What is Dog Constipation?

Dog constipation

Dog constipation is the irregular movement of bowels, or straining to poop. What to give a constipated dog depends on whether the condition is caused by diet, a neuromuscular or metabolic disorder. In most cases, dog constipation is temporary, but it can be symptom of a more serious health issue.

How dogs get constipated: Causes

Often, when a dog is constipated, the cause is attributed to something the pup has ingested.  The most common cause of dog constipation is nutrition, particularly if a dog food is low in fiber, but there can be many possible reasons for the condition. Below are 14 possible causes of dog constipation:

  1. Hair ingested from self-grooming or licking the floors, or bones.
  2. Pieces of toys, as well as any objects that can be difficult to eliminate.
  3. Dirt or gravel
  4. Medication side effects
  5. Lack of exercise
  6. Dehydration
  7. An obstruction in or outside the colon wall.
  8. An obstruction at the anus.
  9. Neurologic, metabolic or endocrine disorders.
  10. Enlarged prostate gland (in male dogs)
  11. Hernia
  12. Orthopedic disorders that cause pain when crouching.
  13. Old age
  14. Missed meals

What to do for a constipated dog depends on the cause of the condition, and the best place to start is to recognize dog constipation symptoms. If you are concerned that your dog is showing signs of distress at potty-time, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

How to know a dog is constipated: Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of dog constipation is no bowel movement in a 24 hour period. Dogs generally poop at least once a day, and may go more often depending on the diet being fed.

Signs of constipation in dogs usually begin with a dog in a position to poop but unable to produce anything. If the following two or more potty trips only result in the dog straining and nothing more – it’s very likely he is in the initial stages of constipation.

Dog constipation symptoms

  • Circling, frequent squatting without results, scooting (dragging bottom along floor)
  • Going two days or longer without a bowel movement
  • Crying out or showing signs of discomfort during elimination
  • Stools that are hard and dry
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sporadic vomiting
  • Passing mucus or abbreviated liquid stool after straining
  • Lack of energy

Check your dog’s poop consistency on this fecal scoring chart. Healthy digestive systems generally produce a 2 or 3 specimen. A dog producing a 1 specimen could be a sign of constipation and should be diagnosed by a veterinarian.

Which remedy is best for constipated dogs: Treatment

Remedies for dog constipation and what to give a constipated dog should only be advised by a trained veterinarian. Under no circumstances should a pup be given human or home remedies for dog constipation without prior consultation with a veterinarian.

Under a veterinarian’s care, a dog’s eating habits and medical history are analyzed, tests may be run to determine the cause of constipation, and treatments prescribed to address any underlying medical conditions, as well as the constipation itself.

Veterinarian Treatment Pet Parent Treatment Treatment with Veterinarian approval
Physical exam, abdominal and/or rectal Daily exercise Add canned or puréed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) to meals from time-to-time
X-rays or ultrasounds to assess severity of condition Maintain a consistent feeding schedule Include a some wheat bran
Blood tests to evaluate dehydration Provide access to fresh water Combine recommended amounts of Metamucil
Provide fluids Provide access to fresh water  
Administer pet enemas or laxatives Feed a fiber-rich diet (with veterinarian approval)  
Manually remove feces Add high-fiber supplements to meals (with veterinarian approval)  
Prescribe stool softeners    
Recommend supplements and probiotics    
Propose fiber additives    
Advise prescription, digestive-formula dog food    

*Treatment outlined in the table above is not conclusive and only a veterinarian should provide an individual treatment plan for your dog based on professional diagnoses and tests. Always consult a veterinarian before treating a dog for constipation or any condition.