Why is My Dog Constipated & What to Do About Constipation

Just like people, dogs' bowels can become 'backed up'. If you are unable to get them moving again this can quickly become a veterinary emergency. Our Rochester vets talk about constipation in dogs, the signs to watch for and when you should bring them to the nearest emergency vet for treatment.

Why is my dog constipated?

If you find that your dog seems to be having issues going to the bathroom there is a chance that they may be constipated.

Inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.

Along with straining, you may notice that your dog's stools (if he passes any) are hard and dry.

Some dogs may also pass mucus when trying to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to growl or cry.

Dog Constipation Symptoms

Here are some of the common signs of constipation in dogs to watch for:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
  • Other illnesses leading to dehydration
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Excessive self-grooming (may cause a large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Side effects of medication
  • An orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions himself to defecate
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
  • Matted hair surrounding the anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Trauma to pelvis

Constipation may be more common in older dogs but that doesn't mean that dogs of all ages, as well as breeds and sizes, can't experience it. No matter how old your dog is, you should watch for these symptoms.

Other Signs of Constipation in Dogs

Dog constipation symptoms include straining, crying or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, if it’s been more than two days since he has had a bowel movement, you should see your vet immediately.

Keep in mind that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, so it’s important that your vet perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.

How You Can Help a Constipated Dog

Google “How to help a constipated dog” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.

The best thing to do is check in with your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. Blood tests may help reveal infection or dehydration. The vet will likely take a medical history, conduct a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:

  • A prescription diet high in fiber
  • A stool softener or other laxatives
  • More exercise
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be a risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)
  • Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin or products such as Metamucil)
  • Small bowl of goat or cow milk
  • Medication to increase the large intestine’s contractile strength

Follow your vet’s instructions closely, as trying too many of these or the wrong combination may bring on the opposite problem - diarrhea. You don’t want to trade one digestive problem for another.

Fortunately, we have an in-house lab where diagnostic tests are performed and an in-house lab and pharmacy that’s stocked with a range of medications and prescription diets, providing us quick access to any medications your pet may need while in our care.

What can you do if your dog is constipated?

There are a number of steps you can take if you think that your dog may be constipated. Some are better than others. Home remedies can be helpful but you should always be sure to speak with your vet first to ensure there are no other concerns as constipation can be a symptom of a more serious underlying cause.

Here are some of the options for those moments you ask 'What can I give my dog for constipation?':

  • Pureed Pumpkin: Pumpkin puree contains both fiber and moisture which can help get things moving along again. Just be sure to find 100% pure pumpkin puree.
  • Wet Dog Food: Canned dog food is high in moisture which can help to soften their stool. Be sure to mix it with their regular food to avoid any other issues.
  • Fiber Supplements: A simple way of jumpstarting the digestive tract is with the introduction of more fiber. This can be done using supplements. You will need to speak with your vet before giving your dog any supplements.
  • Offer Fresh Water: Drinking lots of water can help soften your dog's stools but if they won't drink at all then you should bring them to a vet right away.
  • Consistent Exercise: Taking your dog out for a long walk or run or even playing a game can help get everything moving again.

The Dangers of Untreated Constipation in Dogs

If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, he may eventually be unable to empty his colon on his own (a condition called obstipation). The colon then becomes packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite and potentially vomiting.

When is constipation in dogs an emergency?

You should try to keep an eye on your dog's poops to ensure that they remain consistent and that there are no strange colors or consistencies. If your dog shows signs of constipation then you should increase their water and fiber intake right away or try one of the other remedies listed above. If the constipation is still apparent after two days or if they are showing signs of serious pain or other concerning symptoms then you should bring them for a veterinary exam as soon as possible.

In order to help your vet accurately diagnose your pet's condition you will want to offer them some key information such as:

  • The frequency that your dog has been having bowel movements
  • The appearance of the stools
  • Any changes in your dog's life or diet
  • Anything that your dog may have eaten (including non-edible objects)
  • Medications that your dog is taking
  • Any injuries that your dog has sustained
  • symptoms they are experiencing such as pain and straining
  • Signs of distress or discomfort, especially vomiting, lethargy, or bloating

Your vet may perform both a physical exam and diagnostic tests to help diagnose the cause of your dog's constipation and to create a plan to properly treat their condition.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your dog is unable to have a bowel movement? Bring them to vets in Rochester to be examined as soon as possible.