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Help me ! My pet has not relieved itself

3 December 2022

Constipation is defined as a reduction in the frequency and/or volume of bowel movements. The stools passed are hard and dry. However, sometimes the slowing down of the bowel movement is complicated by a complete cessation of the bowel movement. Constipation can be occasional or chronic, and there are many causes.


What causes constipation ?

A common cause of constipation is a diet that is too low in fibre, which is essential for the digestive contents to move along the intestines.

In elderly patients, it is not uncommon to observe a slowing down of the bowel. Dehydration, lack of mobility and being overweight are also risk factors.

Constipation can also be of mechanical origin:

External: an anatomical anomaly – such as a pelvic fracture, whether old or not -, late gestation in females, or prostatic hyperplasia in males;
Internal: a piece of bone in the digestive tract can prevent the progression of its contents, as can hairballs.

Certain diseases, such as hypothyroidism, kidney disease in cats or diseases of the nervous system can affect transit.

Finally, in cats, voluntary retention can occur as a result of pain or a behavioural disorder. It may also be due to a litter box problem: its location or the substrate used may not inspire the person concerned. The smell of the litter may be unpleasant, if it is scented. He may also find it dirty: some cats who are a little demanding no longer accept the litter after a single passage. If several animals coexist, it is not uncommon for some cats not to accept to share their litter box with others. This phenomenon is rare in dogs, even if pain – from arthritis for example – can make the position very uncomfortable and limit defecation.


How can I help my pet ?

It is important to regularly monitor your four-legged friend’s faeces, even if this is not always obvious – particularly in the case of cats who defecate outside.

In the case of constipation, a dog will frequently and unsuccessfully assume the defecation position. In the case of a cat, this can range from a lack of interest in the litter box to constant trips to the litter box. In the second case, it is essential to check that it is not the urination that is the problem: a urinary blockage, generally encountered in male cats, quickly becomes a life-threatening emergency. If your cat urinates more frequently than usual, it could be cystitis. In both cases, a visit to your regular veterinarian should be scheduled without delay.

To help a fickle bowel movement, you should ensure that your pet

  • Hydrates sufficiently – think of multiplying the water points, to provide always fresh and clean water, and why not, to use a water fountain!
  • Move enough – regular, moderate physical activity is essential for good health. Running out of ideas on how to get your dog or cat moving? Here are some ideas.
  • Lose weight, if it needs to.

The addition of fibre to the diet is often a valuable aid to regulating transit. Choose non-fermentable soluble fibres, such as psyllium, which is well tolerated, even when used on a long-term basis. The use of laxatives is sometimes necessary to soften the stools, but they should be used for short periods: they can become irritating for the digestive tract when used for more than a few days.

Don’t hesitate to discuss this with your vet: in the case of a faecal impaction – an accumulation of very hard, dry faeces – it is not uncommon to have to anaesthetise the animal in order to remove it manually. So don’t delay.

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