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Megacolon in dogs… What is it? What causes it? And how can I help?

Just like in humans, a colon connects the large intestine to the rectum. Its function is to store waste very temporarily before it passes out of the body. However, when waste gets backed up, the colon can expand to an unnatural size. This condition is known as a megacolon in dogs.

“What does it mean for your dog’s overall health and future?”

Keep reading to find out.

As with most problems…

In life, identifying that there is an issue is typically the first step in fixing it.  The problem is that when it comes to one’s colon, it’s not really something that you can take a look at.  And when it comes to diagnosing a “megacolon” in your dog, it’s not like your pup’s suddenly going to look over at you an say…

“You know what?  I think I may have a megacolon!”

This is why…

Diagnosing this condition is going to depend on an observant owner to recognize when it’s time to take a pet to the veterinarian. Some of the symptoms that should be red flags include:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Hard feces
  • Bloating
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular bowel movement

Remember that these are very common symptoms and clinical signs that could appear with a number of illnesses. It’s up to your vet to diagnose it as megacolon.

Causes of Megacolon in Dogs

There is a wide range of causes for megacolon. It can be due to a problem since birth, trauma/accidents, or a reaction to certain drugs.  There could also be a foreign body present in the fecal mass, such as something that your dog swallowed, that is making it difficult for the feces to move

A megacolon could also…

Be associated with another issue such as: a perineal hernia, spinal cord injury, fracture malunion, pelvic fracture, small intestine issue or ileocolic junction problems.

Diagnosis & Prognosis

After your veterinarian gives your dog an exam, he/she will have more insight. Other things necessary to determine if it is megacolon could include:

  • Complete blood count
  • Electrolyte Panel
  • Urinalysis
  • Stool sample
  • Abdominal palpation
  • Abdominal radiograph or sonography/ultrasound
  • Colonoscopy
  • Exam of pelvic canal

Your dog will not necessarily undergo all of these tests, but your doctor will choose the right ones. The vet will also need to see if smooth muscle dysfunction is a part of the problem.

At this point…

It’s probably a good idea to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  This is why you’ll commonly see that we like to recommend that anyone who thinks that something might be wrong with their dog be sure and have him or her checked out by a vet right away.

This way…

You may not only be able to avoid having your dog suffer needlessly as well as save a bunch of money by preventing a minor health issue grown into a larger one.  Which bring us to where we want to discuss what treatment options may be available for your dog once he or she has been diagnosed with a megacolon.
Treatment of a megacolon in dogs

The first thing you will have to do is make sure your dog is rehydrated immediately. This may require hospitalization and iv fluid therapy. Your vet will probably first try to ease your dog’s constipation with basic laxatives or a drug known as cisapride. If this does not work, he/she will move on to amore invasive way of clearing the colon

From there…

Your vet may try to empty the colon. It’s likely your dog will be given anesthesia before your vet injects water enemas to help the feces come out. Depending on the state of the colon, your doctor may need to do a reconstructive colonic surgery or colectomy. This will prevent recurrent megacolon.

Living with Constipation and Obstipation

If your dog frequently suffers from either of these issues, it’s recommended that you make sure he/she is on a high fiber diet and gets adequate exercise. Beyond that, you may have to put your dog on regular supplements or prokinetic drugs (aka prokinetic agents) to promote a healthy digestive tract.

It should also be noted…

That megacolons can also affect cats as well.  If this is the case, and your cat has a constipation problem, you will want to make sure that his/her litter box is clean and that you do not switch litter brands – the reason why is that you want to make sure your pet is totally comfortable to go to the bathroom. If not, he/she may hold it and induce constipation.

Costs of Treatment

As you can see, there is a wide swing when it comes to treatment. Perhaps your dog doesn’t have megacolon and just a bit of constipation. You’ll need to pay for a vet visit and a bit of fiber. But supposing there is major damage to the colon and surgery is required, it’s going to cost thousands of dollars. Are you ready for it?

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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