Disclaimer: this is by no means medical advice. If your dog is suffering I recommend seeing their vet as soon as possible.
As a dog owner and lover, we seem to talk about poop a lot. I’ve never been super comfortable with it, and have always skirted around the word with phrases like doing their business, going number two, and also formal usages like fecal matter and bowel movements. Since this issue started with Willow, I’ve had to talk about poop a lot more than I’m used to, and have definitely gotten more comfortable with it!
So here it is. This post is all about, you guessed it, POOP!
How It All Began…
Shortly after Sienna’s FHO (femoral head ostectomy) surgery, Willow started occasionally yelping when she went to poop. It was very infrequent, and she’s always been a bit of a suck; it wasn’t unusual to hear a little yelp from her when she had done nothing more than surprise herself by stepping oddly or something like that. Over the course of the next month the yelping got more and more frequent, to the point that she was in obvious pain every time she went to do her business.
Looking Back and Noticing the Differences
Looking back, there are a number of small changes that happened with Willow around the same time this issue started. Some of them may be related, some of them may be coincidence, and if I’m going to be honest some may be imagined!
- Willow used to poop a little bit weird. She would tilt her rear very little when pooping. Since this issue started, she has been doing a full and proper squat
- She used to fart ALL the time… I know what you’re thinking: most dogs fart a lot. No, Willow farted all the time. She would fart every time she jumped, often when she ran, and at random but very frequent times
- She would get manic with anxiety when she needed to poop, especially when it had been a number of days
- She would refuse to walk. She would still get excited about going on a walk, but if she hadn’t pooped in a few days she would lie down frequently and refuse to get up, until the urge to do her business had passed
- Her eating got worse. She has never been a food driven dog, but she started turning up her nose at food more and more. Even her favourite treats!
- Her winter nose never went away. I may be imagining this, but Willow’s nose got lighter the winter after this issue started, and never darkened again in the spring
- She got REALLY sensitive about is touching her rear or tail. She was never great about it, but she would usually let us brush her tail and rear before this start.
Could it be Swimmers Tail?
We booked in with the vet and had x-rays and an exam done. Neither the x-rays nor the exam showed anything unusual. The vet thought it might be swimmers tail, as his dog had been through something similar about a year prior. Swimmers tail is essentially a strained muscle in the tail. It can be painful but normally goes away in a few days to a few weeks.
Willow was given a prescription of pain meds for a few weeks, and the x-rays were referred to a specialist just to be sure. The specialist saw nothing unusual.
Things only got worse. The pain meds weren’t helping, she started to refuse to poop for as many days as she could. Every time she did her business she spun in circles to see what was hurting, yelping and crying until she was almost finished. It was heart breaking. Outside of that she was a happy girl: eating, energetic, peeing normally, behaviour, all normal!
We got a referral to an internal medicine specialist at a large veterinary hospital. We did more x-rays, an ultrasound and a CT scan. Even after all these tests and appointments we still no clue to what the issue was. Every time we went to the vet and she got sedated it always took her a few days to get back to normal. Willow does not like how she feels on these sedatives and she cries quietly for a very long time afterwards. It’s really hard on her, and in turn on us as there is little we can do besides try to comfort her.
At this point she was only doing her business about every 4 days, and the vet warned that if she went beyond that she would need an enema. Luckily I was still working from home, so I was usually there when she was finally ready to do her business. There were times when we had gone out to the store and she would need to go while we were out and we would come home to a very big mess. We never blamed her; how could we. But this is a fully house trained girl and she was never happy to have done her business in the house, no matter how urgent it was.
As the specialist consulted with her peers on how to proceed, we consulted with our friends and family. I searched everything I could think of: “why does my dog cry when she poops”, “dog spinning during bowel movement”, “painful bowel movements in dogs”. I spent hours and hours Googling various combinations, hoping to find someone with a similar experience. My search history must have looked like a bizarre fetish. I didn’t find anything that sounded like what Willow was going through.
When the vet recommended an MRI and/or colonoscopy as possible next steps, I asked her what she thought about a chiropractor or acupuncturist. She didn’t think that it would hurt to wait on additional testing and that it was a good idea to try an alternative treatment in the interim.
Sienna had already been seeing a chiropractor near us, so I brought Willow in to the next appointment. It was adorable to see shy Sienna strut in to the office and show Willow that there was nothing to be worried about!
Willow needed a few appointments to get used to the Dr before she would let the chiropractor give her a really good adjustment. But each time she saw the Dr we noticed improvements! She would do her business a bit more frequently for the first few days after an adjustment and/or there would be less crying. We were hopeful this was the answer!
After several months the progress started to slow. She was still improving, but we still weren’t sure that this was the answer to getting her back to normal. She was only ever holding the adjustments for about 5 days. We decided to try adding acupuncture. However, finding an acupuncturist to treat dogs in Ontario was quite a challenge! We found out that only vets are allowed to do acupuncture on dogs and most vets don’t take the course (possibly because it’s a lot of time with the patient for a relatively low fee?). We asked everyone if they knew someone: our dog trainer, friends with dogs, the chiropractor, the swim therapy place, my mom even asked all her horse friends. Finally it was Willow’s dog walker who was able to get a name from one of her other clients!
The acupuncturist we were referred to is also a vet, as well as a Chinese medicine specialist. To be honest, I was a little doubtful, but anything was worth a try. Our only other option was more testing and i didn’t think we would find the answers after spending thousands more on additional tests.
As I write this in September 2022, we are now about 5 visits in with the acupuncturist, and seeing huge improvements. This vet is treating Willow holistically, focusing mostly on her gut health and the flow of energy through her body. Not only is Willow having better success doing her business (it’s been a few weeks since we’ve heard a cry, and she even did her business 3 times in 24 hours the other day!) but there have been changes that I can’t quite put my finger on yet. Is it calmness? Is she just generally feeling better? I’m not sure yet, but I can feel that it’s good!
What a Difference Acupuncture is Making!
When conducting acupuncture, she mostly focusing on internal organs relating to gut health. We’re also working on general calmness, along with a few supplements including shen calmer, a fibre supplement and a gentle laxative. We are slowly increasing the time between appointments (we’re currently at a month between visits) and taking a trial and error approach. Thankfully, with the huge improvements we’ve been seeing with the acupuncturist we have also been able to cut back the chiropractic treatment from weekly to monthly as well.
The acupuncture vet is really impressed with Willow’s progress. Every visit she can notice the difference in Willow’s energy and overall health. She was a healthy, happy dog before (aside from her anxiety), but we weren’t able to see the internal issues until they began manifesting in this pooping issue. It has been a very long and difficult road, and she’s not completely back to normal yet, but we finally feel like we are well on our way!
Again, the above is not medical advice. I write this as an interesting anecdote, or perhaps in the hopes that it might help provide someone else some guidance or reassurance when their pet is going through a difficult time. It is not a substitute for veterinary expertise.