Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Astonishing Secrets: Straining to Pass Poo

This Astonishing Secret is a bit on the smelly side... it is all about shit, or the lack thereof.  

" I can't shit, man! It's wrong. Help!" says Charlie to the Town
Crier...otherwise known as the "Blabbermouth"
As a vet, I commonly get phone calls from loving pet owners, whose pet is straining to pass a motion.  And, some owners just want over the phone advice.

"My dog is constipated, what can I do", is usually how the conversation starts.

And then I usually have to advise them that without a vet check, alot of other things could be going on, that looks like a constipated dog (or cat), and we hate to give the wrong info.

Not being able to pass a motion, do a crap, pass number 2's, straining to defecate, well, you know what I mean... well, it is..... uncomfortable to watch, and definitely, uncomfortable to be the one doing the straining!

Now, here is a moment of truth.... I have seen pets come in to see me with the owners saying that their pet is straining to defecate which ended up being something totally different.  Such as...
A beautiful pregnant cat... but some cats and dogs hide
their pregnancy well.
  • giving birth - the owners didn't know their pet was pregnant (a true story, as I never need to tell any other kind)
  • straining to urinate - they had bladder stones, and were obstructed. They were not constipated at all.
  • severe metritis - after birth the uterus was infected, and the dog was straining to pass the retained placenta.
Sorry for the "eeew" examples, but truth is pretty gross.

So, in any of the above cases, the owners thought their pet was constipated, but when the pet was examined, they weren't.  Now, I am not saying the owners are dumb and don't know any better... but I am saying that without a vet examination, the advice I could've given could have killed these patients.

So, as "oils aint oils" as the old commercial used to say, neither is "straining to pass poo" means a constipated pet.

But this Astonishing Secrets series is about how to help your pet once you have confirmed constipation.

What you need to do :

  1. Pull up all of your pet's dry food
  2. Give them access to lots of water
  3. Think about the type of foods that gives your pet the runs (i.e diarrhoea)
  4. Feed  your pet those foods from point 3.
  5. "Relief. Aaaah!"
  6. Wait.


  • If your pet is straining to defecate
  • If your pet is passing blood or mucous
  • If your pet is vomiting...
Then your pet needs to be hospitalised, and treated aggressively, uness your vet thinks otherwise once they put their hands on your pet.

To help your constipated pet.... these medications are for humans and available in NSW, Australia. For those in other areas, please check with your vet. And, in fairness to your vet, there is no reasonable reason why they need to help you, as they know, like me, that what you think is the problem, and what the problem is, may  be two different things.   But, back to topic,  this is about helping your pet....

To help your pet...
  1. Bland food - I suggest cooked chicken or fish plus yoghurt   OR any food that you know will cause diarrhoea - and small volumes.... i.e a teaspoon full.
  2. Faecal softeners - these may include Coloxyl or Lactulose - available over the counter at the local chemist.
  3. Mild laxative - I usually use Coloxyl with Senna or Lactulose.
  4. Enemas - in most cases, this is not necessary - you can apply KY gel (lubricant) around the anus, to help lubricate things, or you can use Microlax Enema - a single dose only.   Most pets will defecate within 5 minutes of using this.  If not, then they need more aggressive veterinary therapy.
  5. Access to water. Water is your pets best friend if they are not vomiting.
Once your pet has passed the "nugget", and the flood gates are opened, then stop all laxatives and faecal softeners.

And, address the cause of the constipation in the first place.  In most cases, it is due to chewing on bones or eating crap food. 

And for undesexed males, an enlarged prostate gland also makes doing a crap uncomfortable. Desexing these guys can help prevent future "straining to past shit" scenarios.

I hope this information has helped your pet in their time of need.  

Oh, it is also a good time for you to know what your pets poop should be like...

It should be soft, malleable, like playdough.
It should leave a wet residue where it has been deposited.
It should have a reasonable length.

It should be a dark brown colour, and shouldn't have any bony fragments, or other obvious food fragments within it.

There should be no mucous, no blood, no watery component to it... it should be formed through out the entire poop.

Sorry to get down and dirty, but we all poop, and knowing what your pet's normal poop is, and when it changes, it can be your early clue that things are not well.

What diseases can constipation be a sign of?
  • kidney disease - low grade dehydration causes drier than usual poop. And it is seen as constipation, when the actual problem is kidney disease.
  • Spinal disease - if there is nerve damage as a result of severe arthritis of the back, a back/disc infection or for anything else affecting the lower back, the nerves that innervate the colon do not work... so we see it as constipation or faecal incontinence.
  • Pica - eating strange objects, such as hair, grass, tree roots, soil.  Pica is a behavioural problem, or can also be a sign of a nutritional imbalance.
And here you thought a pet not being able to crap is a simple problem, and not worth a vet visit! 

Think again!

I am always here for you, to help you wherever I can. For happy, healthy pets, see Dr Liz at Russell Vale Animal Clinic