Readers have two questions. One has a gundog that can't 'go' and the other has a dog that eats grass.
Q: My Labrador seems to get constipated; she gets into position to relieve herself but with no success. What can be done to relieve constipation?
A: Constipation is a relatively common digestive disorder and most dogs can suffer from a bout at some point during their lives.
Feeding a diet that is high in protein and low in fibre is the most common cause of dietary-induced constipation. Some dogs are also inclined to eat poorly digestible substances, typically wood, plastics, fabrics and bones, which cause constipation or more serious intestinal blockages.
If your dog doesn’t take in more fluid than she loses, through not drinking enough or excessive loss — through exertion or metabolic disease — her body will absorb as much as it can from the bowels, resulting in drier, firmer stools that are harder to pass. Discomfort from hip arthritis or lower back pain can also make it difficult or uncomfortable for a dog to adopt the normal position for a bowel movement.
A constipated dog is usually easily treated once the cause is established. Make sure your dog drinks an adequate amount of water and include high-fibre dog food in the diet. Provide enough exercise and, in most cases, constipation can be relieved within one or two days. If this doesn’t relieve the symptoms then your vet may need to examine the dog and prescribe more specific treatments.
Q: Why does my dog eat grass?
A: Dogs that eat grass – and often herbivore dung as well – are self-medicating. Rather than stopping him, you should allow him to graze.
Dogs need a small amount of vegetable matter in their diets, so you may well find that if you supply this in the form of fresh green vegetables, either lightly cooked or liquidised and mixed in with his food, he may not feel the need to graze when he is out.
Fruit and vegetables are good for chewing up while he is in his kennel.
However, beware. Greedy dogs may get into trouble trying to swallow apples whole, so if yours is like this, cut the apples up and supervise the feeding until you know he is safe.
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Sometimes grass eating means there is some discomfort in the gut, either resulting in the vomiting of bile or the greenery passing through and bringing mucus with it. Therefore keep your worming regime up to date, and consider feeding twice daily instead of once.