In many cases, treating a dog for constipation is similar to treating a person for it. And, like their two-legged friends, it is always better to avoid the problem of constipation than to try to rectify it.
What Causes Temporary Constipation in Dogs?
Like human beings, the digestive tract of dogs can slow down or stop for many different reasons. Most of the time, dog constipation is temporary and can be easily solved, but sometimes something more is at work. The common cause of temporary dog constipation is;
- Diet – this can either be the result of the dog food they eat every day or something they got ahold of and ate that they shouldn’t have. Either way, the problem is usually short-term and can be fixed by changing their diet or doing a better job of keeping things dogs can’t eat away from them.
- Dehydration – the dog’s digestive tract reabsorbs fluids through its intestines. If a dog becomes dehydrated, too much fluid will be removed from the fecal matter as it journeys through the intestines. This leads to hard, pebbly feces that are difficult to pass.
- Lack of exercise – how effectively your dog’s digestive tract functions is directly related to how well their metabolism is functioning. Exercise will help to keep both of these bodily functions running smoothly.
- Stress – this can be either emotional or physical stress. An injury to any part of your dog can lead to them not wanting to push to have a bowel movement. Fecal matter that stays too long in the digestive tract can get hard and difficult to pass. Emotional stress can lead to a dog not wanting to go for too long or may release hormones that slow down the digestion process.
All of these temporary causes of your dog’s constipation can most often be solved in the immediate with at-home remedies and are not life-threatening. To prevent the problem from returning you may need to make some changes in your dog’s diet or routine.
What Causes Chronic Constipation in Dogs?
Chronic constipation can be more difficult to fix and maybe a sign that something is dangerously wrong with your dog. If you have tried the home remedies and made changes to your dog’s diet and routine but you still have a constipated dog on a regular basis, it is time to visit your vet. Some of the potential causes of constipation that does not go away include:
- Age – as a dog gets older, his digestive tract, like all of his bodily functions, begins to slow down. Also, the muscles that move the feces through the bowels may get weaker. Both of these things can make it more difficult for your dog to have a bowel movement. While, obviously, there is no cure for aging, you can limit the chances of having a constipated dog by upping the moisture and fiber content of their food or switching to one of the best senior dog foods. Also ensure that they get as much exercise as they can handle.
- Tumors – sometimes tumors grow in or alongside the digestive tract. If they get large enough, they can block the intestines or colon making it impossible for feces to pass through. Surgery to remove the tumor is frequently the only solution when your dog is constipated because of growth.
- Medications – some medications, like antihistamines, diuretics, antacids, and opiates can sometimes cause constipation. If your dog is taking any medication and is having problems pooping, talk to your vet to see if another medication might treat the ailment without the side effect of constipation.
- Disease – there are some diseases that result in a constipated dog, including hyperthyroidism and kidney disease.
- Intestinal Blockages – blockages can be life-threatening and the first symptom you may notice is a constipated dog. Usually, this is followed by a lack of appetite and signs of stomach pain. This condition is unlikely to solve itself and if you see these symptoms, you should see your vet as quickly as possible.
Home Remedies for Constipation in Dogs
Thankfully, there are many easy and effective ways to treat most cases of constipation in your dog (1). Some are things that you may already have in your pantry or your medicine cabinet.
- Pumpkin – although it is unclear exactly why pumpkin is effective at treating both constipation and diarrhea in dogs. Add to that the fact that most dogs love it and it may be wise to keep a can of it around.
- Oils – olive oil is a popular choice for constipation treatment but you can also try flaxseed oil or even butter. All of these should be given in small amounts, too much may cause diarrhea.
- Figs – just like in people, figs just seem to get the digestive tract moving.
- Other – ginger, powdered psyllium seed, and wheat bran are all effective in treating constipation in dogs.
- OTC Medications – some of the anti-constipation medications formulated for people. Like Miralax and Dulcolax can safely be given to dogs. Talk to your vet about appropriate dosages.
- Canned Food – the higher water content in canned wet dog food may be enough to solve the problems of your constipated dog.
Prescription Medications for Constipation in Dogs
While most often constipation can be remedied through the above-listed home remedies and changes to your dog’s diet or routine, occasionally there is a need for something more. In these cases, your vet may prescribe one of the following;
- Cisapride – this is available in liquid, pill, or chew tab form. It is most often prescribed for dogs with chronic constipation
- Lactulose – available as a liquid or pill, is used for both chronic and temporary constipation problems.
- Bisacodyl – available in pill, liquid, or chew tab, this is only used to treat temporary constipation as long-term use may lead to undesirable side effects.
Is It Time to See the Vet?
Knowing whether or not your dog needs to see a vet about his or her constipation is largely based on how your dog is acting aside from constipation and how long it has been going on.
If your dog suffers from constipation frequently or shows other signs of distress you should contact your vet. Symptoms to look out for include not eating, little or no poop but some bloody discharge when they try to go, whining, or other signs of pain, and little or no interest in walks or playtime (2). These may be symptoms of something more dangerous than simple constipation.
If your dog suffers from occasional constipation without any other symptoms, then it is probably safe to treat them at home and watch them for any reoccurrence. If the constipation is chronic, or happens frequently, and/or none of the home treatments listed above seem to help long term, then it is time to talk to your vet about the possible causes.
What home remedy can I give my dog for constipation?
The best remedies for constipation in dogs are those that have both a high moisture and fiber content. These include things you may already have in your pantry or those that are easy to get. Some recommendations include canned pumpkin, olive oil, and canned dog food.
How can I relieve my dog’s constipation fast?
Be careful trying to speed up the process when dealing with dog constipation or you may end up with the opposite problem, diarrhea. Olive oil or canned pumpkin, either mixed with their food or straight, are fast-acting but both will cause diarrhea if too much is given.
How do you make a dog poop?
Helping your dog poop on a regular basis is as simple as taking good care of them. Make sure they eat a varied, healthy diet with plenty of fiber, always provide access to clean freshwater, make sure they get plenty of exercise, and avoid overstressing them.
Can I give my dog olive oil for constipation?
Yes, olive oil is safe for dogs and a small amount mixed into their food will usually take care of mild constipation in a short time.