What To Give A Constipated Dog

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You know everything there is to know about your dog, including their potty schedule and what their regular bowel movements look like. Most pet parents even know when their dog has to poop by the look on their faces. However, when your dog can't poop, it can be concerning. Constipated dogs typically strain to defecate or can't poop at all. 

While constipation one day is typically not cause for concern, dogs should not be constipated for multiple days in a row. If your dog hasn't pooped in over 24-48 hours, it's time to call a vet because it could indicate a more serious medical issue. Dog can't poop? If you're wondering what to give a constipated dog, you've come to the right place. Keep reading to learn more about constipation in dogs, including causes and treatments. 

What Is Constipation? 

Dog constipation is characterized by an inability to produce normal stools. Most dogs poop once or twice a day, but a constipated dog may not be able to defecate easily or at all. If your dog is constipated, they may experience these symptoms: 

If you walk your dog and notice they squat to poop but nothing comes out, and they continue to try to walk while still in a squatted position, they're likely constipated. When a constipated dog is able to defecate, the poop might be hard, dry, and compacted. In addition, dogs experiencing stomach upset might eat grass or drag their bottoms on the floor. 

What Causes Constipation In Dogs?

There are many causes of constipation in dogs, and many of them are the same causes of constipation in humans. Common causes of dog constipation include: 

  • Low exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Poor diet or nutritional deficiencies
  • Too much or too little fiber
  • Age
  • Blockages
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Renal issues
  • Ingesting human foods
  • Prostate issues
  • Some medications
  • Pelvic trauma
  • Tumors
  • Chronic constipation
  • Stress1

You can learn more about constipation, depending on your dog's specific symptoms, or by taking them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. 

What To Give a Constipated Dog? Treatments For Constipated Dogs 

As a pet parent, you might be wondering how to help a constipated dog, especially if they're experiencing pain when trying to defecate. There are several types of remedies you can try at home, including the following:

Canned pumpkin 

Plain, canned pumpkin is a natural laxative for dogs because it has high fiber content. Many vets recommend pumpkin for dogs with upset stomachs. Additionally, the high water content in canned pumpkin can help soften the stool and keep your dog hydrated. When feeding your dog canned pumpkin, ensure it's plain. Your dog should never eat pumpkin pie filling or any type of pumpkin with spices like cinnamon, which can be toxic to dogs. 

Introducing wet food 

Wet food has a higher water content than dry food, so it can help soften the stool. However, when changing your dog's diet, it's best to do it gradually. Many dogs can get severe GI symptoms from a fast change in their diet, especially when switching from dry to wet food. Instead, take it slow, and add a small spoonful of wet food to your dog's dry food. Monitor them to ensure they won't have a negative reaction. 

Increase exercise 

Exercise can help keep things moving along in your dog's bowel by inducing bowel movements. If you've ever noticed your dog likes to walk around before pooping, it's because it can stimulate the bowels to make pooping easier. Sedentary dogs are at higher risk of constipation, so increasing the amount of exercise by taking them on long walks or runs can help improve the quality of the stool. 

More water

Hydration is crucial for healthy poops in all living creatures. If your dog can't poop, they might be dehydrated. Unfortunately, some dogs don't drink as much water as they should, even if you leave a full bowl out for them every day. If your dog doesn't like to drink water, you can add some water to their kibble to soften it up and trick them into drinking more. 

Fiber supplements

There are many fiber supplements safe for pets that you can use to help soften their stool. But, of course, you should always check with your vet to ensure a specific fiber supplement is safe for dogs. Some may contain ingredients that can be harmful or toxic. In addition, because too much fiber can cause constipation, you should always talk to your vet before increasing fiber in your dog's diet since it could worsen the problem. 

Stool softeners

If you've tried several remedies and your dog is still constipated, they may need a stool softener. However, not all human-grade stool softeners are safe for pets, so consult a vet to get a prescription that's safe for your dog. 

When To Talk To A Vet

Left untreated, constipation can be dangerous to your dog's health. The waste in the colon can become hard and dry, developing into obstipation, a severe form of constipation, which occurs when fecal matter can't be moved through the colon.1 The colon may enlarge, forcing the dog to become bloated and lethargic. Dogs with this condition, also known as megacolon, also have a lack of appetite and may strain while pooping.1 Megacolon can lead to more serious complications that may require surgery, and if left untreated, it can become fatal. 

You can learn about more home remedies for constipated dogs by talking to your vet. Consulting your vet may also be necessary, depending on how long it has been since your dog has had a normal bowel movement. Ultimately, treating constipation in a dog depends on the cause, and you might not be equipped to treat all forms of constipation at home, especially if your dog has a blockage or another health condition. Here are some instances in when talking to a vet may be beneficial:

  • If your dog has very regular poops and hasn't had a lot of constipation in their medical history. 
  • If you've attempted many of the suggestions to no avail and constipation continues.
  • If the pet has long-term or chronic constipation because of the potential of impaction in the colon. 

Once you make an appointment with your vet, you must come prepared to give them all the necessary information to help your dog. You should be able to tell your vet information regarding the following: 

  • Their last normal bowel movement
  • Changes in your dog's diet
  • Food items they may have had access to other than their regular dog food
  • If they strain to go urinate or defecate
  • Medications they've been taking
  • Injuries2

If your dog can pass stool, you can also consider bringing a sample to help rule out parasites. 

Medical Treatment

If your vet believes constipation requires medical intervention, there are a few treatment options that aim to remove the impacted feces. 

Removing the impacted feces can help clear the colon and help your dog pass stool easier. Vets can remove feces in many ways, including the use of enemas, manual removal, or medications, such as laxatives. In rare cases, a vet may perform surgery to remove parts of the colon.2 

After dogs are treated for constipation, it's important to make dietary improvements by feeding them a high-quality diet based on their specific fiber needs. Additionally, your vet will send you home with instructions for preventing constipation in the future, depending on your dog's diagnosis and why they were constipated. 

FAQs

What is a natural laxative for dogs?

Pumpkin is commonly given to dogs with GI issues like diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. It's a good natural laxative for dogs because it's full of fiber and prebiotics that improve gut health. 

How long can a dog go without a bowel movement?

Dogs typically have a bowel movement once or twice a day. However, it's not uncommon for them to become constipated from time to time. In most cases, minor constipation only lasts about a day. However, if your dog hasn't had a bowel movement in 48 to 72 hours, it's time to call your vet because it could be dangerous to their health. 

Can I give my dog olive oil for constipation?

Olive oil and coconut oil can be used to help soften stool. However, they both have high-fat content, which is not recommended for dogs, especially those with underlying illnesses like pancreatitis and obesity. Talk to your vet to determine the best solution for your dog’s constipation.

Dog owner picking up dog poop

Final Notes

Dog constipation may seem like a minor issue. However, it can lead to a more serious illness if it's not treated as soon as possible. Depending on your dog's diet and anything else they might have consumed, constipation is relatively normal from time to time. However, your dog should never have chronic constipation or be constipated for more than two days. If your dog experiences any form of constipation, no matter how long it's been since their last bowel movement, it's always a good idea to contact a vet. 

Worried about your dog's potty habits? Talk to a Dutch vet who can help diagnose and treat constipation in dogs. Whether your dog is suffering from too little fiber in their diet or something more serious like an underlying illness, Dutch is here to help. Try Dutch telemedicine for pets today. 

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References

  1. “Dog Constipation: How to Help Your Pet & When to See a Vet.” WebMD, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/dog-constipation-causes-treatment.

  2. Bovsun, Mara. “Dog Constipation: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” American Kennel Club, 6 Mar. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-constipation/.

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