Dog constipation can begin randomly, and it can end as suddenly as it appears. Constipation occurs in dogs when they cannot produce normal stool during their daily routine. If your dog has constipation, they will either strain to defecate or not attempt to “go.” They may have rock-hard stool if they can go, which is very painful for them.
Other signs to watch for in your dog include decreased appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and depression. These can signal that your dog is not feeling well and might have constipation.
Dog constipation can happen when they don’t get enough fiber in their diet or when they eat something non-digestible that causes blockage. It can also happen if your dog is not getting enough exercise or is getting older. Other, more serious causes could be digestive tract tumors, tumors in the pelvic region, prostate enlargement, or other spinal or metabolic injuries.
Remedies and Treatments for Dog Constipation
Dog constipation can happen infrequently in a dog’s life. There are multiple causes, and often the dog is able to begin passing normal stool again within a few days. However, it is important to keep an eye on your dog’s fecal matter to determine if it is healthy or a cause for concern.
If your dog is experiencing constipation, you can try these methods to relieve their pain. Here are a few home remedies:
- Pumpkin puree. This puree is high in fiber and moisture, and helps regulate the digestive tract. 100% pumpkin puree is best. Do not give your dog pumpkin pie filling. You can feed your dog the puree straight from the can, and they will consider it a nice treat.
- Canned dog food. The softer food and higher moisture content will help regulate their digestive system and create softer stool. You should mix canned food in with their normal food to avoid an upset stomach.
- Dietary fiber supplements will increase fiber in their bodies, which will help soften their stool and regulate their bowel movements. Ask your veterinarian to recommend specific types and dosages of supplements for your dog.
- Access to fresh water makes sure they are well hydrated. It is best to encourage your dog to drink plenty of water. If they are not drinking anything at all, you should seek veterinary care.
- Exercise. Take your dog for long walks to get their bowels moving and stimulate a healthy movement. Exercises like running, fetch, and chase are great ways to promote a healthy digestive tract.
- Stool softener or laxative. A veterinarian may recommend giving a laxative or stool softener to your dog to help them have a bowel movement. A stool softener is a type of laxative called an emollient laxative.
- Enema. A veterinarian may administer an enema to relieve your dog’s constipation. An enema is an injection of fluid into the lower bowel via the rectum. Do not perform an enema by yourself, as you risk toxicity or injury to your dog.
When to See a Veterinarian
If you see your dog circling a lot, dragging their bottom across the ground, squatting frequently, or even crying out in pain, they could be constipated. If you see your dog struggling to produce fecal matter, check on what they are able to produce.
Your dog’s feces may be very small and contain water or mucus. This may look like diarrhea, but it could be a sign of constipation. You can lightly press your dog's abdomen to feel if it’s tense or painful for your dog.
It is important to pay attention to your dog’s daily bowel movements. Dog constipation should resolve within 48 hours with adequate water consumption, daily exercise, and a well-balanced diet. If it does not—or if your dog shows signs of discomfort or vomiting—you should schedule a veterinary appointment immediately to determine the cause.
Your veterinarian will do a physical exam to identify any abnormalities like tumors, foreign objects, or a distended colon. Sometimes blood tests, X-rays, or ultrasounds will be necessary to identify the cause of the constipation. Your vet will determine the proper treatment for your dog’s constipation.