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December 10, 2020

Dog Constipation: Causes & Treatment

Dog Constipation: Causes & Treatment

Key Points

  • Dog constipation is a condition that occurs when your dog has hard dry stool, or they are not passing stool for 2 days or more.
  • It is important to differentiate constipated dogs from diarrhea in dogs as these two conditions are often confused.
  • If your dog is constipated, then you should visit a veterinarian so they can determine and treat the underlying cause for constipation.
  • Over the counter medications and at-home treatments described on the internet can be dangerous for your dog, and should not be done without first consulting with your veterinarian.

What is constipation in dogs?

Dog constipation occurs when your dog has a hard or firm stool that they are having difficulty passing. If your dog has not had a bowel movement for 2 or more days, this is a sign of constipation. It is important to differentiate this condition from straining to defecate from diarrhea. Often, as a veterinarian, owners bring their pet to me thinking they are constipated, but the majority of the time, their pet is having diarrhea and is straining to poop. If your dog is straining to defecate frequently and getting small amounts of liquid out, this means that your dog is probably having diarrhea, not constipation. True constipation occurs when your dog can’t pass any stool for a period of time, or the stool that they do pass is very hard and firm.

How do you know if your dog is constipated?

A constipated dog typically has a hard time going to the bathroom. They may strain to poop with just a few hard pieces of stool coming out, or they may strain to poop and get nothing out. Constipation can often be painful as the stool is impacted within the colon. According to the AKC, if your dog is constipated, they may exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • No stool being passed for several days
  • Hard or firm stool
  • Straining to poop
  • Painful or difficulty defecating

Which dogs are prone to constipation? 

Dogs that are older may be more prone to dog constipation. Also, dogs that have had surgery may get constipated. The anesthesia drugs given during surgery may lead to constipation. If your dog is very sedentary or lazy, this may also predispose them to constipation. Older dogs may benefit from a PawRamp which can help your dog more easily get on and off of the couch.

What causes a dog to be constipated?

Many times there is an underlying cause for the dog constipation that needs to be addressed. There are several conditions that may predispose a dog to constipation:

  • Ingestion of bones or other foreign material
  • Dehydration
  • Anal gland problems
  • Cancer
  • Opioid drugs
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Arthritis of the hips from hip dysplasia
  • Other painful orthopedic conditions

What To Do If Your Dog Is Constipated

If you suspect your dog is constipated, the first step is to take them to a veterinarian. Most cases of constipation have an underlying cause that needs to be addressed. A veterinarian will try to determine the underlying cause of constipation. They will treat the symptoms of your dog’s constipation as well as the underlying cause. 

What do you give a dog for constipation?

You may be curious, what can you give a dog for constipation? I do not recommend giving your pet anything without first consulting with your veterinarian. Many over the counter and at-home treatments described on the internet are not safe for pets.


Never use enemas at home on your dog. Human enemas can be very dangerous to pets and can potentially kill your pet. Do not give over the counter medications to your pet without consulting with your veterinarian as these can also be harmful to your pet. In addition, do not give your dog apple cider vinegar or milk for dog constipation as these are ineffective and may harm your pet. Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any over the counter medications or treatments. 

What home remedy can I give my dog for constipation?

There are not many safe and effective home remedies for dog constipation. I recommend speaking with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has constipation. Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water to drink as this will help with hydration. You could also try taking them for a little walk to see if this gets the stool moving. While you are waiting to get in to see the vet, you might ask your vet if you could try offering your dog a tablespoon of canned pumpkin.

What can happen if constipation goes untreated in dogs?

If you leave constipation untreated, it will typically get worse. Over time, the stool could build up and cause severe constipation which is also known as obstipation. VCA specialty hospital reports that if this build-up continues, the colon can enlarge and cause megacolon. If you delay getting your constipated dog treated, the condition usually only gets worse, and the treatment becomes much more expensive and may even require surgery.

When to Take Your Constipated Dog to the Vet

If you suspect your dog is constipated, I recommend taking them to the veterinarian right away. Problems like this are often more easily treated if you bring in your dog sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more expensive it may get to treat the condition. Your veterinarian may recommend running a few diagnostic tests including x-rays and bloodwork to look for any underlying diseases that may be causing the dog constipation. The veterinarian may need to manually remove the impacted stool and may prescribe medications to provide your dog relief from constipation.

Preventing Constipation in Dogs

To prevent constipation, your veterinarian may recommend a high-fiber diet. These diets may promote healthy digestion. Also, you should ensure that your dog always has access to fresh drinking water. Regular exercise may also promote intestinal health and mobility. You can also ask your veterinarian if there are any medications that your pet can take to reduce the risk of becoming constipated in the future.

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