Constipation is uncomfortable regardless of your species, but it can be especially frightening for your dog. This condition, wherein your dog is unable to pass regular stool, is painful and confusing for him. If a dog becomes constipated, the feeling can cause him to become sick with anxiety, so it is wise to take preventative measures to avoid the onset of constipation. Giving your pup a daily dog digestive supplement can help tremendously in keeping him regular and healthy. If you are wondering, “What can I give my dog for constipation?” this article is for you.
Here are five dog constipation remedies that could help to get him back into a regular cycle.
What is constipation?
Medically speaking, constipation is described as the insufficient passage of stool. Constipation does not always mean there is a build-up of stool. PetMD says the sensation is characterized by an inability to go despite the feeling or need. As an owner, sometimes it is hard to identify any dog constipation symptoms, however, you will notice that your canine is uncomfortable while trying to go to the bathroom. There are three distinct types of canine constipation:
- Intrinsic Constipation - characterized by neurological disorders or hormone imbalances in the body leading to constipation
- Intraluminal Constipation - occurs as the result of a blockage in the colon that prevents the passage of stool
- Extraluminal Constipation - refers to the blockage of the colon due to an exterior source
How did my dog become constipated?
There are several potential causes of constipation that all fall into one of the medical types of constipation listed above. The most common is intraluminal constipation wherein a foreign object like a tumor or swallowed object is blocking the colon from the inside. The majority of canines who experience constipation experience intraluminal constipation whereby something he ate becomes lodge in the colon until it can be passed. More often than not, the blockage in your dog’s digestive system is something like grass, string, or hair and can eventually be passed. In rare circumstances, the obstruction must be removed through surgery or broken up with an enema.
The exterior blockage alluded to in the description of extra-luminal constipation is not always visible. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a matted clump of hair that is blocking the anus, but in other situations, there is something within the body, like a broken bone or arthritis, that is affecting regularity outside the colon itself.
Intrinsic constipation is rare and is usually found as a side effect of medication being taken by your dog. While neurological disorders have the rare ability to manifest as constipation, more than likely intrinsic constipation will be an anticipated result of a medical procedure or something similar.
According to AvoDerm, some of the most common causes of constipation are as follows:
- Neurological disease
- Lack of exercise
- Intestinal obstructions
- Colon related disease
- Anxiety and stress
- Arthritis and other physical ailments
- Change in diet
- Side effects of medicine and supplements
- Matted fur
- Damage to the exterior of the anus or anal cavity
How do I know if my dog is constipated?
Before constipation can be treated, it must be appropriately identified. Keep an eye out for any dog constipation symptoms if you suspect your furry friend is suffering from a canine digestive issue. If your dog is regular, and frequently passes stool that is similar in size and consistency, it will be easy to tell if he is constipated. VCA Hospitals lists warning signs of constipation as:
- Small, hard, and dry stools
- Foreign objects in the stool like hair, or grass
- Unwillingness to eat
- Gnawing or biting at the tail
- Licking the anus
- Difficulty urinating
Additionally, your dog may show signs of constipation by dragging his hindquarters along the floor. This motion, colloquially known as "scooting," is your dog's attempt to alleviate the pressure he feels in his anus. You can help alleviate pressure by gently rubbing his intestines in the area where his hip joints meet his lower abdomen. If your dog growls, snarls, winces or whines while you are touching his lower abdomen, stop what you are doing immediately and call your veterinarian for an appointment.
A sensitive abdomen could mean a potential blockage or other serious medical problem that requires immediate veterinary care. The most important thing when dealing with constipation is to keep your dog calm, as the last thing you want to do is cause your dog any more pain than he is already experiencing.
Sometimes a gentle abdomen massage is enough to loosen stool, but if your dog is showing signs of pain during your attempt, or if no result takes place, then these five remedies will help get the job done.
Remedy one: Take a look!
It may sound unpleasant, but WebMd for pets says one of the first remedies that can help alleviate constipation is checking to see what the problem is. In the case of a long-haired dog, or any dog who sheds a lot, there may be an impacted mass of hair that needs to be removed. Should this be the case, it is your duty as his owner to carefully assist in removing the hair so that the anus is exposed and able to perform its proper functions.
Pro tip: When removing hair in this area always use clippers and never use scissors. You would hate to have to go into the emergency room and explain that you cut or stabbed your dog's anus because you were using scissors, and he moved suddenly.
Even if there is no exterior blockage, observation may give you better insight into other reasons why your dog may be constipated. It is not uncommon that whatever is preventing your dog from pooping is visible. A piece of hair, a string, or a wrapper of some kind, are all everyday objects that dogs swallow and then have trouble passing.
Sometimes these objects can be slightly exposed due to your dog attempting to pass them. If you do see something do not attempt to pull it out yourself. If your dog passes the object naturally on a second attempt, then all is well, but if not, you need to take him to the vet to have it professionally removed.
Remedy two: Get him moving
One of the biggest contributing factors for constipation is lack of exercise. If your dog is not using his body, then his digestive system will not be functioning adequately. For your dog's bowels to work, he needs to exercise to process and digest food. The less exercise your dog gets, the more his body goes into survival mode, wherein food is stored in the stomach and intestines. This creates impacted fecal matter, which is much harder for your dog to pass than the standard fecal matter you see in his regular bowel movements.
Even if the fecal matter has become impacted, it can be broken up and passed with vigorous exercise. Sometimes it will take your dog multiple attempts to pass impacted fecal matter, but eventually, it will work itself out. Additionally, the smell of the outdoors encourages your dog to use the bathroom. His natural instincts tell him to mark his territory with his bodily functions, and his nose will tell his bowels that it's time to let loose.
If exercise doesn't do the trick, it may be a sign that the impacted fecal matter may be too large for your dog to pass. In this circumstance, your veterinarian would need to administer an enema to break up and remove the collected waste.
Remedy three: Dog Specific Stool Softeners
Sometimes your dog just needs a little extra push, and stool softeners are the perfect way to give your pup a helping hand. The American Kennel Club claims that because your dog's digestive system is delicate and much different than your own, you may want to get him a dog-specific stool softener. These laxative-based stool assistants are typically fast-acting, within 24 hours, and yield positive results for most dogs.
Stool softeners rely on a high amount of fiber to help your dog during his difficult time, but there are other more natural substances you can give your dog. Canned pumpkin is one such example that is touted for its ability to alleviate constipation in dogs. The high fiber content of pumpkin, and the hydrating qualities it possesses help to push the fecal matter through your dog's digestive tract and out the other side.
Both canned pumpkin and stool softeners should be given in small quantities. Both are excellent resources for getting your dog's internal systems moving from the inside, but you want to be careful not to overdo it. After administering a supplemental dietary aid like pumpkin or stool softeners, take your dog out to use the facilities as often as possible until he can complete his business. Especially if your dog has been constipated for a longer period, you could be dealing with an accident if you don't take care to administer slowly and then take him out accordingly.
Remedy four: Hydrate
As previously stated, one of the most significant contributing factors for constipation in dogs is dehydration. Your dog could very well be experiencing signs of dehydration without you even knowing. Here are some signs he may be dehydrated:
- Dry nose
- Thick foamy drool
- Glazed over eyes
- Stumbling and lack of balance
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
The American Kennel Club advises that the best technique to check your dog for dehydration, is to gently pull on the excess skin behind his neck. If the skin is quick to snap back, then he is hydrated, but if not, your dog is suffering from dehydration.
If you have established dehydration as the potential cause for your dog's constipation, unfortunately, water alone won't be sufficient. Pedialyte and bone broth are both excellent solutions for dehydration in dogs. When your dog becomes dehydrated, he needs salts and electrolytes to restore a correct pH balance.
Whether you use Pedialyte or water mixed with bone broth, offer in small increments to avoid any additional stomach issues. Your dog may be too lethargic and dehydrated to drink on his own, so you may need to administer the beverage via a syringe into the corners of his mouth.
Once hydrated your dog's bowel movements should return to normal over a 24 hour period. As his body can absorb the electrolytes, you can begin to mix in regular water. If constipation due to dehydration becomes a frequent issue for your dog, you may want to look into dog-specific hydration supplements that you can add to his water daily.
Remedy five: Find better food
If your dog recently switched his food and is now suffering from constipation, then the change in diet could be the cause. While slight stomach abnormality is normal for dogs when changing food, things like constipation can be a warning sign that your dog's food is not the correct formula for his dietary needs.
Diet is a crucial part of your dog's long-term health, and if regular constipation is an issue, you may want to consider switching to a vet-approved food source. Each vet will have their preference for dog food, but most dietary experts will tell you that lower processed foods are much better for your dog.
On a short-term basis, and especially when dealing with a bout of constipation, petMD advises a temporary switch to wet food as a helpful way to get your dog back to normal. Wet food is easier to digest and is more effective at keeping your dog hydrated, which will help to push things along inside his digestive tract. Whether your dog has an upset stomach or is suffering from constipation, making a change in his diet is always recommended to help with his digestion.
You may want to consider making homemade dog food from scratch. Although this process can be time-consuming and slightly more expensive, homemade dog food is a great way to ensure that your dog is getting food of the highest possible caliber. If you decide to undergo this task, you will want to make sure you are adding vitamins, supplements, and probiotics to the food you make, which would otherwise be present in store-bought food.
If your dog does not produce a bowel movement between 48 and 72 hours of his last bowel movement, it may be time to go to the veterinarian. Home remedies like the ones listed above are a great first step in caring for your dog, but there is a point where professional medical help becomes a necessity. Constipation is a real problem, but with these helpful tips and a better understanding of why it happens, your dog should be cleared for smooth sailing. For more tips on dog constipation relief, visit our website or call your local veterinarian today.
Camille is a co-founder of Pet Honesty and VP of Pup Parent Education. After watching her own family dog suffer from joint issues for years she became passionate about improving dogs' quality of life. With the help of a team of veterinarians and dog nutritionists she now helps educate other dog owners about the small but powerful things they can do to positively impact their dogs' health and wellness! She lives in Austin, TX and loves cuddling puppies, being outside and reading.