Dog Constipation: Everything You Need to Know

Pug laying on the floor

In many ways, dogs aren't much different from humans. They want love, basic needs and to live free of discomfort. Unfortunately, your canine's quality of life can be seriously hindered when he doesn't feel well. Dog constipation can cause pain and discomfort for your pup. Discover some of the most common signs and causes before learning how to help a constipated dog.

What Are the Top Signs of Constipation in Dogs?

Learn to recognize the signs of dog constipation so you can figure out the best way to help. The quicker you're able to make changes to your dog's diet or have him seen by a veterinarian, the faster he'll return to his old, lovable self.

Changes in Abdomen

Often accompanied by a change in energy level and mood, abdominal changes are one of the easiest signs to check for. Gently feel your dog's belly and note any areas that feel firmer than usual. Hardness in the abdomen combined with the discomfort of constipation may cause your pup to whimper or growl during the examination.

Posture & Straining

Your dog's posture can be a clue that he's experiencing constipation. If he seems to take longer to do his business than usual, has a hunched posture and appears uncomfortable, there is a good chance your dog is suffering from constipation.

Hard Stool

When your dog does have a bowel movement, is it smaller than usual, dry or hard? Unlike healthy poop, feces that are dry or hard may indicate a need for increased fluids or a change in diet. Fibre intake has a lot to do with bowel regulation. Discuss your dog's diet with your veterinarian for advice on dietary changes.

Appetite Changes

Naturally, a dog in pain and unable to evacuate his bowels may not want to eat anything. If you notice a sudden decrease in appetite combined with any of the other signs we've discussed, your dog may be constipated.

No Stool

If you notice your dog hasn't had a bowel movement in 24 hours or longer, consult your veterinarian right away. The underlying problem may be as simple as a change in diet, but constipation can also be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

What Are Common Causes of Dog Constipation?

Most of the time, dog constipation is a relatively simple fix. But sometimes, constipation is only a symptom of a much more severe underlying medical condition. There are a variety of reasons your dog could experience constipation, including:

  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Lack of proper water intake
  • Dietary fibre excess or deficiency
  • Consumption of grass, hair or other organic material
  • Hernia or pelvic tumours
  • Ingestion of a foreign object
  • Colorectal diseases

Constipation is also a side effect of some prescription medications. Check with your veterinarian about any medication your dog is taking and discuss any other signs you have noticed. If your dog is an older adult or senior, his bowel routines may change due to age. Talk to your vet about a good senior dog diet that meets his nutritional needs.

How to Help a Constipated Dog

Whether you're new to dog ownership or found your forever friend years ago, it hurts your heart when you don't know what's wrong or how to help. Make sure your dog has what he needs to regulate his digestion until you can consult your veterinarian. Here are three ways you can help:

  • Give him plenty of water. Of course you give your dog water, but is it enough? Some dogs need more water than others. If your dog has other medical conditions or is very active in a hot climate, you may want to adjust the amount of water you're providing.
  • Encourage him to exercise. An active lifestyle leads to active bowels. Combined with a nutritious diet, exercise is a good way to promote healthy, regular bowel movements. Consider your dog's unique characteristics when creating an exercise regimen.
  • Establish a feeding routine. Most dogs should eat 2-3 evenly spaced meals per day, just like humans. Create and maintain a feeding routine that will ultimately train your dog's body to evacuate on a schedule.

Top 3 Myths about Dog Constipation

You have to love the age of information for its convenience, but you don't have to believe everything you read. It's easy to get bad advice (there is plenty of it). Don't fall for these myths about dog constipation.

Milk Helps Soften Stool

No one is quite sure where this myth came from, but milk certainly does not help soften stool in a healthy way for dogs. What it may do instead is cause diarrhea, which can further aggravate any underlying medical issues your dog may have. In fact, a dog's digestive system is not designed to process milk or dairy products very well. Giving your dog milk while he is constipated will most likely lead to further discomfort.

Enemas Cure Constipation

When humans are constipated, enemas are a relatively quick fix that can alleviate a blockage and promote the return of normal bowel movements. However, dogs are much smaller than humans and not built the same way. A typical enema is composed of a saline solution that may or may not include an irritant to induce bowel evacuation. If not formulated correctly for a dog, an enema can be extremely aggravating to the anal area and intestines. Never give your dog an enema without first consulting your veterinarian.

Use Laxatives to Help Your Dog Go

Another popular constipation fix for humans is a laxative. Often made of glycerine and moisture-attracting ions, a laxative helps encourage bowel movement in humans. However, a human laxative is far too strong for dogs and may lead to complications. Always consult your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is constipated as there are solutions designed specifically for dogs.

Dog Constipation? Your Vet Knows Best

Don't try to treat dog constipation with home remedies or medicine made for humans. When you notice your dog is constipated, your first call should be to your veterinarian. They will know your dog's medical history best and will be able to guide you to treatment options tailored to your pup. If a change in diet or exercise level is recommended, remember to take it slow and introduce new foods or routines at a pace that won't upset your furry friend.

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