How to Help a Constipated Dog

Picture of collie outside

Dealing with dog poop problem is no fun. Whether it’s chronic diarrhea or constipation, it’s unpleasant for you and your dog. While the occasional bout of constipation is not necessarily a cause for concern, it is something owners most definitely need to keep an eye on as constipation can be indicative of more serious problems.

What is Constipation?

Constipation is typically defined as difficulty or straining to pass fecal matter.  In some dogs, the impaction is so intense that dogs can go several days without having a regular bowel movement. Left untreated, constipation is not only painful, but it can also lead to digestive and gastrointestinal issues.

Dogs suffering from constipation may exhibit the problem one of two ways. Some dogs will pass stool that lacks any moisture and is dense and hard. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a dog may only be able to release a mucus-like substance after a great deal of straining. It may or may not contain blood.

Why do Dogs Become Constipated?

There are several reasons why a dog may suffer from constipation. Among the leading causes dogs encounter this problem are:

  • Insufficient fiber
  • Excess fiber
  • Anal gland issues
  • Reduced exercise
  • Intense grooming habits
  • Prostate gland problems
  • Hair matting
  • Gastrointestinal issues from ingesting items not meant to be eaten
  • Cancer
  • Medication side effects
  • Trauma
  • Orthopedic or neurological issues
  • Dehydration

What are the Signs of Constipation?

Since constipation may affect your dog at some point in his life, it is important for you to be able to recognize the signs a problem might be brewing. Most dog owners keep a fairly accurate mental record of their dog’s poop habits. If you have noticed that your dog has not had a bowel movement in 48 hours, this is a strong indication that something is not right. Other signs of constipation include physical straining, crying, and abdominal discomfort.

It is important to note that as dogs age their digestive system does not function as efficiently as it once did. Many elderly dogs must be on medications to assist with conditions which occur during old age such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease. These medications often come with side effects, one of the most common being difficulty passing feces. Care must be taken to ensure that all senior dogs eat a diet that is appropriate for their systems. They must also drink plenty of fluids. These two items will help greatly in keeping your beloved elderly dog from suffering the effects of constipation.

How do I Treat Constipation in Dogs

In order to effectively treat constipation, it is important to get to the root of the problem. Armed with a thorough understanding of what is causing the issue, you will be far better prepared to alleviate the symptoms and help your dog’s digestive system to return to normal.

Here are some things your veterinarian may suggest to relieve your dog’s challenges with constipation:


Sometimes fecal matter can become stagnant in the intestines, and as such, it is unaffected by your dog’s efforts to push it out. In cases such as this, administering a medication which causes the intestine to contract can assist in moving things along.

A high fiber veterinary kibble diet

Some dogs are more prone to digestive issues than others. If your dog struggles to release his anal glands and this results in constipation, a change in diet may be just what the doctor ordered. A high fiber veterinary kibble diet is an easy way for owners to ensure that their dogs are receiving all of the daily fiber they need to have regularly occurring bowel movements. This simple change may remedy the problem entirely.

Adding pumpkin, bran, or other high fiber items into your dog’s regular food

Since all dogs are unique individuals, what works for one many not work for another. Many commercially prepared dog foods provide excellent nutrition but could benefit from a little added assistance for certain dogs. Pumpkin, wheat bran, or an item like Metamucil adds no caloric value to the food, but it does increase the amount of soluble fiber. This in turn helps your dog to effectively process and eliminate his food.

A laxative or stool softener

Unfortunately, when all natural solutions have been attempted without remedy, it may be necessary to use a laxative such as Laxatone. Laxatives work in two different ways depending on which type of laxative your vet chooses to administer to your dog. Osmotic laxatives, more commonly known as stool softener, work by flushing additional water into the bowels thus making it a better lubricated area for the stool to pass through.

Stimulant laxatives work by increasing the activity level of the bowels themselves which encourages more frequent elimination. Both are effective treatments for constipation.

More frequent and vigorous exercise

For some dogs, the act of moving around more is all it takes to get the digestive juices flowing. Taking the time to take your dog for a short walk before each bowel movement will assist in getting things moving in the correct direction.

An enema

As a last resort, an enema may be necessary. An enema should be performed by a veterinary professional only as the lining of the rectum is extremely delicate and prone to tearing which is painful for your dog and difficult to repair.

Constipation is typically a simple problem to treat; however, it is important to note that if it is not addressed in its early stages, it can lead to more serious and chronic problems.

Fido got the bowel blues? Follow some of the simple remedies in this article to help get his digestive system back on track again. Your favorite canine pal will thank you for your efforts.



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