than fiber from plants. Some cats (and dogs) do not improve or even get worse after fiber content is increased.

One of the easiest ways to treat and help prevent constipation is simply to give your pets more water. No matter what is causing constipation, drinking more water will help lubricate the intestine so that stools pass more easily. Of course, you can't make your pets drink when they don't feel like it, but do make sure that water is always available. Dogs and cats that eat a raw diet don't consume nearly the same amount of water as pets that eat dry foods. Adding broth or liquids from meat into your pet's food is a good way to increase fluid intake if required.

Exercise also helps to keep the bowels regular ... and working! Have you ever noticed how some dogs scamper about before they find the perfect spot to poop? That's because the movement and stimulation help them to deliver the goods, so to speak.

Besides diet, there may be other causes of constipation such as aging, fractures of the pelvis or pelvic limbs, lesions around the rectum, prostate disease, spinal cord or disc disease, large bowel nervous disorders, tumors, metabolic or endocrine disorders, debilitation, and dehydration. As you can see, there are many reasons your pet can become constipated. Some are not serious while others may be life-threatening.

Treatment of Constipation

If your dog or cat becomes constipated and bowel movements aren't normal within a day or so, you'll want to have your pet's plumbing checked out. If you suspect the constipation is because of too much bone in the diet, do not feed more food containing bone. Better to withhold food and ensure availability of fresh water until you can speak with your veterinarian.

To treat your pet for constipation, the underlying cause must first be determined. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your pet, its diet, and its daily routine. Blood tests, x-rays or other tests may also be necessary and will be explained to you prior to testing. If it is determined that the underlying cause is due to disease or trauma, medical treatment may be necessary to correct the problem. If the cause is determined to be the result of too much bone, your vet may begin with an x-ray to see what's going on inside and then follow that with an enema. If x-rays show bone in the intestinal tract, it doesn't necessarily mean the animal is impacted. The bones may simply be en route to their final destination. If an enema doesn't help, your vet may prescribe a laxative which lubricates the digestive tract and stimulates the large intestine so that it works more vigorously. And since constipation may be caused by dehydration, your vet may give your pet intravenous liquids as well. Even if your pet isn't dehydrated, the extra fluids can help the intestine work more efficiently.

If your pet is susceptible to plugging up on an ongoing basis, consider trying fiber from vegetables or fruit or the addition of meat or organ meats in the diet, using just enough to get the job done. Thirty to 60 minutes after eating, walk your dog to encourage defecation. Maintain a clean litter box for the cat. If your pet becomes constipated, it may be tempting to buy a commercially prepared enema at the drug store and attempt to relieve the pet's problem at home. Some commercially prepared products are toxic to pets so it is important that human constipation products, be they enemas or laxatives, not be used in pets without specific veterinary instruction. The treatment for constipation really is determined by the cause and each case must be evaluated on an individual basis.