Fact checked

How Do I Treat Dog Constipation?

Dog Care
6 minutes read
We all get constipated, and it can even happen to dogs. Depending on what they eat, drink, or ingest, dog constipation can be difficult to assess and treat.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

Constipation in dogs is a condition where the dog cannot produce normal stool on its regular schedule. For example, if your ESA dog pooped twice a day, it starts going once a day or stops altogether. The dog may also produce hard stool.

Constipation is generally more uncomplicated for owners to recognize in indoor pets taken out regularly for walks. A dog that lives mostly outdoors might show it is constipated by walking strangely, whining for no apparent reason, or refusing food.

Constipation is caused by various things and can be a symptom of different conditions. There are many symptoms dogs exhibit to show they are constipated, and many ways to help your dog and prevent it later.

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dog constipation treatments

What are the Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs?

Here are signs that can show your ESA dog is suffering from constipation.

  • Change in the dog's pooping schedule, significantly lesser pooping times
  • Several failed attempts at passing feces
  • Excessive circling, scooting, and frequent squatting
  • Crying during pooping attempts
  • No pooping attempts for more than two days
  • Larger than normal belly
  • Harder than normal stool

Other clinical signs include:

  • Low or loss of appetite
  • Mucus covered feces
  • Small amounts of watery feces
  • Growl or painful cry when you touch the stomach or lower back
  • Feces covered in blood

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What are the Causes of Constipation in Dogs?

Constipation in dogs occurs when fecal matter stalls in the large intestines and dries up.

Usually, when food your dog has eaten reaches the colon, water and electrolytes are absorbed, and the remains are pushed down. Unfortunately, removing the matter from the colon can be slowed or impaired. As a result, more water is absorbed, and the fecal mass becomes drier and more rigid. Some causes are:

Water and Dietary Problems

Like in humans, a lack of fiber in the diet can cause constipation in dogs. In addition, too much calcium from bones, bone meals, and other foods also cause constipation. Lastly, a lack of clean and adequate drinking water can also contribute to the problem.

Indigestible Items

Dogs usually munch on anything, including toys, rocks, and branches. These items are indigestible and move down the digestive tract and lodged in the colon. As a result, fecal matter can't leave the colon, leading to constipation.

Age

Older dogs are more prone to constipation due to various reasons. For example, if they have arthritis, which makes it painful to crouch, the dog may reduce their bowel movement and partially poop. The fecal matter that is left dries up and blocks the large intestines.

Tumors

Enlarged and cancerous prostate can cause constipation. The tumor will block the colon, blocking fecal matter from leaving the colon. The result is dried-up feces and constipation. Tumors of the anal glands and lymph nodes can also cause constipation.

Other causes of constipation include:

  • Drugs like opiates, diuretics, and some antacids
  • Spinal diseases and injuries
  • Some metabolic diseases like renal and hypothyroidism problems
  • Stress and psychological problems
  • Central nervous system disorders
  • Some surgeries

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How To Treat Constipation in Dogs

Here are some solutions you can use to treat constipation in your dog.

Plenty of Water and High Fiber Meals

Problems with water and diet are often causes of dog constipation. Generally, dog constipation can be treated by switching to high-fiber or wet dog food and ensuring the animal has plenty of water. Sometimes home remedies such as mixing fiber supplements, olive oils, or canned pumpkin into a dog's food can help. Sometimes, dog owners must take their constipated pets to the vet for treatment.

Dogs, particularly older ones, should have access to plenty of water throughout the day. Low-quality dog foods often contain fillers and other ingredients that are difficult for dogs to digest, so consider changing your dog's food to a high-fiber and animal protein brand, especially if constipation is a regular occurrence. Constipation is more common in older dogs and can often be helped with a senior dog food blend. Feeding your dog only wet food for a couple of days can also relieve constipation.

Foods with high fiber include:

  • Carrots
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Peas
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries

Pumpkin

Never give a dog laxative medications intended for humans because these can be toxic for animals. 

A typical home remedy for dog constipation is mixing cooked or canned pumpkin into the food. Dogs usually don't mind eating pumpkin. If you use canned pumpkin, be sure it's plain pumpkin and not a pumpkin pie mix. Pie mixes contain spices and other additives that the dog might refuse or that could upset its stomach further.

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Oils

Oil is another harmless home remedy for dog constipation. Mix a teaspoon of mineral or olive oil into the dog's food. Powdered fiber supplements can also be effective, though it's usually safer to use herbal supplements such as psyllium rather than commercial fiber supplements for people. If you use oil or fiber, ensure the dog drinks extra water after eating.

Canned Dog Food

Canned dog food is usually watery and softer than other foods. The moisture helps regulate the digestive tract and creates softer stool. You can mix it with regular food if your dog has an easily upset stomach.

Probiotics

Your digestive system relies on important bacteria to handle food digestion. You can give your dog probiotics to alter its digestive tract's acidity. As a result, the perfect condition for digestion is met, and the growth of harmful bacteria is hindered. In this case, ensure you see the vet to get the right probiotic for your dog.

Increase Your Walks

Exercise and movement help promote normal movement within the digestive tract. More frequent walks and hydration will help if the colon is blocked.

Consider Laxatives

You can also use suppository laxatives to deal with constipation in your dog. You can use rectal suppositories alongside oral laxatives when the situation requires. Just ensure the dog is comfortable and cooperating before using the laxatives.

Do not give the dog any laxatives meant for humans. Instead, it is vital to contact a veterinarian for advice and direction.

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Summary

Constipation can be highly uncomfortable for a dog and upsetting to the owner. In most cases, dog constipation is not cause for major concern, but if it lasts more than a day or two, it could indicate a more severe condition.

If constipation is severe, the dog may become lethargic, vomit, or have a tender abdomen. In these cases, the dog should be taken to the vet immediately. Constipation can indicate a more severe condition that requires medical treatment, such as a thyroid problem, tumor, or an intestinal blockage by a foreign object. It can also lead to hemorrhoids or other complications.

A veterinarian will conduct an exam for any abnormalities, including physical and clinical tests. They'll advise on the best treatment for the dog.

Visit Pettable's blog for more information on pet care and other helpful resources. We also help with your ESA letter to help you get an ESA certificate.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.