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Any pet may experience occasional constipation, usually little or no treatment is necessary but a short-term dietary adjustment may help. Sometimes a nice long walk is all a dog needs. The colon is not only a storage organ; it also serves to absorb and excrete electrolytes and minerals and is an essential organ for water conservation. Intestinal content is dried by the reabsorbtion of water by the colon. The longer stool sits in the colon the drier it becomes.

There are a number of products available over-the–counter to address constipation. Stimulant products such as Ex-Lax and Dulcolax should NEVER be recommended for companion animals. The only laxative we recommend is Laxatone, Catlax or other similar “hairball” preventatives; these can be used in dogs as well as cats.

Dietary additives are basically non-digestible fiber, which increase the bulk of the stool and retain water in the stool. These include canned pumpkin, bran, and other fiber supplements such as Fiber One or All Bran cereals and Metamucil. Bran takes longer to work.

If the stool is very dry, then stool softeners may be used. The best is Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate (DSS) available in 100 mg gelatin capsules. This oily substance penetrates hard, dry stool causing it to break up.

Oils can be used to enhance digestion and thereby increase intestinal motility. Olive oil is the best, others such as corn, Canola, peanut, or vegetable oils much less so. These are digestible oils and DO NOT reach the colon, they are digested and absorbed in the stomach and intestinal tract and therefore do not act as lubricants.

Non-digestible oil, Mineral Oil, is the best lubricant; it passes through the digestive tract to the colon unaffected by digestion. Mineral Oil also softens hard dry stool. A word of caution – Mineral Oil has no color, odor or taste so when administering mineral oil there is a danger of aspiration into the lungs. To avoid this, add a few drops of vanilla extract or similar flavoring to stimulate the swallowing reflex.

Constipation can be a painful and dangerous condition and may cause irreversible nerve damage. If the above recommendations do not work have your pet examined by a veterinarian. Do not attempt to give your pet an enema. Fleet enemas can be fatal to cats.