Dog Constipation: Signs and Treatment Tips

dog constipation

Dog constipation. That’s right; it happens to the best of us, even our furry friends.

However, it is often swept under the rug and avoided in polite society. This can make it difficult to talk about and even harder to find correct information.

Still, constipation in dogs is common. And it is important to learn about this condition in order to both prevent it and treat it if it strikes your pup.

This condition can become serious, and it is important to learn and spread correct information in order to provide our canines with the very best care.

We’ll discuss what constipation is, exactly, the symptoms of constipation, treatments for constipation in dogs and much more.

Puppy Constipation

Constipation in dogs is very similar to constipation in humans.

It is characterized by not being able to produce normal stools on a regular timetable. For a dog, this is generally once or twice a day.

Dogs suffering from constipation can produce rock-hard, “goat-like” stools, strain immensely to defecate, or in the most extreme cases, not go at all. It really just depends on the particulars and severity of the condition.

In extreme cases, dogs may stop expelling fecal matter altogether. This can lead to a condition known as obstipation. Basically, this means that the dog has become compacted and cannot defecate on its own.

Of course, constipation is oftentimes a symptom of an underlying disease and not necessarily the disease itself. In fact, constipation nearly always occurs as a result of an underlying disorder. In other words, there is almost always a cause.

Once this cause is found out and corrected, the constipation itself normally diminishes.

Because the cause can be so vital to treating the condition, let’s take an in-depth look at the possible causes.

Causes of Dog Constipation

There is a huge list of possible causes of constipation. They can be as simple as an improper diet or as complex as anal gland problems.

Basically, the causes of constipation can be grouped into three areas: blockages inside the colon, blockages outside the colon (such as a fracture), or an underlying disease/nerve injury.

Some of the most common reasons for constipation include factors such as diet, age and activity level. Of course, factors such as diet and activity level can be easily fixed. Age, on the other hand, might require preventative measures and/or medication.

Some more serious causes include tumors, anal gland problems, prostate enlargement, metabolic diseases, spinal injury and central nervous system disorders. Constipation, however, is rarely the singular symptom of these disorders.

Almost always, other symptoms are present before constipation becomes serious. However, this does not mean chronic constipation should be ignored. Because constipation can signal these diseases, it is extremely important to check in with your vet should your pooch be constipated for more than a week.

Constipation can also be a result of drugs and surgeries. Of course, the likelihood of constipation occurring depends on the particular medication and surgery. Your vet can inform you of your pet’s specific risk.

Dog Constipation Symptoms

The symptoms of constipation are pretty straightforward.

These include factors such as lack of defecation and hard, “goat-like” stools. If your pooch hasn’t been able to “go” in a couple days, or has pebble-like stools, they are probably experiencing constipation.

There are a couple other signs of constipation that are lesser known. This includes factors such as straining with little or no result, or producing liquid mixed with blood instead of fecal matter.

Dogs who are constipated might also have painful defecation.

However, these last two symptoms are very hard to notice without careful observation. Because of this, if you think your pooch might be constipated, it could be useful to watch it closely to see if the dog is experiencing any of these other symptoms.

Dog Constipation Treatment

How do you treat constipation in dogs?

The specific course of long-term treatment depends a lot on what, particularly, is causing the constipation.

Some veterinarians might recommend a long-term preventative medication, while others might focus on treating the underlying issue.

The approach really depends on the particular situation and underlying issue.

One of the most common treatments, however, is a laxative.

dog constipation

Dog Laxative

There are many laxatives and stool softeners available for dog use.

However, these should only be used under veterinarian guidance.

Most mild cases of constipation normally do not need such medication. Almost always, dietary changes and exercise improve the dog’s condition substantially.

Because of this, do not be surprised if your vet provides you with a list of dietary changes and an exercise regimen instead of a laxative prescription.

So what are some of these alternative treatments?

Dog Constipation Remedy

So what can you give a dog for constipation?

There are actually many home remedies for constipation in dogs.

The most common of these, as previously discussed, is dietary change and exercise. These two things, especially combined, are particularly effective.

Plus, these two treatments have a very low chance of producing negative side effects in your furry friend. They are both safe and effective.

Still, there are lots of other effective, home treatments as well as for minor constipation. Actually, one study found that fig paste is very effective for treating constipation in beagles.

Products such as olive oil, pumpkin and other specific food items are claimed to treat constipation. However, there is no evidence behind any of these claims.

Furthermore, there are also a number of possible medicinal plants that can treat constipation. However, remember that though these plants are natural, they can still produce dangerous side effects. Because of this, you should never use them without vet supervision.

Other Dog Constipation Treatments

In extremely serious cases, dogs might require surgery to treat their constipation.

However, this is usually only necessary in cases caused by megacolon. This is, simply put, the extreme abnormal dilation of the colon, which is also called the large intestine.

This dilation cases the paralysis of the bowel, which of course makes it impossible for a dog to defecate.

Dog Not Pooping

So, what if your dog isn’t defecating at all?

Because defecation is required for your dog to function normally, long-term issues can occur if constipation becomes chronic.

Therefore, if your pet hasn’t defecated in over a week, it is time to contact your vet.

You should, of course, have some basic information ready to give to your vet before calling. Some important pieces of information to be ready to provide are: the last time your dog defecated, stool color and consistency, non-edible items your dog has eaten, straining or pain while defecating, medications your pet is on, injuries or possible injuries, and any other strange behaviors.

Having this information will help your vet figure out exactly what is wrong with your pup.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

References and Further Reading:

Bahmani, M., 2013, “An Ethnoveterinary Study of Medicinal Plants in Treatment of Diseases and Syndromes of Herd Dog in Southern Regions of Ilam Province, Iran,” Comparative Clinical Pathology

Bovsun, M., 2015, “Dog Constipation: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment,” The American Kennel Club

Bright, BM, et al., 1986. “Subtotal Colectomy for Treatment of Acquired Megacolon in the Dog and Cat,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Hong-Geun, O., et al., 2011. “Effects of Ficus carica Paste on Constipation Induced By a High-Protein Feed and Movement Restriction in Beagles,” Korean Association for Laboratory Animal Sciences

Johnston, S.D., 2000, “Prostatic Disorders in the Dog,” Animal Reproductive Science

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website