Dog Constipation: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

It’s quite common for dogs to sniff and swallow anything they fancy. Rocks, grass, cloth, even garbage! Eating these non-food items can lead to constipation. But that’s not the only reason. There are also other causes of dog constipation you should know about.


Today, you’re going to learn why constipation happens and what you need to do as a pet parent. Keep reading.


Why Do Dogs Get Constipated?

Constipation is when your dog has difficulty in passing stools. Bowel movements are either infrequent or absent [1].


Elderly or senior dogs are the ones who often suffer from constipation. Yet, constipation can also strike at any age and affect any dog breed.


You might be wondering:


“Why is my dog constipated?”


There are many reasons why dogs get constipated. It could be due to:


  • Something they ate
  • A medication side effect
  • An underlying medical condition

If your dog gets to defecate, you will notice that his feces is hard, dry, and pebble-like. In most cases, bowel movement resumes on its own. But because constipation can be serious, you must consult your veterinarian.


What Causes Dog Constipation?

What Causes Dog Constipation

Here are the most common reasons:


1. Too little fiber in your dog’s diet


Like humans, dogs need dietary fiber to be able to poop [2]. Not just that, fiber also helps your dog maintain a healthy weight. Pets that lack dietary fiber are likely to suffer from constipation.


2. Lack of exercise


Are you walking Fido enough?


Walking and even playing with your dog helps him stay healthy. Exercise stimulates wave-like muscle contractions in your dog’s digestive system. This increase in peristalsis gives him the urge to defecate [3].


3. Dietary indiscretion


You already know it: Pets sometimes eat icky things.


Before you could stop him, he’s already swallowed that object.


Dietary indiscretion can affect your dog’s bowel movements. Some dogs get hospitalized because what they ate was toxic. The same goes with objects that lodge in their intestines.


4. Dehydration


Water is essential to your dog’s nutrition. Dogs need one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight daily [4]. Dehydration hardens your dog’s stool and makes it difficult for him to poop.


5. Excessive or too little dog grooming


Does your dog have long hair? If your dog licks his fur a lot, hairballs can form in his stool [55]. A lack of grooming also leads to constipation due to matted hair around the anus.


6. Prostate enlargement


Benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH is a condition in male dogs in which their prostate enlarges. Aging and unneutered dogs are likely to get BPH. In this case, an enlarged prostate puts pressure on the colon, leading to constipation [6].


7. Medication side effects


Is Fido being treated for another condition? Because here’s what you should know: Some prescription drugs cause constipation [5].


Examples of these drugs are:


  • Antihistamines
  • Diuretics
  • Narcotic pain relievers
  • Sucralfate

In this case, your vet may replace the medication or stop it.


8. Pain due to osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that affects 20% of all canines. Changes in your pet’s joints cause pain. Pain is a dominant symptom in dog osteoarthritis and is the focus of treatment [7]. Dogs that are in pain experience discomfort in passing stool.


9. Hypothyroidism


Hypothyroidism refers to a hormonal imbalance where your dog’s thyroid gland shrinks. Aside from constipation, dogs show a variety of symptoms. Watch out for these common symptoms, which include [8]:


  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Dry or dull coat
  • Inability to tolerate cold
  • Anemia

10. Digestive disorders


Digestive or gastrointestinal disorders affect your dog’s stomach and intestines. These include colitis, gastritis, ulcers, gastroenteritis, and certain cancers [9]. If your pet has a digestive problem, you should watch out for constipation as one of the symptoms.


How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Constipated?

A constipated dog will strain to poop. At the same time, your pet may pass small, pebble-like stools or no stools at all.


At the very least, dogs should poop once a day. If your pet doesn’t in 24 hours, you should start worrying. This is especially true if you’ve maintained a consistent dog feeding schedule.


You should also note other signs of constipation:


1. Vomiting – Because waste cannot quickly pass through your pet’s intestines, he may have episodes of vomiting.


2. Poor appetite – Decreased or a loss of appetite affects your dog’s interest in food. Your dog may be experiencing pain because of a medical condition.


3. Crying or showing signs of pain – Healthy and pain-free dogs have straight backs. But when they take a hunched posture, they’re in pain. Dogs with abdominal, neck, or back pain usually do this.


Important: Watch out for worsening signs of illness. If your dog is weak, has a distended abdomen, and blood in his stool, call your vet immediately.


Treatment & Remedies For Dog Constipation

As soon as you notice constipation, let your vet know and schedule an appointment. If you’re wondering how you can help relieve mild constipation, you can try these simple remedies at home:


1. Plenty of clean water

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Make sure that Fido has easy access to water.


If you feed him with dry pet food, add some moisture. Pour bone broth into his food bowl. Chicken, beef, or lamb is good. Bone broth doesn’t only relieve dehydration, but it also offers micronutrients [10].


2. Pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned)

It’s no secret that pumpkin contains fiber, which could be missing in Fido’s diet. Pumpkin has high water content, and it helps with digestive issues [11].


Try adding 1 tablespoon to your pet’s meal. Start with a small amount. When choosing canned pumpkin, avoid those with sugar and other additives.


3. Hemp oil

Hemp or CBD oil has therapeutic benefits for our furry friends. It helps with digestive problems, including constipation.


If your dog has lost his appetite, is weak, and is suffering from physical pain, hemp oil helps with these as well. Mix CBD oil with his food or give it directly by mouth.


4. Olive oil

Some pet owners ask, “Can my dog take olive oil for constipation?”


Olive oil isn’t only for humans. Dogs may take it for a shinier coat and a healthier immune system. But not just that. Olive oil also acts as a natural stool softener.


Your Vet May Perform the Following


A trip to your veterinarian is the best solution for constipation that fails to resolve in 24 hours. Your vet will get a complete history of your dog and conduct a physical assessment.


Diagnostic tests to further evaluate your pet’s health include:


  • X-rays
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Rectal exam
  • Complete blood count

For advanced cases, your vet may recommend any of these treatments:


  • Enema
  • Veterinarian-prescribed diet
  • Dog laxative or stool softener
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Surgery

Some pet parents attempt to administer an enema on their own. Don’t offer your dog any medication without consulting your vet first!


How Can I Prevent My Dog From Being Constipated?

How To Prevent Dog Constipation

As Fido grows older, he becomes more prone to constipation. But even younger dogs do if they have a health issue or have a habit of eating non-edible stuff.


Here’s how to prevent constipation from the get-go:


1. Help him to stop eating anything during walks.


You don’t have to force your dog to spit something from his mouth every time. Let him wear a head halter and keep him on a leash. Dog-proof your house as well. Keep things safely away – especially things that fall under the chewing hazard category.


2. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise.


Dogs need to release their energy. Exercise doesn’t only provide an outlet, but it also ensures good health. In general, smaller dogs prefer lighter activities. Running and playing fetch are great for medium and large dogs [12].


3. Add fiber to your dog’s diet.


Choose veterinarian-recommended high-fiber dog foods. You might also want to check that it contains probiotics to support a healthy digestion.


4. Consider neutering your male dog.


Neutering your dog will protect him from prostate enlargement or benign prostatic hyperplasia. Consult with your veterinarian on the best age to neuter your pet.


When Should I Take My Dog To A Vet?

Constipation can be serious, especially if it involves an obstruction or a health issue you don’t know of.


Take Fido to the vet if:


  • You’re not sure why he is constipated
  • He shows signs of an illness
  • Bowel movement doesn’t resume in a day

Take Home Message

We would love it if our dogs could speak so they could tell us “what happened.”


But we can only learn how to pay more attention to their body language. As pet parents, the best we can do is to keep them healthy and seek prompt veterinary attention.


Did this article help you understand constipation in dogs better? We hope so! Please feel free to share your thoughts with us.


References:

  1. Defarges A. Constipation and Obstipation in Small Animals. – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-stomach-and-intestines-in-small-animals/constipation-and-obstipation-in-small-animals
  2. de Godoy MRC, Kerr KR, Fahey GC Jr. Alternative Dietary Fiber Sources in Companion Animal Nutrition. 2013 August 6 – < ahref="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775244/">https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775244/
  3. Gram WD, Milner RJ, Lobetti R. Chronic Disease Management for Small Animals. 2017 September 14 – https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=GEk3DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA208&lpg=PA208&dq=exercise+stimulates+peristalsis+dog&source=bl&ots=BBse5AzumU&sig=ACfU3U39wuBx0jNS_zC8jYZqXoz5POos5w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj3vp7jtL7kAhUbUN4KHcI1AQ4Q6AEwFnoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=exercise%20stimulates%20peristalsis%20dog&f=false
  4. WebMD. Water and Your Dog’s Health. – https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/water-dog-health#1
  5. Ward E. Constipation in Dogs. – https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/constipation-in-dogs
  6. Lévy X et al. Diagnosis of Common Prostatic Conditions in Dogs: an Update. 2014 June 20 – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/rda.12296
  7. Cimino Brown D. What can we learn from osteoarthritis pain in companion animals? 2017 September 29 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28967360
  8. FDA. Hypothyroidism in Dogs—There’s an FDA-Approved Drug to Treat It. – https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/hypothyroidism-dogs-theres-fda-approved-drug-treat-it
  9. Defarges A et al. Disorders of the Stomach and Intestines in Dogs. – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/digestive-disorders-of-dogs/disorders-of-the-stomach-and-intestines-in-dogs
  10. Levy J. Bone Broth for Dogs & Other Pets: Top 5 Benefits & How to Make Your Own. 2018 October 2 – https://draxe.com/health/pet-health/bone-broth-for-dogs/
  11. USDA. Pumpkin, raw. 2019 April 1 – https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168448/nutrients
  12. Kansas State University. Vet Says Owners Should Exercise With Their Dogs Based On Specific Needs To Prevent Obesity. 2009 September 10 – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090908125132.htm

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