Treating Dog Constipation at Home: Can You Help Your Constipated Dog?

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
  • vomits
  • 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.

Treating Dog Constipation at Home: Can You Help Your Constipated Dog?

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
  • cancer

Further information: Dog Constipation: Why It’s a Medical Emergency

Obstipation

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

Megacolon

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:

  • vomiting
  • resulting dehydration
  • bowel ischemia
  • diarrhea
  • 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

Hydration

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.

Exercise

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.

Improved schedule

The longer your dog has to go without an opportunity to defecate, the harder their poop gets. Increase the number of opportunities to poop.

Fiber

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.

Related articles:
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?

Further reading:
How to Treat Dog Constipation
Remedies to Relieve Dog Constipation
Dog Constipation: Why It’s a Medical Emergency

Categories: ConditionsConstipationDog health advocacy

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

7 Comments
  1. Such a common issue but can be caused by so many things! Thanks for pointing out that home treatment and/or waiting too long for vet care may cause more harm than good. We keep a close eye on bathroom breaks in our house so we can keep on top of any problems 🙂

  2. This is great information. My girl suffers from constipation after she gets her allergy shot each spring for a short time. The first time it happened, we wound up on the phone with the veterinarian concerned. Since that time, we learned to recognize that this was her new normal and we expect it each year. One thing that I found helped to shorten the time that she was constipated was to put a bit of pure pumpkin on her food. It includes significant moisture levels and also contains a lot of fibre, helping to move the process along in a few ways.

  3. What you think is something minor can be a real and serious issue. Than you for this, it has opened by eyes to the potential dangers of constipation. This is a must read post for dog owners.

  4. When Layla was constipated from medications last year the vet told me to put psyllium in her food which helped immensely and since then she gets a little in her food on a daily basis, TG her poops are great and like clockwork

  5. I feel like it’s best practice to always consult with my vet when my pets have anything other than very minor ‘bathroom’ issues. I’m very lucky to have a good relationship with our vet. She’s very honest about when/what remedies I can try at home and when it’s best to just take them in. Thankfully, in all my years of keeping dogs I’ve never had to deal with constipation.

  6. This was very informative. I honestly didn’t realize there were so many potential causes for constipation in dogs. This is a helpful guide for pet parents to assist in being informed. It also reiterates the importance of being aware of your pets normal behaviors and recognizing when something is “off” in order to address the problem promptly. Thanks for sharing these tips!

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