Dog Constipation | How To Help Your Pet & When To Take Them to a Vet
It’s no secret that dogs poop a lot. Adult dogs can be as regular as three times a day, while puppies may poop as often as five times a day.
Each dog is different, so don’t panic if your pup passes feces less or more often.
It’s infrequent bowel movements that may be cause for concern. Constipation is characterized by infrequency or difficulty in passing stool. If your dog has a sudden difficulty pooping or skips a day, they may be constipated.
There are many ways to help relieve dog constipation, so how can you help your pup, and when should you take them to a veterinarian?
Let’s take a closer look at what you should know.
Dog Constipation 101
Dog constipation is no different from human constipation. If your dog is constipated, you’ll notice a few changes in their poop schedule and behavior.
If you’re a dog parent, you’ll probably run into dog constipation at one point or another. Preparation is key, so here’s what you need to know.
How To Know if Your Dog is Constipated
The first and most obvious sign of constipation is the inability to pass stool.
If your dog doesn’t have to poop on their morning or evening walk when they usually do, this could be an indicator of constipation.
It’s normal for your pup to skip a day here and there. But, if your dog is still unable to produce stool after two or three days, it’s time to take measures to help loosen stool and get them back on the right track.
A few other signs of constipation to look out for are intense straining with little to no result. If your dog squats and seems to strain but can’t produce a solid poop, it means they have to go but can’t. This is another way you can tell if your pup is backed up.
If your dog is producing little pebbles when they poop instead of their regular movements, this may be another sign of canine constipation.
If you notice this, keep an eye on their next few movements. If they continue producing little pebbles or straining with no result, they’re constipated.
A Look Inside Your Pup’s Digestion
Like constipation in humans, many factors can cause your pup to get backed up.
First, let’s take a look at how your dog’s digestive tract works so we can understand what happens during regular bowel movements and constipation.
When your dog eats food, it travels through the digestive tract. Once nutrients are absorbed and broken down, this food reaches the colon. This is where waste is prepared to exit your pup’s body.
Fecal matter goes slowly through in the colon so the body can absorb any extra electrolytes and water. Once the waste is ready to move, a process known as peristalsis uses waves to push waste through the colon to exit your dog’s body. When your pup’s digestion is regular, this will occur a few hours after your dog has eaten.
However, if peristalsis slows down, the mass can lose too much water and harden. When there isn’t enough water in the poop, that poop becomes difficult to pass.
What Causes Constipation?
There are many reasons why waste movement can slow down and lead to constipation.
Let’s look at a few of the most common causes of constipation below:
Diet: What your dog eats is a large determining factor for their overall health and wellness, and this includes bowel movements. A diet rich in fiber can help support regular movements, but if their diet has too little fiber, this can back your pup up. A diet full of too much calcium can also lead to constipation, as can new foods. It’s hard to give your pup too much fiber, but if you do, it’s easy to simply cut back.
Age: Younger dogs tend to poop more regularly than older dogs. If you have an elderly dog, they may be more susceptible to constipation since their GI tract moves slower.
Exercise: If your dog doesn’t get the exercise or activity they need, their bowel movements can also slow down.
Anal gland issues: Your dog’s anal glands may need to be expressed by a vet due to stress or injury. This issue in your dog’s anus can influence constipation.
Dehydration: If there isn’t enough water in the body to loosen fecal material, poop can become hard and difficult to pass.
Medications: Some medications may list constipation as a side effect, such as diuretics, antacids, or antihistamines.
Stress: Sometimes, stress or other psychological issues can lead to constipation since the gut and brain influence one another.
Surgery or Procedures: If your dog has a medical procedure, they may have constipation as a result, especially if an anesthetic was involved. Be sure to keep your veterinarian in the loop with how your pup is doing after surgery and monitor all bowel movements. Sometimes anesthesia can prevent a movement for as many as four to five days.
- Orthopedic Disorders: Dogs can experience orthopedic disorders due to old age or injury where they cannot squat. This can keep your dog from passing stool like they need to and can ultimately lead to constipation.
When in Doubt, Ask for Help
In most cases, constipation isn’t serious. Your dog may not be drinking enough water throughout the day. They may also be eating a poor diet. Ultimately, it’s rarely a sign of a serious health concern.
If you are concerned about your pup, you can take them to a trusted veterinarian. Lethargy, loss of appetite, and excessive self-grooming are signs that you should get medical advice from your vet. They’ll be able to perform a physical exam to analyze and diagnose the problem and make sure your furry BFF is healthy.
How To Help Your Backed Up Pup From Home
It’s normal for your pup to experience constipation at one point or another. So, if you notice they’re a little backed up, stay calm.
As long as you don’t notice any bloody stool and it’s only been a day, here are some at-home remedies for constipation you can try.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
First, make sure your pup is hydrated. Try to encourage them to drink more water throughout the day. You can also add a bit of water to their kibble to increase water content during mealtimes, and don’t forget that wet food is always an option.
That said, a lot of wet dog foods are also low-quality dog foods often full of synthetic preservatives, sugar, sodium, and artificial ingredients, and they often have insufficient fiber. These can be harmful to your pup in large quantities and may lead to a nutritional imbalance.
It’s also important to note that manufacturers may heavily process wet dog food in order to kill bacteria and extend shelf life. However, these processes also kill nutrients. Your dog likely won’t get as much nutritional value in each bite.
So, use wet food as needed to help with constipation, but definitely keep it off the regular menu. You may be better off giving your pup a homemade meal of white rice, scrambled egg, and boiled chicken breasts to up the moisture content of their meal.
Another popular home remedy to soothe constipation in dogs is pumpkin.
Pumpkin is not only packed with fiber to help support your dog’s digestion and regularity, but it’s also a dog superfood. Pumpkin is a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, and much more.
If you’re considering giving your dog a bit of pumpkin to help encourage a bowel movement and soothe constipation, stick to portions of one teaspoon for every 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight. You can even start smaller than this to monitor your pup and ensure it doesn’t cause irritation.
You can mix the teaspoons of pumpkin into your dog’s food or give it to them a la carte, or you can try making a pumpkin puree to open the possibility for homemade pumpkin treats.
We also include pumpkin in our air-dried dog food right here at Sundays, so your pup can reap the benefits of pumpkin every single day.
All this said, it’s important to avoid canned pumpkin as it can contain excess sodium, sugar, and preservatives.
Add Fiber to Your Dog’s Diet
If you’ve ever had constipation, the doctor probably told you to eat more fiber or to drop by the drugstore for a fiber supplement. Fiber is an excellent way to get things moving and keep things moving in the digestive tract.
The same goes for dogs. Adding enough fiber to your dog’s diet can help move things along through the large intestine and keep them regular. Plus, fiber also helps regulate blood sugar, supports weight management, and promotes overall health.
Ingredients like green beans, beets, pumpkin, flaxseed, kelp, leafy greens, apples, carrots, and whole fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber to include in your dog’s diet.
When preparing these foods individually, avoid adding spices like garlic or onion, butter, salt, or pepper. Garlic and onion can be toxic for dogs, and excess sodium and sugar can be harmful to their health. Your dog will happily enjoy these foods without the added seasoning humans prefer.
Some dog food brands may advertise that feeding your dog corn, soy, or wheat can supply them with fiber. However, these fillers can do more harm than good. It’s best to avoid these foods because they are difficult for your dog to digest, lack nutrients, and lack the fiber content to get your dog going.
Learn more about how to give your dog a fiber-rich diet with this helpful resource on fiber.
Coconut Oil and Olive Oil
Coconut oil and olive oil are not only rich in nutrients and benefits for your pup’s health, but they can also act as a natural stool softener that may ease mild constipation.
They naturally lubricate hard stool that’s difficult for your pup to pass, which helps move stool along and relieve constipation.
Only give your dog one teaspoon of olive oil or coconut oil for every 20 pounds of body weight. For instance, if your dog weighs 40 pounds, they can have up to two teaspoons of olive per day. If they weigh ten pounds, they can have half of a teaspoon of olive oil each day.
Psyllium seeds are a rich source of fiber derived from Plantago ovata seeds. It’s a natural laxative and stool softener which can help relieve constipation.
It also contains benefits for the cardiovascular system and pancreas. If you’re considering giving your dog psyllium seeds, you can use seeds, tablets, or powders. You may also want to consult your vet to confirm how much you should be giving.
Be sure to give your dog lots of water to help their bodies digest and process the ingredients. It’s also important to keep your dog hydrated as they begin passing stool.
Ginger is another nutritional ingredient to give your dog to help relieve constipation. Ginger is packed with nutrients and benefits for the body. Giving your dog a teaspoon of ginger can help soothe constipation and keep them regular.
Exercise and bowel movements are connected, so getting your dog moving can help get their bowels moving, too.
Consider taking your dog on an extra-long walk to help relieve constipation, or take them to the dog park and let them run around.
Even small increases in activity level and movement can work wonders when it comes to relieving constipation and keeping your dog regular.
When To See a Vet
There are many ways to support your pup’s regularity and bowel movements from home. From making sure they’re drinking enough water, to getting a diet rich in fiber, and getting the exercise they need, you can help support their regularity and relieve constipation at home.
On the other hand, there are some instances where you may need to see a veterinarian. Constipation is normal for many dogs, but if your pup hasn’t pooped by the end of day two, it’s a good idea to call a trusted veterinarian.
Constipation can sometimes indicate a deeper health condition or issue, like an enlarged prostate gland, swollen anal sacks, or even pieces of toys stuck in their digestive systems.
If your dog is vomiting, panting, producing bloody stool, or if their stomach is swollen, take them to an emergency vet.
If your dog eats an object that isn’t food, it’s also important to see a vet if they don’t pass it. This can obstruct the digestive tract and even rip through it if it’s sharp.
Tips for Preventing Constipation
Constipation is bound to occur at one point or another. So, if your dog becomes a little backed up, don’t panic. Monitor their symptoms closely, and be sure to try a few home remedies to get your dog’s system moving again.
However, you can try a few tips to help prevent constipation from occurring altogether. Your dog’s diet is the key to their digestive health. What you feed them matters. Here at Sundays, we use minimally processed, all-natural ingredients with no fillers.
We believe every bite counts! Support your dog’s digestive health and regularity with their very own customized dog food plan here.