How can you tell if your dog is suffering from constipation, and what can you do to help them out?
While it’s not our favorite thing to think about, poop, or a lack of it, is an important indicator of your dog's overall health.
Constipation is just one way a dog’s poop can tell us something about their body and how they are feeling. Almost everyone, human and dog, will experience constipation at some point in their lives, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling.
So, how can you tell if your dog is suffering from constipation, and what can you do to help them out?
What is Dog Constipation?
According to the Veterinary Centers of America, constipation occurs when a dog has a tough time or is entirely unable to produce normal stools regularly.
For most dogs, a regular schedule is “going” once or twice a day.
Constipated dogs may not “go” at all, produce rock-hard stools, or have a painful time passing stool. When constipation is chronic, the dog will retain dry, hard fecal matter in their digestive tract, which can lead to an inability to defecate completely.
Signs of Dog Constipation
So, how can you tell if your dog is constipated?
Here are some of the most common signs of dog constipation:
- Hard, dry, “pebble-like” stools
- Your dog hasn’t passed a stool in more than a day
- Discomfort when “going” (this can look like straining to defecate with little result or liquid fecal matter mixed with blood)
- Circling excessively
- “Scooting” (dragging their bottom on the ground)
- Frequent squatting
- Changes in appetite
- Crying out (in severe or chronic cases)
If you suspect your dog is constipated, contact your veterinarian for personalized recommendations for your pup.
As a rule of thumb, The Veterinary Centers of America recommends reaching out after it’s been 48 to 72 hours since they’ve had a bowel movement or if they show more severe symptoms like pain if you press gently on their lower back or stomach.
Causes of Dog Constipation
Constipation can be caused by just about anything, making it challenging to identify the root problem.
In most cases, constipation happens after your dog eats an irritating or indigestible substance. If your dog has long hair, grooming or licking themselves excessively can also increase their risk of constipation.
- Common causes of constipation in dogs include:
- Unbalanced diet: Many dogs don’t eat enough fiber, which can lead to constipation.
- Dehydration or electrolyte imbalances
- Activity level: A sedentary lifestyle may slow down the passing of stool through the body.
- Age: Older dogs can be more susceptible to constipation
- Anal gland issues
- Anxiety or stress: A stressed-out dog may “hold it.”
All of these causes can lead to chronic constipation. Additionaly, dog constipation can be a side effect of certain drugs, such as antihistamines, diuretics, opiates, some antacids, and certain drugs for cancer treatment. However, it’s possible that your dog could also have an ongoing health problem causing them to experience constipation.
A few medical issues that can cause chronic constipation include:
- Spinal diseases and injuries
- Digestive tract tumors
- Tumors that force the pelvic region to narrow, making it more difficult to “go.”
- Chronic stress or psychological problems
- Orthopedic disorders: Conditions like osteoarthritis may make it difficult for your dog to squat for a bowel movement.
- Prostrate enlargement
- Metabolic diseases
If your dog struggles with chronic constipation, consult their veterinarian to see if the root issues can be found and addressed.
How to Help a Constipated Dog
So what can you do to help your dog when they are experiencing constipation?
If your dog has only started to experience constipation, a home remedy may help them get things moving again. However, it’s always best to call your veterinarian before adding new supplements or making massive dietary changes, as one approach may work for one dog but be less than ideal for another.
Consider these at-home remedies to help your dog get relief from constipation:
- Help your dog stay hydrated. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Without enough water in the system, your dog won’t be able to move waste through their body efficiently, so encourage your dog to drink more water by providing them with plenty of clean water that is easily accessible.
- Keep them moving. Exercise may help stimulate bowel movements in dogs, so keep your dog up and moving by taking them on a walk around the block or playing fetch with them in the backyard.
- Increase their fiber intake. Fiber helps bulk up stool in the body, softening it and making it easier to pass through the colon. If your dog isn’t eating enough fiber, they may benefit from adding more fiber to their diet. One of the easiest ways to add fiber to your dog’s diet is by increasing the number of nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables, in their diet. Sundays all-natural food is a fantastic choice for this because it’s packed with pre-biotics, high fiber, and digestive aids like pumpkin and ginger.
- Give them stool softeners. Dog stool softeners can provide quick relief for constipated dogs by increasing the intestine’s ability to absorb and retain water, softening the stool and making it easier to pass. You can find these in pet stores or talk to your veterinarian for a specific recommendation or prescription-strength stool softener.
- Add pumpkin to your dog’s food. Pumpkin is rich in fiber and easy on the stomach, making it a great addition for many dogs struggling with constipation. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends adding one to four tablespoons of canned pumpkin per meal temporarily to help with constipation. As always, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian first to ensure this will support your dog’s specific needs.