A constipated dog is no fun for anyone. When your dog has trouble going number two, it can cause stress for you—and constipation can be uncomfortable, painful, and even dangerous for your pup. If you are concerned that your dog might be constipated, here’s exactly what to do.
Is My Dog Constipated?
Much like in humans, constipation is not a difficult condition to diagnose in dogs. There are four central symptoms of constipation in pups:
- It’s been two days or longer and your dog hasn’t had a bowel movement.
- Your dog seems to have trouble going number two or yelps and cries when defecating (also known as Dyschezia).
- Your dog’s poop is very hard, dry, and crumbly.
- Your dog is only able to pass small amounts of liquid or bloody stool.
What Causes Dog Constipation?
There are many reasons that your dog might be straining to defecate. However, the most common reasons are linked to diet, hydration, and activity level.
- Diet: Too little or too much fiber in your dog’s diet.
- Dehydration: Your dog isn’t drinking enough water.
- Lack of exercise: Your dog is too sedentary.
If it’s only been a few days and your pet doesn’t appear to be in pain, it’s likely due to one of those three reasons, which means it can easily be both treated and prevented. However, constipation can also signal a more serious condition. Less common reasons for dog constipation include…
- Blockages caused by your dog eating indigestible items like corn cobs, kitty litter, gravel, and dirt.
- Self-grooming to the extent that too much fur is digested, causing a blockage.
- Stress created by dramatic changes or negative issues in your dog’s environment.
- Tumors in our around the digestive tract, rectum, or anus that physically prevent stool from passing.
- Enlarged prostate, which pushes on the rectum, caused by Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, cysts, infection, or, in rare cases, cancer.
- Medications, which list constipation as a potential side effect.
- Anal sac disorders.
- Hypothyroidism (aka low thyroid hormone production).
- Orthopedic issues, especially around the pelvis, which can make it painful or impossible for your dog to squat.
Can Dog Constipation Be Dangerous?
No matter what caused your dog’s constipation, if left untreated, it can create larger issues. If your dog isn’t able to poop regularly, severe constipation, known as obstipation, can occur. A large build up of fecal matter can enlarge the colon, making it even tougher to for your dog to pass feces on his own. This condition is called megacolon and in some cases, it requires surgery.
What Should I Do If My Dog is Constipated?
The best thing to do when your dog can’t go to the bathroom is to try to treat the most common causes first. If it’s been less than three days and your dog doesn’t seem to be in serious pain, try these solutions:
- Snack on pumpkin or fig. Most dogs enjoy the taste of the superfood pumpkin and it’s a great source of dietary fiber, which has shown to alleviate both constipation and diarrhea. Try feeding your dog pureed pumpkin or making one of these healthy pumpkin treats. One study, published in 2011, found that naturally high-fiber fig paste was also able to alleviate constipation in Beagles.
- Fill up the water bowl. Make sure your dog is properly hydrated by giving him plenty of water to get the bowels going.
- Get active. Physical movement can help lead to bowel movement, so take your dog for a little jog, head to the dog park, go for a brisk walk, or try a dog-friendly workouts.
If those treatments don’t work, or if your dog hasn’t pooped in more than two or three days, it’s time to go to take your pup to the vet. The vet will check to ensure there isn’t a more serious underlying issue at play. She will also be able to assess whether a stool softener, laxative, or enema is appropriate.
The Best Way to Prevent Dog Constipation
A healthy dog is a regular dog! A balanced, nutritious diet, based on whole foods is the number-one way to make sure your dog maintains a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Couple a balanced diet with plenty of water and exercise, and uncomfortable bouts of constipation should be a thing of the past.