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Painful Defecation in Dogs: Causes and Treatment

Painful defecation in dogs can be caused by many things, from minor constipation or diarrhea, to life-threatening gastroenteritis.

Help keep your pet happy and healthy: Learn to recognize the signs of painful defecation in your dog, understand what you can do to help, and know when it's time to see a veterinarian.

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Signs of Painful Defecation in Dogs

Signs that your dog is experiencing painful defecation include

  • Barking, whining, or other unusual noises while trying to defecate
  • Straining to defecate and not producing any stool
  • Blood at your dog's anus
  • Mucous, tarry, or thin, ribbon-like stool

If your dog is straining to defecate and is vomiting, or if there's blood in the stool or around the anus, always see your vet right away as these could be signs of a serious problem and may lead to shock if left untreated.

What’s Causing Your Dog’s Pain?

Common causes of painful defecation in dogs include:


Many things can lead to diarrhea in dogs, including inflammatory bowel disease, medications, allergies, food poisoning, parasites, a change in diet, and gastrointestinal infections.

Symptoms of diarrhea are pretty easy to spot: loose, liquid, or frequent stools. As with so many conditions, treatment depends on the cause of the diarrhea and may include dietary changes, fluid therapy to prevent dehydration, and occasionally antibiotics if an infection is identified.

Get your dog vet care right away if he has more than one episode of diarrhea, is lethargic, has a fever, blood in the stool, or black, tarry stool.


Like diarrhea, constipation in dogs can be caused by a wide range of things, including certain drugs, intestinal obstruction, enlarged prostate or lymph nodes, dehydration, tumors, and neuromuscular problems.

Signs of constipation include: straining to defecate; firm, dry or ribbon-like feces; depression; lethargy; vomiting; loss of appetite; and stomach pain. Treating constipation depends on its cause, though for mild constipation a high-fiber diet, plenty of water, and laxatives as prescribed by your vet may be all the treatment needed.

If the constipation is serious, manual removal of impacted feces under general anesthesia may be necessary.

Foreign Object

Some dogs have a habit of eating inedible objects like pebbles, bones, or used food wrappers, for example. If your dog does this, it could be the source of your canine companion's painful defecation.

Treatment will depend on the object ingested, the dog’s symptoms, and a physical exam, so always consult your vet if your dog has swallowed something inedible. 

Consider it an emergency if your dog has swallowed string or something with string attached. If the item lodges in one spot, the string can act like a saw, perforating the intestine and leading to life-threatening peritonitis.

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is distinguished by a sudden onset of bloody vomit and diarrhea in a previously healthy dog. The feces can often look like strawberry jam. Take your dog to the vet immediately if he shows these symptoms as untreated hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can be fatal.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

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