As a pup parent, it’s important to always keep an eye open for signs that your pup doesn’t feel good.
Unfortunately, they aren’t able to just outright say “I don’t feel the best today,” meaning we have to play a bit of detective work if they aren’t acting like themselves.
One of the key signs that something could be wrong is your pup's inability to poo, also referred to as constipation. It’s important as a pup parent that you understand what constipation could look like, how you may be able to relieve some of the discomfort and help their system get back to normal, and when it’s time to take your pup to the vet.
Is My Dog Constipated?
To understand when your dog is constipated, you should have a good understanding of your dog's normal bowel movements. Some pups may only poop once or twice a day, while others may go three to four times a day.
Slight irregularities are generally nothing to be concerned about, especially when your daily activities and routine have recently changed. This could be times such as:
- During the holidays or family parties when a lot of people are around
- If you are traveling, both on short day trips or if you’re going out of town and spending the night in new areas
- If new people are around for longer periods of time
- Any other changes to your normal day to day routine
These changes can cause your pup to become uncomfortable or stressed, or the opposite end of the spectrum being super excited — both can lead to less of an appetite, which can lead to less food, which means less poo.
You should become concerned about constipation if your pup doesn’t have a bowel movement within a couple days.
Chronic constipation is a serious condition lasting weeks, where your pup may pass stool, but less than four times a week or only once every other day, with the shape and consistency of the poo being abnormal. If your pup is experiencing chronic constipation, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian, bringing all these issues into light along with a tracked record and description of each bowel movement.
What Are Common Causes of Constipation in Dogs?
There are a range of issues which could lead to constipation in your pup. In many cases, constipation is a symptom of other issues that should be addressed as soon as possible.
Ingesting non-food items such as toys or large pieces of treats which may not be easily digestible can create a blockage. This includes other things they shouldn’t have such as rocks, plant roots or sticks, or anything they pick up around the house or yard. You should especially keep a close eye on your pup when in public areas because of this risk, as you never know what’s on the ground.
Dehydration or lack of water can cause constipation or extremely dry, pebble-like poo. If your dogs are not taking in more water than they are using through exercise or getting rid of through urination, the body will start pulling moisture from wherever it can, including fecal matter. This causes the poo to be very dry, making it uncomfortable to go potty, and for some dogs, unable to go at all.
Fiber deficiency, or the lack of fiber, within your pup’s diet could cause feces to become more solid. Fibers can be found in a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. This is just one of the reasons we put so much focus on whole, balanced ingredients and high-fiber foods in our recipe here at Sundays For Dogs, to help keep your pup fiber-filled and regular!
Lack of regular exercise could lead to constipation, especially for normally very active dogs, as normal exercise relaxes the muscles near the groin and helps get things moving in the large intestine.
High levels of stress caused by a range of things could lead to loss of appetite or constipation. This could include medical procedures like surgeries, traveling, changes in normal daily activities, bringing new people around, or any other lifestyle changes (temporary or permanent). It’s important to track your pup’s activity during these times, taking note if they are avoiding food, which could indicate if they are actually constipated or if they are just not eating as much.
Illness or other diseases could present as symptoms like constipation. Dogs can have digestive tract issues just like we do, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastrointestinal inflammation, or there may be other medical conditions like arthritis that may make it physically uncomfortable to squat to poo.
Taking note of when symptoms of constipation begin and what changes have recently occurred in your pup’s life can help you decide next best steps.
My Dog Is Constipated, What Should I Do?
If you noticed your pup hasn’t used the bathroom yet and it’s nearing a day or so since they’ve last gone, i’s time to do a little thinking back to the last 24 hours to try and figure out if anything changed in your normal routine that could contribute to constipation.
When did they last eat and drink? A bowel movement should follow within just a few hours after a meal for most pups.
Is there something new to their routine that could be stressing them out? New people, new scenarios, or even just some loud construction out on the street?
Most sources recommend monitoring your dog for 24-48 hours for a bowel movement before taking your pup in for medical advice, but you can always call a veterinary healthcare provider for guidance right after that first day without a normal poo.
They may recommend giving your pup foods with laxative effects as a start if it’s only been about a day since their last poo, and there are no other symptoms that may indicate something is wrong (such as lethargy, refusal to eat or drink, bloating, or vomiting).
What Foods Will Help My Dog Poop?
If you’ve noticed your pup is having a hard time going number two, you may consider adding or changing up their diet to include some potty-promoting foods.
Wet or canned foods help by adding extra moisture to your pup's normal intake. This could help loosen things up, especially in a dog that may be experiencing dehydration. Make sure your pup also has access to plenty of fluids throughout the day — if you’re not refilling their water bowl frequently enough, this can contribute to constipation, and it may be time to invest in a gravity waterer.
Exercise such as a walk or a gentle run can also help stimulate the GI muscles as well as cause a need to drink water. This is also a great time to observe your pup for irregular behavior. If your dog normally loves walks or runs, and today they are sluggish or refusing to exercise altogether, this could be an indicator that they really don’t feel good, and may have abdominal pain or cramping, which is a sign you should go to your veterinarian or an emergency clinic.
Pumpkins, both canned and fresh, are an excellent source of fiber and serve as a great food to help support your pup's digestive system. This tasty vegetable can be used as a food topper, given as a treat by itself, or cooked into a wide range of homemade treats. Here at Sundays For Dogs, we add pumpkin into our food because of its superpowers in gut health. Whole grains like quinoa are another ingredient we include for its ability to help support normal bowel habits and health as a whole!
Fiber supplements or stimulant laxatives could also help clear your pup's digestive system and help pass any form of blockage. However, these should be prescribed or recommended by a veterinarian first, especially since the formulas for dogs are different than the ones you might take for yourself once in a while. While some medications such as stool softeners or other over-the-counter options may be safe to give to your pup, you should consult your veterinarian first for specific guidance. These treatments will differ depending on the pup’s weight or activity level, and may not be recommended depending on their age or past medical history.
Should I Call the Vet?
Yes. Absolutely call your vet.
Even if you’re only noticing the initial signs of constipation, you benefit from giving your vet a call. They consistently see your pup specifically, and can give guidance specific to your fur baby.
If the issue lasts more than a day, you need to make an appointment to have your pup checked out. This may include procedures like X-rays or other medical testing to ensure there are no life threatening blockages, and that their immune system isn’t fighting some form of disease that has constipation as a side effect.
What If My Dog Swallowed Something?
If you know your dog swallowed something they shouldn’t have and now they’re constipated, this could be a life-threatening situation if there is a blockage present.
First and foremost, anytime you feel uncomfortable or uncertain with the situation, reach out to your vet. The earlier the better. If your regular vet isn’t available, give your local emergency clinic a call for guidance.
The below are some things that can help, but you should always consult a vet first for guidance.
If what your pup has eaten is fairly digestible, like a piece of a chewy treat, they just may be having a hard time passing it. This is where a little pumpkin sauteed in coconut oil or olive oil and help move things along.
If a large piece of toy is eaten, since toys are non-digestible, you need to contact your vet immediately. If the toy is too large to pass, the vet may inform you to bring your puppy in immediately to induce vomiting, or have you induce vomiting at home.
The most common method for home-induced vomiting is with the use of 3% hydrogen peroxide, with specified amounts for your dog's weight. This will include feeding them a small amount of food, giving them the hydrogen peroxide into their mouth (usually through a syringe since they won’t willingly lap it up), followed by a walk to get everything mixed together. It’s encouraged to avoid water and food afterwards for at least a few hours since their stomach will be upset.
Being a puppo parent, you should keep a bottle of hydrogen peroxide on-hand for emergencies such as this, always following the recommended doses from your vet.
You don’t want to do this too often, as your pup accidentally inhaling the vomit could lead to aspiration pneumonia and further breathing issues.
The bottom line: contact your vet as soon as you witness or realize your dog swallowing something they’re not supposed to — if your dog is already constipated because of this, you should take them to be seen by a veterinary professional ASAP.
What Is the Strange Slime in My Dog's Poop?
If your dog ever has difficulty passing an object, or eats something that could upset their stomach, you may notice a strange mucus-like substance in their poo.
This mucus forms to help things slip and slide through the intestines, and is common if they’ve eaten something too large to easily digest, like the end of a bully stick.
This mucus is also seen when they eat something less than ideal, such as droppings from a wild rabbit or deer during their trail walk (which is more common than you may think).
When it makes their stomach upset, the mucus helps slide everything out a bit quicker.
If this mucus continues for an extended period of time, this could be symptoms of a medical issue that needs to be addressed. You should contact your vet for more information.
Can My Dog's Constipation Become Fatal?
None of us want to think about it, but we need to talk about it.
Over a couple of days, constipation could lead to very serious, life-threatening issues.
A blockage in the intestines will ultimately begin to dry out and clump together, making the fecal matter impassable. This condition is known as obstruction and can be very dangerous.
This can also happen if a piece of a toy makes its way into the intestines, where it is unable to be removed through induced vomiting.
This can lead to the need for life-saving surgery, which will ultimately require your time and efforts as your pup recovers, as physical activity will need to be minimized post-operation.
What Can I Do To Be Proactive?
The main key to avoiding your pup becoming constipated is to maintain a clean, safe environment while focusing on your dog's health through proper exercise and a nutritious diet.
Keeping a clean indoor and outdoor area, and watching your pup closely when playing with new toys will reduce the risk of them eating non-consumable and hard-to-digest items. This is especially important when going to public areas where trash and other contaminants can pose a risk.
The most essential defense against digestive and intestinal issues is a well-balanced diet. Your pup needs a proper mix of meats, veggies, fruits, and the right grains, just like you do. This balanced diet can be found with Sundays For Dogs, as we focus on what your best bud needs the most. From USDA grade beef and fish oils, to the pumpkin needed for a good potty break, a well-balanced diet can make all the difference.
So why keep using a cheap food that just isn’t making the cut?
Switch to the food all the pups are talking about.