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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 freshwater 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.
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.
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.
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.
The medical, nutritional, or behavioral advice we provide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Our editorial content is not a substitute for formal or personalized medical advice from a veterinary professional. Only board-certified veterinary specialists who have examined your pet should diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment, or prescribe appropriate medication. For questions regarding your pet’s health, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, injury, or distress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.