Dog waiting to go on bathroom walk

Key takeaway

Dog constipation can be caused by a number of issues, including, dehydration, poor diet, or a more serious condition. Proper laxative use under the supervision of a veterinarian can be an effective way to get your dog the relief they need.

If your dog is having bathroom troubles, you may be scrambling to get them some relief. There’s nothing worse than seeing your dog in pain, after all. However, while it may be tempting to give your dog a laxative, it’s important to know that medicating your dog has certain risks. Dog laxatives can be an effective way to treat certain stomach and intestinal difficulties your dog may be experiencing, but without the proper supervision of a veterinarian, it is not a good idea. Safe laxatives for dogs should be prescribed by a medical professional, as human laxatives can be dangerous to administer to dogs.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the appropriate uses of dog laxatives, how they work, signs of constipation in dogs, and how you can get your dog the symptom relief they need.

Before answering whether you can give laxatives to your dog, let’s start with the basics: how do dog laxatives work?

Owner giving dog a laxative

How Dog Laxatives Work

Laxatives alleviate constipation by promoting bowel movements. There are several different kinds of laxatives, and each type has a different physiological effect on the body. There are five main types of laxatives: bulk-forming, lubricant, emollient, osmotic, or stimulant..

We will discuss how each works below, provide examples of drug names, and describe side effects that you should know about if you plan on giving laxatives to your dog.

Bulk-forming

Bulk-forming laxatives are a simple strategy that may be incorporated into the diet. These are dietary fiber supplements composed of poorly digestible substances extracted mostly from cereal grains and wheat bran. They absorb water, soften feces, increase mass, and naturally stimulate the colonic smooth muscle, making it easier for your dog to pass excrement through its system.

Lubricant

Mineral oil and white petroleum are lubricating laxatives that obstruct colonic water absorption and make fecal transit easier. These side effects are minimal, but lubricating laxatives are only useful in situations of minor constipation. Because of the danger of aspiration pneumonia with oral delivery, mineral oil should only be administered rectally.

Types of dog laxatives

Emollient

Emollient laxatives are available in oral and enema form. Docusate sodium and docusate calcium, for example, are emollient laxatives that your vet may prescribe under certain circumstances to increase the amount of water the stool can absorb within the GI. These laxatives serve to aid your dog in passing the feces stuck in its digestive tract, and should be used only with caution and the advice of a vet.

Osmotic

Osmotic laxatives pull water from surrounding tissues into the intestines creating excess moisture in the intestine resulting in softer stools that are easier to pass. It is vital to drink lots of water while taking osmotic laxatives to improve their efficiency and to decrease the possibility of gas and cramps. This method may be used for moderate to more severe cases of constipation, especially when other methods have been attempted and did not work.

Stimulant

Stimulants trigger the contraction of the intestinal muscles to create a bowel movement. This is a more serious approach, and should only be used under close supervision of your veterinarian.

Signs Of Constipation In Dogs

The inability to pass stools or the passage of hard, dry feces are the basic clinical indications of constipation.

If an enlarged prostate or enlarged lymph nodes are obstructing stool transit, the feces may seem thin and stringy. The presence of substantial amounts of retained fecal matter can be confirmed by abdominal palpation, rectal examination, and xrays. Feces that have been passed are frequently hard and dehydrated. If your dog is very sick, they may also experience symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Depressed mood
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomit
  • Dog Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Painful or straining to defecation
  • Mucus or blood in stool

If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, especially if they occur consistently, a consultation with your veterinarian is recommended. Often, dog constipation doesn’t have a serious underlying cause, but it sometimes might, so it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion—especially if your dog will require treatment as a result.

Tenesmus and passage of hard, dry stools are basic clinical indications of constipation

Causes Of Constipation In Dogs

Constipation can be caused by many different lifestyle issues or underlying diseases. Constipation occurs when your dog’s intestines lack the appropriate amount of water, leaving the stool dry and hard, causing it to become stuck in the dog’s bowels.

Some of the most common causes of dog constipation include:

  • A poor diet low in dietary fiber
  • Dehydration
  • Insufficient exercise
  • Injury to the spine
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Anal gland disorder
  • Reaction post-surgery to anesthesia or pain medications
  • Stress reaction
  • Tumors
  • Other chronic conditions, like food allergies in dogs

Because constipation can be caused by so many different underlying ailments, it’s important to have your dog seen by a professional veterinarian if they are experiencing constipation for more than a day or two. In some cases, this may be a sign of a serious condition that could require medication to resolve.

Diagnosing Constipation In Dogs

When diagnosing the cause of your dog’s constipation, you’ll need to schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

Treating Constipation In Dogs

Constipation in dogs can be treated several different ways depending on the underlying cause. In many cases, changes to the dog’s diet may be sufficient to relieve symptoms. Often, increasing the amount of water and fiber in your dog’s diet will help relieve symptoms and improve their health. In more difficult cases, it’s possible that your vet will prescribe a laxative, administered either orally or rectally.

If dietary and exercise-based changes to your dog’s lifestyle do not relieve constipation symptoms, your veterinarian may prescribe a laxative discussed above. It’s important not to give your dog a laxative until you’ve consulted a veterinarian, as constipation has many different causes, and you want to be sure your pet is receiving the correct treatment. In extreme cases, your veterinarian may need to perform a more invasive procedure like feces removal or an enema.


Dog Laxatives: Frequently Asked Questions

See our frequently asked questions below for quick answers to common questions.

Can I give my dog a laxative?

Giving your dog a laxative under the direct supervision of your veterinarian may be a helpful way to relieve constipation symptoms under some conditions. However, it’s important that you do not give your dog human laxatives. The dosing and concentration is too strong and may severely hurt your dog. Instead, consult with your veterinarian about the correct dog laxative for your dog’s specific case.

Why can’t dogs take laxatives long-term?

Long-term laxatives can cause dehydration and other dehydration-based health problems. Frequent constipation may be a sign of a poor diet that’s low in fiber, dehydration, insufficient exercise, or other underlying conditions. If your dog suffers from consistent constipation, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian.

Is there a gentle laxative for dogs?

Do not give your dog a laxative without the advice of a veterinarian.

Woman disposing of dog waste bag

Final Notes

Dog constipation can be caused by many different causes, therefore it is important that you consult a veterinarian. With the right lifestyle and medical treatment, your dog can get back to the life they love.

Dutch telemedicine for pets can be a useful approach to seek science-backed assistance for dogs suffering from constipation caused by allergies or anxiety. Our network of veterinarians are trained to recognize the indications of allergies and anxiety in dogs and can provide you with the medication you need to keep your pet healthy at a reasonable cost.

References

  1. Constipation and Obstipation in Small Animals, Merck Vet Manual, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-stomach-and-intestines-in-small-animals/constipation-and-obstipation-in-small-animals