dog sitting in field

Key takeaway

While dog constipation is typically considered a minor medical issue, it’s important to know what causes constipation and what symptoms to look out for. If your dog is constipated and you’re unable to relieve that constipation through dietary changes and exercise, you should visit a vet before the problem gets any worse. In some cases, medications, surgery, or enemas may be required.

Constipation in dogs is characterized by painful defecation or a lack of defecation due to an obstruction in the colon. In most cases, constipation in dogs can be treated with simple dietary changes, but that’s not always the case. In more severe cases of dog constipation, enemas and surgical treatment may be required.

Dogs often suffer from constipation as a result of something they ate which they cannot digest. Bones and hair may get lodged in the colon and cause a blockage. In some cases, constipation is simply a result of a lack of fiber or exercise, or even blocked anal glands.

Recognizing constipation in dogs can be difficult, but there are some telltale signs that your dog may be constipated. If your dog isn’t defecating or there’s something wrong with their stool, you should take them to a vet to figure out what’s going on.

As a dog owner, here’s what you need to know about constipation in dogs, what causes it, what the symptoms are, and how to treat it.

Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs

The first step to understanding how to help a constipated dog is keeping an eye out for symptoms so you can diagnose the problem. Like with anxiety, this can be difficult with pets because they can’t tell you how they’re feeling, so it’s up to you to watch for any physical or behavioral changes that may indicate that your dog is constipated.

Some of the early signs of constipation include a lack of defecation or discomfort while defecating. You may notice that your dog wants to go outside but isn’t able to defecate, or you may notice your dog showing signs of discomfort while defecating. These are some of the earliest signs of constipation, so you should at least consider dietary changes and an increase in exercise if you notice these symptoms.

As time goes on, you may notice some of the symptoms of dog constipation getting worse. The worse constipation gets, the more pain your dog may be in. At this stage, you might start noticing behavioral changes, including general discomfort and crying out. Your dog may also scoot its butt across the floor to try to get relief, which is a telltale sign that you’re dealing with a constipated dog. However, this scooting behavior can also be a sign of worms and other medical issues.

If left untreated, your dog’s constipation will continue to get worse. While constipation often improves with dietary changes and exercise, certain cases may linger. In extreme cases of constipation, you may notice that your dog hasn’t defecated in days and is getting irritable. If your dog does produce stool, that stool might be bloody or contain mucus. At this point, it’s generally best to visit a vet to figure out what’s causing your pet’s constipation.

Here are some of the symptoms you may notice when your dog is constipated:

  • Lack of defecation for a few days
  • Hard, pebble-like stool
  • Straining without producing much stool
  • Discomfort
  • Painful defecation
  • Difficult defecation
  • Mucus with stool
  • Bloody stool
Symptoms of dog constipation

Causes

As a pet owner, it’s important to understand what may cause dog constipation, that way you can take steps to keep your dog from getting constipated. In many cases, constipation is caused by a problem with your dog’s diet, but there are also several other potential causes. Here’s what you need to know about what causes constipation in dogs and what you can do to avoid it.

Dietary fiber is one of the most important parts of healthy defecation for both pets and humans. Fiber helps slow digestion a bit so the body can absorb more nutrients from food, which encourages a healthy stool. If your dog isn’t getting enough fiber in its diet, that could be the reason it’s dealing with constipation. Simple dietary changes are generally enough to treat minor cases of constipation, so try giving your dog canned food, more water, and more fiber. However, it’s important to note that dogs can have too much fiber as well. You should always try making dietary changes to relieve your dog’s constipation before moving on to other solutions.

While a lack of dietary fiber and other dietary issues can cause constipation in dogs, constipation may also be caused by the ingestion of a toxin. In fact, constipation is one of the primary symptoms exhibited by dogs who have ingested toxins. In addition to constipation, dogs who ingest toxins may also experience vomiting, black feces, and diarrhea. If you notice symptoms that suggest your dog may be constipated as a result of something toxic, skip the dog constipation remedies and go to the vet right away.

If your dog ingests a toxin, they could become constipated

Fiber is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to healthy defecation, but it’s far from the only piece. Your dog also needs to get plenty of exercise in addition to getting enough fiber in its diet. Exercise helps speed up the digestive process a bit, which means more water remains in the stool and makes it easier to pass. Going for a daily walk is one of the best things you can do if you want to keep your dog from getting constipated.

Constipation starts with what’s inside your dog’s digestive system, so the things they ingest are often the cause of constipation. Sometimes, constipation is caused by a buildup of hair in stool, which can happen as a result of excessive grooming. If you notice your dog constantly licking and chewing on itself, you should try to figure out what sort of skin condition or medical issue may be leading to that.

In some cases, constipation may be caused by another medical issue your dog is having. Blocked or abscessed anal sacs may lead to constipation in dogs, or that constipation may simply be a side effect of the medication your dog is taking. Constipation can even be a result of a pelvic injury or problems with the pelvis, as well as neurological disorders.

Determining the cause of dog constipation is an important first step, but that’s also difficult to do as a pet owner. If you’re unable to relieve constipation at home with dietary changes and other basic remedies, make sure you visit a vet to rule out any potentially serious problems.

  • Ingestion of toxin
  • Pelvic injury or abnormalities
  • Sudden change of diet
  • Tumors or masses in the colon or rectum
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in diet
  • Other illnesses that promote dehydration
  • Blocked anal sacs
  • Abscessed anal sacs
  • Excessive self-grooming or licking can cause hair to collect in stool, resulting in blockage
  • Neurological disorder
  • Side effect of medication

Diagnosis

Getting your dog the treatment it needs starts with visiting a vet to get a diagnosis. You can try a few basic dog constipation remedies at home, but you don’t want to ignore constipation for too long and let it get worse. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy for an experienced vet to diagnose your dog’s constipation and help you decide on the best treatment.

Typically, a diagnosis for dog constipation involves a basic physical exam as well as a look at the medical history of your dog. During a physical exam, a vet may use abdominal palpation to see if your dog is experiencing discomfort in certain areas. A rectal exam can also help diagnose constipation. Of course, your vet will also consider the medical history of your dog when making a diagnosis because medical issues and medications may be contributing factors to constipation.

a veterinarian may use abdominal palpation to see if your dog is experiencing discomfort

In some cases, your vet may perform a more in-depth exam to figure out what’s going on with your dog. While abdominal palpation and a rectal exam can help your vet identify constipation, further testing can help them figure out how severe it is and what kind of treatment is best. Vets may use radiographs of the abdomen, an ultrasound or colonoscopy, a urinalysis, or a complete blood count to figure out what’s going on with your dog and how severe a case of dog constipation is.

When you visit a vet to have dog constipation diagnosed, it’s important to come prepared with all the information your vet may need. Your vet may ask you questions about your dog’s diet and how much exercise it gets, as well as how much water your dog tends to drink. You may also be asked about medications your dog takes regularly and any medical issues that may be leading to constipation. Providing thorough details is an important part of making sure your dog gets an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment.

Treatment

As far as dog constipation treatment goes, treatment options vary based on the severity and duration of constipation your dog is experiencing. This is because constipation can range from very mild cases that are easily resolved to severe cases where surgery or other medical intervention is required to get relief. When it comes to treating constipation, the best thing you can do is talk with your vet to figure out what the most effective and appropriate treatment option is.

Most of the time, you can get rid of constipation in dogs by simply making changes to their diet. Your dog might be constipated due to a lack of fiber, or it could be too much fiber that’s leaving your dog constipated. You can try switching to wet food or feeding your dog canned pumpkin to help with minor cases of constipation. You should also make sure your dog is getting enough water, since a lack of water is one of the leading contributors to constipation.

Dietary changes are a great way to try to relieve your dog’s constipation, but there may be other factors contributing to the problem. In addition to getting the right amount of fiber, you also need to make sure your dog gets enough exercise to prevent constipation. Exercise helps speed up the digestive system for better digestion, which helps your dog avoid constipation. You don’t have to do anything extreme, either; simply taking your dog on a walk once or twice a day is a great way to get rid of constipation. Just keep in mind that exercise isn’t the right treatment option for everybody because your dog may not have the energy to exercise with severe constipation.

If your dog is constipated as a result of a toxin they’ve ingested, it’s important to get them to a vet right away to get that treated. There’s a long list of foods that are toxic to dogs, and some of those foods can cause severe medical issues and even death. If your dog is experiencing constipation along with vomiting and black feces, you should visit a vet to rule out any potential toxins that could be causing constipation.

Constipation that can’t be treated through simple dietary changes and an increase in exercise can be treated with laxatives. However, dog laxatives aren’t as simple as you might think. Laxatives are classified as bulk-forming, lubricant, emollient, osmotic, or stimulant. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of laxatives that are used to treat constipation:

  • Bulk-forming: One of the most common types of laxatives, bulk-forming laxatives add soluble fiber to your stool, which leads to increased water absorption into the colon that can help fight constipation. Metamucil and other fiber supplements are common examples of bulk-forming laxatives.
  • Lubricant: With lubricants, the idea is to coat the stool to make it slippery, which helps it come out a little easier. These laxatives are generally considered safe and effective.
  • Emollient: Emollients are also known as stool softeners. These are laxatives that are designed to bring more water and fat into the stool, which softens it and makes it easier for it to pass through.
  • Osmotic: Osmotic laxatives, such as Milk of Magnesia, cause an increase of water in the intestines. This excess water helps soften the stool so your dog can pass it with less pain.
  • Stimulant: Stimulants are often considered the most “extreme” laxative because they can come with harsh side effects. These laxatives stimulate the bowels to make them contract, which helps move stool along. However, stimulant laxatives can be painful and may cause bowel issues with long-term use.

  • When laxatives don’t work, manual fecal removal may be an option. Your vet may use enemas and other treatments to try to loosen and remove stool from your dog’s bowels manually. This type of treatment often requires hospitalization because your vet will need to replace the fluids your dog is losing. If your dog is constipated and all the other treatment options don’t seem to work, manual fecal removal may be the best option.

    Constipation that’s caused by neurological disorders or other injuries can be treated by addressing the underlying cause. For example, constipation may be caused by an injury to the pelvis. If your dog is experiencing constipation as a result of an injury or another medical issue, you should always visit a vet to figure out the best treatment option.

    In rare cases where enemas, laxatives, and diet and exercise aren’t doing anything to relieve constipation, surgery might be required. This may be the case for dogs who are constipated as a result of certain injuries or medical conditions. This procedure involves widening the pelvis to make sure there’s enough room for stools to pass. During this surgery, your dog will need to be hospitalized and may need to take stool softeners until their bowels are working properly again.

    Dog Constipation: Frequently Asked Questions

    What happens if I don’t treat my dog’s constipation?

    If you don’t treat dog constipation, it will continue to get worse. While constipation may go away on its own as a result of proper diet and exercise, it can also get worse as more stool is trapped behind the obstruction in the bowels. Typically, you should call your vet if your dog has been constipated for more than 48 to 72 hours.

    While it’s not particularly common, constipation that’s left untreated may lead to megacolon. Megacolon is a neurological condition that occurs when the colon is stretched out and damaged as a result of chronic constipation or stool retention. This is a serious medical condition that may require surgery and other treatment.

    What can I give my dog if he’s constipated?

    If your dog is constipated, diet and exercise should be the first remedies you try. It could be that your dog isn’t getting enough fiber in their diet, or maybe they’re getting too much fiber. You can try giving your dog fiber supplements, plenty of water, and even canned pumpkin to encourage defecation. Regular exercise also helps get your dog’s digestive system moving, so go for a walk if your dog is up for it.

    When these simple treatment methods don’t work, you may need to use laxatives to treat constipation. Laxatives help make it easier for stool to pass through the bowels, which means relief and a less painful bowel movement. Before you give your dog laxatives, make sure you talk to your vet about which laxatives are the safest and most effective.

    Owner kissing dog’s face

    How do you stimulate a dog to poop?

    The good news about dog constipation is that there are ways you can stimulate your dog to poop, which means you don’t always have to visit a vet for treatment. Sometimes, diet, exercise, and a good belly rub can help stimulate your dog to poop. If that doesn’t work, you can always try laxatives or home remedies such as canned pumpkin.

    In severe cases, you can stimulate a dog to poop by using a baby wipe to gently rub around the anus. This will help stimulate your dog to poop, although it’s best to combine this manual stimulation with dietary changes or laxatives for the best results.

    Is dog constipation an emergency?

    So, is it an emergency if my dog is constipated? The good news is that constipation isn’t typically a medical emergency. In fact, constipation in dogs can typically be treated at home by making dietary changes and ensuring your dog gets plenty of exercise. If that doesn’t work, you can use a gentle laxative to encourage your dog to defecate.

    However, it’s important to understand that constipation that’s left untreated or persists despite treatment can be an emergency. As constipation gets worse, diet and exercise are no longer suitable treatment options. If your dog is constipated for more than 48 to 72 hours, you should call a vet. Constipation that lasts several days may require hospitalization or surgery and could lead to serious medical issues if left untreated.

    Final Notes

    Seeing your dog in pain and discomfort can be scary, especially if you’re having trouble figuring out what’s wrong. If your dog isn’t defecating and seems to be in pain, you might be dealing with dog constipation. While diet and exercise are suitable treatment options, you should visit a vet for dog constipation that persists for more than two or three days.

    Lucky for you, Dutch makes it easy to get your dog the veterinary care it needs. We connect you with experienced vets, so you can get your pets the best care from the comfort of your home. These vets can even prescribe laxatives and other treatments online, so taking care of your dog has never been easier. If your dog is constipated, contact Dutch today to learn how a vet can help.