A dog crying when having a bowel movement may be quite a concerning sight for dog owners. Painful defecation in dogs can be caused by several conditions. The dog’s whining episodes upon defecating may be a solitary one-time occurrence, or it may be more on the chronic side when it presents on a frequent basis. Regardless of the cause, one thing is for sure: affected dogs need veterinary attention so to determine what is causing the dog to experience pain upon defecating in the first place so that the issue can be properly addressed.
A Case of Dyschezia
The medical term for painful and difficult defecation in dogs is dyschezia, and as mentioned, it can be due to various factors. Dog owners often assume that the dog must be constipated or the dog has hemorrhoids, but constipation or hemorrhoids in dogs is not as common as it is among humans.
There may be several more common conditions to rule out before assuming that a dog’s crying when pooping is due to constipation.
First of all, dogs have a different anatomy than humans and dog owners may not always realize this. The fact that dogs have anatomical differences makes the underlying causes for painful defecation different than in humans.
For instance, dogs have anal glands that are located at the 4 0’clock and 8 o’clock position around the rectum which humans do not have and which can be cause for trouble in dogs.
Dogs suffering from painful defecation will typically whine, walk in circles and attempt to position themselves repeatedly. If the dog manages to defecate, there may sometimes be fresh, red blood in the stool (hematochezia).
However, it’s important to note that these symptoms can be easily confused for a dog who is straining to urinate, rather than defecate, which is a totally different problem. A urinary tract infection in dogs may cause painful urination in dogs due to a burning sensation and dogs tends to urinate several times in small amounts and there may be blood in the urine. Urinary tract infections are more common in female dogs due to their anatomy.
If your dog is straining, it’s therefore important to observe whether the dog is straining to urinate or defecate.
A Case of Tenesmus
On top of distinguishing a dog that is straining to defecate from one that is straining to urinate, it’s also important distinguishing a dog that is straining because of bowel movements being too hard from a dog that is straining as a result of colitis.
Colitis is the inflammation of the dog’s colon and affected dogs will typically have more frequent bowel movements and there is often presence of blood and mucus in the dog’s stool. A dog with colitis typically has a soft, pudding-like bowel movement that ends with some final drops of runny stool along with a droplet or two of blood. The mucus is a sign of inflammation, and the blood is due to erosions that cause the bleeding, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
Tenesmus, the sensation of having to evacuate the bowels, is often associated with colitis. Affected dogs will often position themselves as to have a bowel movement, but may just end up releasing a drop of diarrhea or nothing at all. This unpleasant sensation is often felt by humans as well when one has diarrhea and feels an urge to keep going. If you missed seeing your dog having bowel movements before, you may therefore easily confuse tenesmus due to colitis for a case of constipation which is treated differently.
So if your dog is producing stools, it’s likely not constipation what you are dealing with, but likely a case of colitis, explains veterinarian Dr. Andy.
Anal Gland Issues
A common cause for painful defecation in dogs is an issue with the dog’s anal glands. Anal glands in dogs require firm stools in order for them to work well. As the firm stool exits, it puts pressure on these glands which helps them to empty their fluids. When a dog fails to produce firm stools for some time though, these anal glands fail to empty as they should, which leads them to getting painful and swollen, sometimes causing dog scooting after having diarrhea.
To prevent this sort of problem it’s helpful adding some fiber to the dog’s diet. At home, you can add some canned plain pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie version with spices added) to the dog’s diet. The dosage 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day, explains veterinarian Dr. Ralston. The pumpkin will help add bulk to the dog’s stool which will help empty the clogged glands.
In advanced cases though, the clogged glands may get infected and even rupture out of the skin. This requires a course of oral antibiotics from the vet since the glands are under the skin and the only way to keep the infection at bay is by reaching them through the bloodstream.
A Case of Constipation
Colitis is very common in dogs, but constipation is quite rare, points out veterinarian Dr. Fiona. When a dog is constipated, there’s usually the presence of little hard rabbit-dropping style stools that can be painful to pass.
Constipation in dogs, even though not very common, can be caused by a side effect of certain medications or it can be a symptom of high calcium levels or kidney disease. If your dog is constipated, it’s therefore important to determine what is causing the constipation in the first place. Sometimes, dogs can get constipated when eating cat litter or sawdust.
Sometimes, in dogs with lots of hair by the rear end, what appears like painful constipation, is actually a dog who simply cannot defecate due to the presence of hair mats, preventing the normal passage of stools. This condition is medically known as “pseudocoprostasis.”
Other Possible Causes
Inflammation or irritation of any part of the dog that is involved with defecation can be enough to trigger pain and crying when the dog is having a bowel movement.
In some cases, the problem may be related to the dog’s spine, perhaps a herniated disc in the lower back, with the dog feeling pain when the back is curved to defecate. Any problem with the dog’s pelvic bone, hips or knees may also be a trigger. Even a painful tail may play a role, considering that it’s moved out of the way when the dog is defecating.
Because the colon is located just over the prostate gland in male dogs, painful or difficult defecation may be caused by problems with this organ. Some dogs (especially German shepherds) may suffer from perianal fistulas which can cause painful defecation.
Seeing the vet for a dog having trouble defecating is important as dogs may also develop polyps or cancer which can also cause inflammation and pain upon defecating.
At the Vet’s Office
Once at the vet, the vet will typically start off with a throughout physical examination. The vet may pay particular attention to the dog’s abdomen palpating it and feeling for presence of fecal matter in the large intestine or other abnormalities. The anal glands may be inspected for signs of swelling and inflammation. In male dogs, the prostate glands may be evaluated
The vet may run several tests such as blood work and perhaps will take x-rays of the dog’s abdomen and pelvis. Further testing may include an ultrasound of the abdomen, a colonoscopy (examination of the dog’s colon with a scope) or a protoscopy (examination of the dog’s rectum with scope).
Treatment for painful defecation in dogs may vary depending on the underlying cause. Stool softeners such as lactulose may be prescribed if the underlying cause of painful bowel movements in dogs is found to be due to constipation. Enemas may be needed for severe cases. The vet may suggest adding fiber to the food.
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat underlying infections and abscesses. In the case of hair mats blocking the passage of stool, these mats are clipped. Finally, certain conditions such as hernias or tumors may require surgical intervention.
As seen, there are several possible causes for a dog crying when having a bowel movement. If your dog is straining a lot to defecate and he is in obvious distress, you want to see your veterinarian sooner than later.