My Dog Cries Out When She Tries to Defecate

    Like urination, defecation is important to a dog's health and sense of well-being. Although it is not as immediately critical as the ability to urinate, if for some reason your dog cannot defecate, the effects can be quite dramatic.

    What to Look For

    What you need to do is try to determine whether your dog is in pain because she is trying to pass some foreign body through her intestinal tract or because she is experiencing an inherent source of pain, such as cramping, constipation, anal sac inflammation, or gastroenteritis. Failure to defecate is an issue that you can afford to wait on as long as your dog continues to behave normally in all other ways. If she begins to vomit, refuse food, or act noticeably lethargic, your veterinarian should be consulted.

    What to Do

    After observing your dog, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Is your dog defecating successfully in spite of the pain? If so, what does the feces look like? If it is black and tarry, there is probably some bleeding occurring early in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, near the esophagus and stomach. If there is red blood in it, the bleeding is coming from somewhere further along in the GI tract, closer to or from the colon. Since rectal bleeding is serious, consult your vet.
    • If the feces is covered in mucus, this indicates irritation of the intestinal lining. Putting your dog on a bland diet may help you solve the problem at home. (See “My Dog Is Pooping Everywhere” for more information on this.)
    • Is your dog still energetic and interested in food and water? If so, chances are that whatever is causing the discomfort in her attempts to defecate is not emergent. If the problem doesn't improve or resolve on its own within three days or with the use of a bland diet for two to three days, then X-rays may be called for.
    • Is your dog vomiting? Difficulty with defecation combined with vomiting is very serious. Seek immediate veterinary help.
    • Is your dog dragging her bottom on the floor or ground? This is usually a sign that your dog is having problems with her anal sacs or with parasites. See “How to Empty Your Dog's Anal Sacs” and/or “How to Treat Your Dog's Intestinal Parasites” [not available online].
    • Does your dog often attempt to eat inappropriate items? Dogs that are prone to consuming inedible items, such as dirty clothing and used tampons, are more likely to have obstructions of foreign bodies. If you suspect that this has happened, your dog may eventually pass the item by forcing it out rectally, but waiting too long for this to happen can be risky. As soon as your dog begins to act sick or lethargic, get her in for an examination by her veterinarian.

    When to Get the Vet

    Any substantial amount of bleeding from your dog's rectum, especially if combined with lethargy, is an emergency!