Bowel Problems in Dogs

Treatment for canine bowel disease often involves dietary changes.
Treatment for canine bowel disease often involves dietary changes. (Image: Fly_dragonfly/iStock/Getty Images)

Bowel problems in dogs run the gamut, with symptoms ranging from little or no fecal output to severe diarrhea. If your dog experiences any bowel-related issues, take him to a vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. While you can't prevent all bowel problems, feeding your dog a high-quality diet can help. Deworming your dog on a regular basis can prevent bowel problems caused by parasites. If your dog receives a monthly heartworm preventive, that also kills off worms causing diarrhea.

Bowel Problem Symptoms

Besides changes in fecal output or consistency, symptoms of dogs suffering from bowel problems include vomiting, appetite and weight loss and abdominal pain. Your veterinarian will perform various tests to pinpoint the cause, and will require fecal samples. Besides blood tests, your dog might undergo X-rays or ultrasounds so your vet can rule out foreign objects in the intestinal tract or tumors.

Canine Colitis

Colitis, or large colon inflammation, is also known as "large bowel diarrhea." Symptoms include frequent elimination of liquid or soft feces. You might see red blood in the stool, along with mucus. While colitis results from numerous causes -- including bacterial infections, trauma and stress -- the bottom line is that your dog's colon can no longer efficiently store fecal material prior to normal elimination. Although treatment depends on the cause, your vet might recommend high-fiber food in the diet, and prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to heal the colon. Dogs diagnosed with a bacterial infection should receive appropriate antibiotics.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease occurs when the walls of the intestines thicken, no longer allowing normal contraction and absorption of nutrients. Dogs diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease generally require a change in diet, along with medication. Dietary changes can take time to work, and you might have to feed several single protein, hypoallergenic diets -- such as rabbit or duck -- over the course of several months until finding a diet that works for Fido. Your vet might prescribe corticosteroids for inflammation control, along with antibiotics if bacteria are involved.

Canine Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence occurs when a dog is unable to control his bowels. This could result from trauma or a bowel disorder. In addition to eliminating in the house or other unsuitable places, the dog might "scoot," which indicates problems in his anal sacs. Treatment depends on the cause. If there's a rectal or anal abnormality, surgical correction might prove the cure. Your vet might recommend dietary changes to firm up feces, or prescribe medication to slow bowel motility.

Canine Constipation

If your dog hasn't defecated in more than a day, you probably realize something's amiss. Total lack of defecation isn't the only symptom of constipation. Suspect constipation if your dog's feces are hard and dry, or if he strains or whimpers when defecating. You might notice mucus, rather than feces, exiting when he attempts to "go." For garden variety constipation, your vet might recommend introducing more fiber into your dog's diet, including a daily helping of canned pumpkin. She might suggest giving your dog stool softeners temporarily and increasing his daily exercise. Your vet also might prescribe medication to increase bowel motility.

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