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Constipation

Chihuahua Constipation

Overview

It can be troubling when you realize that your little Chihuahua is having constipation issues or you think that there may be a problem. This can be range from being very uncomfortable for a puppy or dog or can cause discomfort as a Chihuahua strains to push out a bowel movement. Since there are some things you can do at home, it is best to treat this as soon as you realize that your Chihuahua is having trouble pooping.  

This section will go over:
  • Signs and symptoms of constipation
  • What causes this
  • Health conditions that have constipation as a symptom
  • What you can safely give to a Chihuahua to cure this including home remediates a
  • When it is time to go to the veterinarian
  • Prevention
Chihuahua Constipation Symptoms

When a Chihuahua puppy or dog is constipated, he will have one or more of the following symptoms for at least 2 bowel movements in a row or for at least a 24 hour period:

Difficulty emptying the bowels - You may notice that your dog strains and struggles to push out feces. This may show on the dog's facial expressions and/or he may let out a yelp or a whine to signal that he is in distress. 

Goes to the bathroom infrequently - Many dogs and particularly puppies will have a bowel movement 20 to 60 minutes after each meal. Some adult Chihuahuas will have just one bowel movement per day. How much a dog poops depends on the type of food he is eating, the quantity ingested at any one time and also the amount of fiber that the food contained. However, when there is a constipation issue, the puppy or dog will go from 3 to 1 times per day… or even skip days and is only able to push out some feces every other day. 

Hard stools - When feces have very little water in it, it may come out like hard little pellets. The normal consistency of a healthy poop is similar to a thick paste or could be compared to Play-Doh. Hypothetically, if you were to pick up the stool and let is hang in the air it would stick together for a moment and then a piece would slowly break off and fall to the ground. If stools are too runny to meet that guidelines, that can be seen as having runny stools and if it is hard, crusty or comes out in tiny pieces that usually points to constipation. 

Why Chihuahuas Get Constipated

There are several different elements that can cause a dog of any age to suddenly have trouble with bowel movements:

1) Lack of adequate water - This is among the top causes of constipation. While this tiny toy breed does not need to drink large qualities of water (canines need about 8 ounces per day for each 10 pounds of weight), a Chihuahua can have a minor issue with dehydration if he is not drinking enough, if his activity level or if there are air temperature increases without corresponding increased intake or water or if he is switched from a wet to a dry food, thus ingesting less water than normal. Just a 1% loss in body fluid can cause constipation problems. 

2) Not meeting exercise requirements - Exercise helps keep a dog healthy in so many ways. It helps maintain muscle, keeps the heart healthy, allows a Chihuahua to release excess energy and also works to keep things moving along and prevent sluggish bowel movements. When a dog is exercised appropriately, the activity decreases the amount of time that it takes food to travel through the large intestines and this can limit the amount of water that is extracted, thus leading to healthier stools. Most Chihuahua do best with two walks per day, at a brisk pace and for at least a 20 minute duration. 

3) Stress - Whenever there is a change to a dog's routine, this can cause internal stress that disrupts his body cycle. A Chihuahua may become constipated if he is moved to a new home, if there is a new family member (human or another pet) introduced or even when traveling. Even severe separation anxiety upset the digestive system.

4) Change in food - Like humans, canines can become constipated if they eat too much of certain foods. And problems can also develop if there is a moderate change in a Chihuahua's diet. Foods that can cause constipation with canines include cheese and other dairy products and red meat which is fattier and contains more protein fiber than white meat which makes it more difficult to digest for some dogs. This is one reason why a bit of milk can work to resolve diarrhea issues and why white chicken meat is one of the best protein sources for dogs.  

The Chihuahua breed can have digestive issues when switched to a new food too quickly. While changing from a wet to a dry brand can cause constipation, even a change from dry to dry can cause upset stomach problems and other issues if it is done to fast. It's best to make changes gradually over the course of several weeks. 

5) Lack of fiber - When a Chihuahua is eating a balanced diet, this will have adequate amounts of soluble fiber that allows proper levels of water to remain in the stool which makes them softer and easier to pass. Top quality commercial brands are formulated to contain correct amounts of fiber; however each dog is an individual and a Chihuahua may need some added fibrous ingredients to keep his stools healthy. 

Health Conditions that Can Cause Constipation

Before we dive into some helpful at home remedies to cure constipation, it is important to note that there are some medical issues that do have constipation as at least one of the symptoms. If a Chihuahua does not respond to treatment at home, it will be important to bring the dog to the veterinarian to rule out the following:

Blocked anal sacs - All canines have a pair of anal glands; one on each side of the anal opening. These are also sometimes referred to as scent glands. They normally hold an oily substance that is typically released in very small qualities when one dog meets another or when the dog pushes out a bowel movement. Sometimes these can become engorged with too much fluid or impacted in which case the fluid turns into a thick paste-like substance. If so, they may block the otherwise normal passage of feces. 

Enlarged prostate gland - This can be due to hormonal imbalances can is considered an age related issue for male dogs that are intact. Other possible signs include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine and/or stools that come out in thin strips (often referred to as ribbon-like). 

Internal blockage - If a Chihuahua ingests a non-food item or an unsafe food such as rawhide that is not easily digested, this can cause partial or full blockage in either the stomach or intestines, which can cause constipation among other serious internal issues. The items that dogs have been known to mouth and swallow are quite shocking and include everything from rolls of medical tape to paper clips to socks, shoelaces, pebbles… the list is endless.

Any dog of any age can mouth something and dogs often do this not intending to actually swallow the object, but rather just to figure out 'what is this?' And the consequences can be quite severe. Without treatment, stomach or intestinal blockage can be fatal. Signs include: attempting to vomit, vomiting (this can be food, water or stomach bile - both yellow and clear), straining to go to the bathroom, panicked behavior, trouble eating or drinking and/or swollen abdomen. 
If you notice that your Chihuahua has gotten into something that he shouldn't have or otherwise suspect that he has swallowed something that is causing the constipation, it will be important to have the vet rule this out ASAP. 

Dehydration - As we mentioned above, not drinking adequate amounts of water can cause constipation, therefore the more serious condition of actual dehydration certainly can affect bowel movements. This can occur if a puppy or dog is active in hot weather or exercised without being given enough water or in cases of illness or other circumstances in which the dog is not drinking. Other symptoms include sunken in eyes, heavy or labored panting, weakness, dizziness, confusion and/or pale gums. 

A quick test to see if your Chihuahua is dehydrated (even in minor cases) is to test blood vessel response in the gums. You press your finger onto the gums and hold firmly for a count of 5. When you let go, there should be a small white spot where you held your finger and when hydrated, this will turn back to its normal color within a few seconds. If a puppy or dog is suffering from lack of fluids, it will take longer than 5 seconds for color to return. 

Other reasons - While rare other possible causes include trauma to the pelvic area, neurological disorders or tumors located in the rectum area. For older, senior Chihuahuas there may be some orthopedic issues that affect the dog's ability to properly position himself to push out bowel movements, which can lead to impacted stools. 

Cures and At-Home Treatment if a Chihuahua is Constipated 

It is important to treat constipation when it occurs. This is because if a dog is constipated for a week or more, 2 things can happen: 1) The feces will stay in the colon longer where even more moisture is absorbed back into the body; this only exasperates the problem. 2) When feces are chronically retained, the large intestine can become stretched unnaturally and be unable to function properly due to solidified feces. This can become a chronic condition called megacolon which often needs to be treated with a surgical procedure.

Therefore, while these at-home cures can work for many Chihuahuas, it will be important to evaluate their effectiveness and bring your Chihuahua to the vet if you do not see improvement after 24 hours. Minor, acute cases can often be remedied at home by doing the following:

1) Evaluate your Chihuahua's water intake and encourage your Chi to drink more water. Since most dogs will not drink on cue as many will do for a morsel of food, one effective method is to offer fruit that is high in water content. Some good healthy choices include watermelon, strawberries, oranges and raspberries. The later 3 also contain moderate levels of fiber which will help as well. These fruits can be given fresh however many Chihuahuas love them frozen as well. 
2) Reassess your Chihuahua's activity level. If things have gotten busy and no one has taken your Chi out for regular walks lately, getting back into a daily routine of brisk walks, twice per day can help a puppy or dog's digestive system get back on track. 

3) Adding some fiber to the diet usually helps move things along in cases of acute, minor to moderate constipation; however do take care to give the recommended amounts since too much fiber can actually be counterproductive and cause binding. One of the best methods that most Chihuahuas are open to is to add fresh canned pumpkin; most puppies and dogs find this to taste good and it can easily be mixed into either kibble, wet food or home cooked meals. If a Chihuahua is constipated, the amount of pumpkin to give to him is 1 teaspoon. Puppies (under the age of 1 year old) often do best with just one dose per day and adults that are on the higher end of the weight range for this breed (5 pounds or more) do well with 2 doses per day. Do not exceed 2 teaspoons in a 24 hour period. In addition, be sure that you obtain real pumpkin and not the flavored pumpkin pie filling. Once the can is open, it can be refrigerated for up to 1 week if the contents are transferred to a sealed Tupperware container. 

Another option is to add ground kale and/or spinach to your Chihuahua's meals. These dark leafy vegetables are safe for canines to eat, are high in fiber and are known to relieve constipation. Chopped small or ground up, this can be mixed well into the dog's regular serving of food. 

Other options that are recommended by veterinarians (however we have not tried) include Psyllium husk powder (1/4 teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight, given 1 to 2 times per day), coconut fiber (1/2 teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight, given 1 to 2 times per day), organic apple cider vinegar (1/8 teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight, given 1 to 2 times per day). Some sources list aloe juice (this refers to the juice and not the gel that is often applied to wounds; however we do not suggest this since it is really easy to give too much (just 1/2 teaspoon is needed for a 5 pound Chihuahua) and even just a tad too much can cause diarrhea. In addition, this should not be given to any dog that is on medicine to control diabetes. 
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When to Bring your Chihuahua to the Vet and What Will Happen

If your puppy or dog:
  • Has been constipated for more than 48 hours
  • Has frequent bouts of constipation
  • Has any other symptoms including but not limited to: vomiting, dry heaving, frantic behavior, heavy or laborer breathing, weakness, fever, loss of appetite, inability to properly drink or bloated stomach
  • Shows any signs of distress including but not limited to: restlessness, pacing, retreating (cowering in his bed, hiding, etc.)
… it will be important to bring him/her to the veterinarian right away. 

The vet will evaluate the Chihuahua with a full physical, blood work, electrolyte panel, urinalysis and will most likely take either x-rays or ultrasounds. In the case of blockage, emergency surgery may be necessary. However with most cases of acute constipation, stool softeners may be given and an enema may be performed which is generally done with the dog under anesthesia. If there are issues of moderate to severe dehydration, IV fluids may be given. While some dogs can be treated and go home, there are instances that require the puppy or dog to stay 1 to 2 nights. 

Prevention

Since constipation can be so uncomfortable for dogs and treatment may need to involve the vet, it is best to try and prevent this issue from occurring. Here are some things that you can do to keep your Chihuahua's bowel movements moving along in a healthy way:

1) Puppy proof the house no matter how old your Chihuahua may be. Dogs of all ages are capable of mouthing and swallowing non-food objects even if they never previously showed the curiosity to do so. On a regular basis, the floors and any areas that the puppy or dog can reach should be cleared of anything that can either fit into the mouth or be torn apart. 

2) Avoid giving your Chihuahua any bones (even raw ones), rawhides or other treats that are known to be difficult to digest. 

3) Encourage your puppy or dog to drink enough water (at least one full cup per day for adults). Using a canine water fountain that filters the water and/or offering fruit are good methods to ensure proper hydration. In addition, when taking your Chihuahua out for a walk or other outdoor exercise, it is best to bring along some water in a canine travel container; most dogs will lap at water while out and about which often works better than expecting the dog to drink an appropriate amount once getting back home. 

4) Exercise your Chihuahua on a regular basis. This is needed for overall health, can extend a dog's life span and will help keep your dog in tiptop shape, allowing the body to work at its best. 
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