As one of the most common digestive problems among animals, constipation — the difficulty or inability to have normal bowel movements — can affect dogs of all breeds, ages, and lifestyles.
While constipation may be common in dogs, it should never be ignored. Left untreated, constipation can cause more serious health problems in the future, including lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
Below is a guide to understanding the causes of constipation, recognizing the symptoms, and treating your pet.
Causes of Dog Constipation
A variety of different factors can contribute to constipation in your pet. Some of the most common causes of dog constipation include:
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Enlarged prostate
- Ingested dirt, grass, or debris
- Ingested hair from excessive grooming
- Insufficient exercise
- Recent surgery (meds used during procedure and surgery itself)
- Insufficient fiber in the diet
- Kidney disease
- Stress and physiological issues (a stressor in the environment that leads the dog to hold it)
- Side effects from medication
- Orthopedic disorders that make it difficult to squat
- Tumors or masses around the anus
- Spinal injuries and disease
Symptoms of Dog Constipation
If your dog has not defecated in two or more days, this is often a telltale sign that she is suffering from constipation. Additional constipation indications include straining, crouching, or whimpering while trying to defecate. Grass particles, string, or matted feces around the anal area may also be signs of constipation in your dog.
Treatment for Dog Constipation
If you notice any signs of constipation in your dog, you should visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet can determine the causes of your dog’s constipation and advise you on the best treatment method for your unique pet.
Common Treatments for Relieving Constipation
Make sure you talk to your vet about options for relieving constipation and only follow their suggestions. They know your dog personally and will be able to give more tailored recommendations.
- Increasing your dog’s fiber intake by adding pumpkin, wheat bran, or fiber supplements
- Increasing exercise
- A dog laxative or stool softener
- An enema treatment (given by veterinarian)
- Medication that will strengthen the large intestine
At-Home Remedies to Relieve Constipation in Dogs
If your dog is experiencing constipation and you want to try some remedies at home before going to the vet, check out some options below.
Canned Dog Food
Mix your dog’s regular food with some canned food to help prevent an upset stomach. The canned food is softer, and the higher moisture will help balance the digestive system and form a softer stool.
Provide Fresh Water
Encourage your pup to drink plenty of water to ensure they stay hydrated. If they are refusing to drink water, please seek medical attention.
Talk to your vet before giving your pet pumpkin puree to make sure it’s the right solution for you. When you give your dog 100% pumpkin puree, they are ingesting extra fiber and moisture, which will help get their digestive tract in order. DO NOT use pumpkin pie filling! You don’t need to cook or warm up the puree. Simply give the treat right from the can. Your furry friend will love it.
Play a game of fetch or chase to get the body moving and prompt the bowels to make a healthy movement. Go for a long walk, do some running exercises, or do anything to get the body moving in a positive direction.
When Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to call the vet, and you want to avoid bothering them if it’s not an emergency. However, in your pet’s case, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Constipation should typically resolve within 48 hours if you’ve kept your dog hydrated, given plenty of exercises, and offered a balanced and nutritious diet. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pup is vomiting or showing signs of discomfort or pain. If you press on the abdomen and it is tense or painful for your furry friend, let your pet care provider know. If they can produce even small amounts of fecal matter, note what it looks like so you can inform the vet.
What Will My Veterinarian Do to Help My Dog?
Once you are at the vet’s office, they will complete a physical examination to determine what could be causing constipation. The doctor will check for foreign objects, tumors, or a distended colon. A distended colon (megacolon) is when waste inside the colon causes the colon to become abnormally enlarged and blocks the passage of feces and gas. Sometimes, your vet may need to order blood work, x-rays, or ultrasounds to make a prognosis on the cause of constipation. Once they have figured out the root of the issue, they will give a treatment plan that best suits your pup.
While constipation is natural in growing dogs, you can work to prevent it by helping your dog to get plenty of exercise, feeding her a healthy, fibrous diet, and ensuring she drinks plenty of water. If your dog is a male, neuter him at a young age to prevent prostate enlargement.
Boiled or canned pumpkin is a well-known supplement to help a dog’s digestive system. What other natural remedies have you tried successfully?