Before looking for remedies to help your dog’s constipation, make sure you don’t do more harm than good.
Constipation can be chronic or acute, and it describes the incomplete or infrequent passing of hardened stools. That is the key—if you don’t observe your dog pooping hard—usually small—poops, constipation might not be it.
Pooping such hard material is painful. Your dog will strain to get the poop out, might even cry. With severe or chronic constipation, your dog might no longer even try and show signs of nausea and pain. If that happens, you’re far past trying to treat your dog’s constipation at home.
See a veterinarian when your dog:
- strains to defecate and produces no stools
- bleeds from their anus
- lost appetite
- becomes lethargic
If you do not see your dog passing any stool, constipation might not be the problem, or you’re looking at a medical emergency.
What causes constipation?
Common causes of constipation
- poor hydration
- dietary changes
- fear or anxiety
- consumption of indigestible material such as bone or hair
- certain medications such as antihistamines, narcotics, etc.
- inadequate activity
Serious conditions that can lead to constipation
- diseases of the colon
- prostate disease or cancer
- perineal hernia
- enlarged local lymph nodes
- endocrine issues such as hypothyroidism
- pain such as from arthritis or IVDD
- neurological diseases
- pelvic injuries
Further information: Dog Constipation: Why It’s a Medical Emergency
A dog who hasn’t pooped for a couple of days is at risk of developing obstipation. This is a condition in which a constipated dog becomes unable to pass any stool at all.
As the hardened feces accumulates, it can cause impaction of the entire length of the colon. Untreated, this can lead to permanent damage. Your dog will be very ill and will stop eating. Obstipation might require surgery to evacuate the colon.
Further, the situation can get complicated when bacteria and waste products make their way into the bloodstream resulting in sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition.
Further information: Constipation and Obstipation
Another complication a severely constipated dog can develop is megacolon. All the backed-up feces can stretch and widen the colon to the point that it becomes unable to perform its function of moving stool out of the body. This problem can become irreversible and require surgery to repair the colon.
Further information: Constipation (Severe) in Dogs
Foreign bodies and obstruction
GI obstruction is quite a common problem in dogs because they’ll eat or swallow just about anything at least once. Intestinal obstructions can be complete or partial. Either way, it can, impact your dog’s ability to pass stool depending on the location.
An object stuck in the stomach leads to vomiting, dehydration, lethargy, and other complications. And object obstructing the small intestine can lead to:
- resulting dehydration
- bowel ischemia
- inability to pass stool
The odds of being able to treat the above problems at home are nil. This is one of the reasons why considering the big picture and the presence of other symptoms is essential to making the right decisions for your dog. The last thing you want to do is to cause harm to your dog by losing valuable time trying at-home remedies.
Swallowed objects are not the only possibility for obstructed intestine. Hernias or cancers can also obstruct the movement of the stool.
Any of these things require attention of your veterinarian.
Further information: Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs
Large intestinal diarrhea
What does large intestinal diarrhea and constipation have in common? Straining to defecate. Such diarrhea can often be mistaken for constipation because your dog will strain and produce no stool.
If your dog seems to be constipated right after he just had diarrhea, it is because:
- their intestines are still irritated and they feel the urge to go
- there is nothing left to poop out
When is it an emergency?
Short-term, moderate constipation is not a critical emergency. However, you still do need to ask yourself what might be causing it. If your dog didn’t pass any stool for a couple of days, they are at risk of developing the complications I listed above.
However, there are times when simple constipation can be an emergency such as in dogs with heart failure.
So can you ever treat your dog’s constipation at home?
You can try and help your dog if they’re suffering short-term, moderate constipation due to something they ate or reduced activity. For example, all my dogs always end up constipated after any surgery or restricted activity due to injury.
All my dogs are likely delay pooping after they got over diarrhea. But in that case I assume it’s because there is nothing there to poop out.
My Rottweiler, Cookie, will get hard stools when she eats too many bones. I will stress here again that I only consider it to be constipation when I observe hard, compact poops.
Remedies for moderate dog constipation
Fecal matter hardens when it contains too little water. Whether it is because it’s moving through the system too slow or because your dog is dehydrated, fluids help and are necessary.
Measures can include switching to food with higher water content.
If your dog is willing and able, increase the amount of walking or exercise. If your dog gets moving, it will help the intestinal content to get moving too.
The longer your dog has to go without an opportunity to defecate, the harder their poop gets. Increase the number of opportunities to poop.
Dietary fiber is a magic substance that regulates the amount of water in the intestines in both directions—increase or decrease it. That is why it works for both diarrhea and constipation.
For a dog that is already constipated, I’d reach for something that already brings water with it, such as pure pumpkin pure. If you pick something dry, such as psyllium fiber, send down enough liquids with it.
You might find articles recommending enemas or laxatives. I do not recommend trying these things without veterinary evaluation and guidance.
My Dog’s Poop: What Can You Learn from Your Dog’s Stool
Difficulty Defecating in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Straining to Poop?
Treating Dog Diarrhea at Home: How Can You Fix Your Dog’s Runny Poop?