While these topics may not be our favorite to think about, they are crucial in being a responsible pet owner and helping your dog live a happy, healthy life. Today, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about constipation from the causes, steps to take when your dog is constipated, and home remedy options for a constipated dog.
What Causes Constipation in Dogs?
Let’s start by defining constipation. According to the Veterinary Centers of America, constipation is when a dog has a difficult time passing stool or has infrequent stool. Constipation is usually a temporary issue and may cause your dog significant discomfort while it occurs.
There are many causes of constipation in dogs. Some of the most common causes of constipation include:
- Eating too much fiber: This can happen when your dog eats low-quality dog food or is being fed table scraps, which is why here at Pet Plate, we take every measure to balance our pet meals properly.
- Eating too little fiber: Fiber helps prevent dry and hard stool, which is why your dog must get enough fiber daily to prevent constipation.
- Not enough exercise: It’s unknown exactly why, but being sedentary can slow down the transit of stool.
- Matted hair around the anus: A dog with matted fur around the anus may become constipated and need a professional groomer or veterinarian to get their fur back under control. A dog may experience the same symptoms if they are continuously overgrooming themselves as well.
- Ate something strange: Per the Veterinary Centers of America, this is the most likely cause of dog constipation. Often, a dog may eat something indigestible or irritating, which causes them to have constipation.
- Hormonal diseases: Hormonal diseases, like hyperparathyroidism or hypothyroidism, can disrupt the system and cause constipation.
- Medication side effects: Certain medications, such as diuretics, narcotic pain relievers, antihistamines, and sucralfate, are known to cause constipation in dogs as a side effect.
- Dehydration: When a dog is dehydrated, their GI tract can become dehydrated, resulting in hard and dry stools.
- Stress: Stress can cause a dog to “hold it.” Ongoing fear and anxiety are also known to prevent regular bowel movements.
- Colon diseases: The colon is crucial for water absorption in the body. If a dog’s colon is compromised in any way, they may experience hard, dry stool.
- Digestive Tract Tumors: Tumors can upset the body’s ability to pass stool easily.
- Osteoarthritis: A dog with osteoarthritis may struggle to properly squat to defecate, which can cause further strain on their bodies.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the reasons a dog may have constipation, let’s look at signs that your dog is experiencing constipation.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Constipated
Think your dog may be constipated? Here are a few signs to watch out for:
- No bowel movements in more than two days
- Straining or crying while trying to poop
- Small amounts of watery feces (while this may seem like diarrhea, this is often from a dog straining to defecate)
- Dry and hard stools
- Multiple, unsuccessful attempts to defecate
- Pain or tension when you touch their abdomen
- Changes in appetite
- Frequent circling or scooting (dragging their bottom on the ground)
- Weight loss
4 Steps to Take When Your Dog is Constipated
Let’s take a look at the four steps you should take when your dog is constipated.
1. Examine Their Diet
Balance is critical when examining your dog’s diet. Take a look at what you’ve been feeding your dog and study anywhere their diet could be lacking, such as too little or too much fiber.
As previously mentioned, overfeeding your dog table scraps can provide them with too much fiber. See our piece on dog food vs. human food here for an in-depth breakdown of what’s in your dog’s food and what human foods are bad for dogs.
If your dog is constipated, try feeding them easy-to-digest foods, like pumpkin and oat bran. Foods that are good for sensitive stomachs are good go-to’s when your dog is experiencing constipation. If your pet has an especially sensitive stomach, we recommend our Chompin’ Chicken meal.
2. Keep Them Hydrated
Hydration is key in preventing your dog from having a dry GI tract and providing the colon with enough moisture to keep everything moving. A dehydrated dog may suffer from hard, “pebble-like” stools that are painful to pass and, in severe cases, need to be removed by a veterinarian.
Provide your dog with plenty of water and encourage them to rehydrate. Try feeding your dog canned dog food instead of their normal, dry kibble to supply them with even more moisture.
3. Increase Exercise
Increasing your dog’s exercise, even for a few days, may be enough to relieve constipation and help your dog improve their popping habits, according to the Veterinary Emergency Group.
Extra movement is excellent for your dog’s health and overall mood, which can help ease constipation if their constipation is due to stress or being too sedentary. Try taking your dog for a longer than typical walk to see if this will help take their mind off their discomfort and get things moving again!
4. Check in With Their Vet
The Veterinary Centers of America recommend calling your vet if your dog has not had a bowel movement for 48 to 72 hours. If your dog is constipated, call your vet for future steps. Take note of their last bowel movement, any signs of constipation, lifestyle changes, and the look and consistency of their stool to report to your vet. Frequently, constipation can be treated at home, and your vet may provide you with some food swaps or tips to help your dog out.
If your dog has recurring, frequent constipation, it’s important that you bring this up with your vet as well. Even if your dog responds well to home remedies, regular constipation can be a sign of a much larger issue, like digestive tract and colon issues or a tumor.
Don’t hesitate! Give your vet a call to get your dog back on the road to recovery.
What to Know About Home Remedies and Laxatives
Mild constipation can be treated at home often, and there are several popular options for easing a dog’s constipation.
Pumpkin is a popular, high-fiber home remedy for constipation in dogs. If you try this with your vet’s permission, make sure you feed your dog plain, canned pumpkin versus canned pumpkin pie, which may contain xylitol, a highly toxic substance to dogs. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends adding one to four tablespoons of pumpkin to each meal to help with mild constipation.
Dog Stool Softeners are another frequently used option. Stool softeners work by increasing the intestine’s ability to absorb water, which softens the stool making it easier to pass. Laxatives will also help your dog to empty their bowels.
Fiber supplements, like Metamucil, can quickly give your dog a boost of fiber to help them defecate.
According to the American Kennel Club, other herbs and food products, like olive oil, wheat bran, fig paste, and ginger, may help with constipation.
As always, it’s wise to check with your veterinarian before providing your dog with any remedy. Even though these foods and products can be bought over the counter, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for your dog to have regularly. Give your vet a call for recommendations on safe, home remedies for your dog’s constipation.
Healthy Digestion and Your Dog
When constipation is ongoing and untreated, it can lead to hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse, which is when part of the intestines come out through the anus due to overstraining.
Constipation is not usually serious but should be treated to avoid long term health problems and to ease your dog’s current discomfort.
After constipation is treated, it’s prudent that you keep your dog on a well-balanced diet with plenty of water and exercise to keep them in tip-top shape! A nutritious diet made with human-grade ingredients can help with this. Here at Pet Plate, every one of our meals meets the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages. Our veterinary nutritionist balances every one of our meals to ensure your pup is getting an appropriate amount of key nutrients. Our meals include many delicious and nutritious ingredients like sweet potatoes, broccoli, pumpkin, and apples. Switching to a healthier, balanced diet is a frequent recommendation from veterinarians to prevent your dog from having constipation in the future. Our high-quality meals are sure to please your pet’s palate and aid in producing better poops.
Create a custom meal plan to meet your dog’s particular needs, including their weight goals, by taking our short quiz here!