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As pet parents, it’s our responsibility to take our dogs out on a regular schedule and monitor their bathroom habits. If you notice your dog isn’t pooping at least once a day, they may be constipated.
Constipation in dogs is a very common issue that looks different in every pet. Some pets produce rock-hard poop, while others strain to relieve themselves. Here’s everything you should know to identify and treat your dog’s constipation.
In general, constipation is caused when stool doesn’t pass through the large intestine as it should, resulting in irregular bowel movements.¹ Fecal matter passes through the colon through a combined force of water, electrolytes, and muscle contractions.
Most of the time, your dog may have trouble pooping based on their age, medications, lifestyle, and diet.¹ An imbalance of fiber in their diet combined with a lack of water are other major reasons for episodes of constipation.
No matter the reason, the signs of constipation typically look the same in any breed. The symptoms of constipation include:¹
Any sort of disruption in the gastrointestinal system can cause your dog to become constipated. There are serious diseases — like cancer or diabetes — that can cause chronic constipation.¹ Another cause can be a bowel obstruction caused by something your dog may have swallowed. A veterinarian may have to remove the obstruction surgically to correct this problem.
An uncommon but serious consequence of constipation is a megacolon, a situation where the colon’s muscles become weak and compromised.¹ You may notice their feces are oddly shaped or your pup suddenly seems to have diarrhea.
This false diarrhea is a major red flag. If your dog is straining to poop but only a small amount of liquid mixed with blood comes out, a call to the vet is advised. This is called tenesmus and it is an indicator that their digestive tract is blocked.¹
You should call your vet as soon as you notice your dog is constipated.¹ While mild cases of constipation can be treated at home, the problem may be more difficult to treat as time passes.
Some forms of constipation can’t be treated without surgery. Vets call constipation that resists treatment “obstipation.”² Cases of obstipation may be caused by issues inside or outside the intestines, like compacted fecal matter, tumors, or masses. Obstipation could be a result of:¹,²
Your vet will likely perform a physical exam and take X-rays to rule these causes out.² Then, they can decide whether surgery is necessary or if you can take care of your pup at home.
If you’re lucky, your dog may not need surgery and you can take care of them at home. Increasing your dog’s water intake can be a good way to stop constipation — the best way to do this is by mixing water into your dog’s kibble or feeding them soft foods. Here are some other home remedies for constipation to try with your vet’s guidance.
Dog-safe foods that are high in fiber are a low-cost solution for constipation. For example, pumpkin is a tasty, dog-safe food that’s high in fiber and moisture. Topping your dog’s dinner with plain, pure canned pumpkin could help with constipation.¹ Be sure to check the canned pumpkin’s label to ensure that there are no additives or seasonings that could harm your pup.
There are fiber supplements formulated for dogs that can be added to their food or treats. If your dog is prone to constipation, this may be a good regular addition to your dog’s diet.
Stool softeners and laxatives are an excellent option for pet parents wondering how to make a constipated dog poop quickly.¹,² Both of these products should be available at big pet stores. You can typically get these from your vet as well.
Similar to food, there are certain herbs that can help with constipation. For example, powdered psyllium seeds are a water soluble source of fiber that is safe for dogs.¹ Be sure to discuss these options with your vet during your visit before introducing a new herb to your dog.
Your vet may choose to prescribe medication to help.³ The most common stool softeners are dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS) and lactulose. Laxatives your vet may prescribe are cisapride and tegaserod. All these medications have different brand names but they are all approved for veterinary use. An enema may be offered in combination with these medications.³
In extreme cases, manual removal is required to remove the fecal matter.²,³ This usually happens if your dog swallowed garbage or some other foreign object. Sometimes these objects, like pieces of fabric, can pass on their own, but your dog’s X-rays will guide your vet’s decisions.
The best thing for your dog is to have a well-balanced diet with regular exercise. Make sure that your dog is getting enough play time based on their breed.
Try to encourage your pet to drink enough water. A doggy water fountain may help if they aren’t drinking enough. Another option is to give them treats with high water content, like watermelon.
Talk with your vet about specialty diets for your pup. There are dog foods formulated for dogs prone to constipation and other gastrointestinal issues.
Pet parents try their best to take care of their precious dogs, so it can be frustrating when your dog becomes constipated. Remember that you’re in control of their diet and exercise that can prevent episodes of constipation. If the issue persists, don’t hesitate to speak to your vet. This can prevent serious problems in the future.
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¹ “Dog Constipation: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment,” American Kennel Club
² “Disorders of the Stomach and Intestines in Dogs,” Merck Manual Veterinary Manual
³ “Constipation in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals
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