Constipation in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatments & FAQ

dog constipation

Are you looking to know more about constipation in dogs? Then you are in the right place. This full guide will tell you everything about this complex problem, how you can treat it and how to prevent it. It can be the symptom of several health issues, or alternatively, a problem on its own.

We are going to review all the dog constipation symptoms, the solutions and bring a full understanding of the issue because it can affect the health of your pet gravely.

What is Constipation in Dogs?

Canine constipation occurs when a dog does not produce normal stools on a regular schedule, about 1-2 times per day, then you can say it is constipated. If you notice that it strains when defecating, then it is another sign that the problem is present. Dogs go to defecate after eating because when the stomach is full, it triggers the gastro-colic reflex. If it does not happen, then there is something wrong going on.

In addition, another common sign is to see that your dog passes mucus when defecating. It is one of the most common problems of the digestive system, produces discomfort, pain, and can lead to several health issues.

Similar to other health issues, there are degrees. Normal constipation is what we have described, but when your dog cannot defecate at all, it is because its digestive tracts are retaining dry and hard fecal matter. In that case, it receives the name of obstipation and it is very dangerous and becomes a medical urgency.

Therefore, it is a serious problem, because if you do not treat it promptly, it can lead to your dog feeling sick, or in extreme cases, to obstipation.

Why Is My Dog Constipated?

By now, you may have an idea that your dog is constipated. Now, it is time to understand the reasons behind it, what is causing your dog to be constipated? Let’s explore all the causes, to bring you a proper diagnosis.

Dehydration

When a dog is dehydrated, constipation becomes an obvious consequence. Indeed, if your dog is not drinking enough water, bowel movements are severely affected. Dehydration can also be caused when a dog is overheated, which is due to external reasons like the weather and conditions of the environment/room.

Ideally, your dog should drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight every day. It will allow its body to function properly and avoid problems such as constipation.

If your dog pops at all and the stools look hard and dry, then it is another indicator that your pet may be dehydrated. If your dog has problems drinking enough water, then you should read this article that explains to you how to deal with it.

Matted fur in the anus

Using the official terms, it is known as pseudocoprostasis and it occurs when excrement becomes matter in the fur that surrounds the anal region. It can lead to partial constipation and in some cases to absolute obstruction, which makes it impossible for your dog to defecate.

For some people, it might not sound serious at all at first, but truth is that it is a very serious condition when it remains unattended. If you do not remedy it soon, then it will lead to total obstruction, and that can lead to serious health issues that will threaten the life of your pet.

Therefore, if you have a long-haired dog, then you should trim the surrounding area regularly, to avoid the problem of matted fur.

causes of constipation in dogs
Constipation in a dog is often the symptom of another problem – from simple dehydration to hernias or even tumors.

Hernias

We are talking about perineal hernias, which cause constipation in dogs because it is a rupture in the pelvic floor, and in consequence, it makes organs to become entrapped in the hernia, something that affects the colon and the rectum.

More specifically, it creates a “pocket” beside the rectum, which traps the feces and alters the normal process of defecation.

In addition to constipation, a perineal hernia also shows other symptoms such as lethargy, straining to urinate, abdominal pain, depression, and urinary incontinence. Therefore, if you discover these signs apart from constipation, then now you have a clearer idea of what is going on.

They are not life-threatening, but they can cause damage if the bladder moves through the rupture, because it will obstruct urination and cause the strangulation of the bowel.

Tumor

The presence of a tumor can affect the normal functioning of the colon and the intestines, and therefore, produce constipation. Therefore, a benign tumor or cancer could be another underlying cause.

Morphologically, a tumor can provoke constipation because it narrows the pelvic canal, which makes defecation more difficult. Furthermore, if it is around the anus, then it can also make it impossible or painful.

Therefore, it is a good reason to visit your veterinarian to discard this scenario. If you notice a mass around the anus or a protuberance, then you should visit the vet as soon as possible, especially if your dog also cries and shows evident signs of pain.

Ingestion of foreign objects

Dogs are not efficient at discriminating certain objects they should not eat, and therefore, it can provoke obstruction and present constipation as a symptom. Foreign objects can include rocks, toys, plant materials, dirt, fabric, bones, etc.

It is very dangerous and requires immediate attention because in some cases it will require surgery. It is a delicate and complex process because the veterinarian will have to perform as little intestinal procedures as possible to fix the alimentary tract.

Therefore, the best policy is prevention. Keep foreign objects that can damage your dog away from it, and when you take it outside for a walk, always observe your pet to avoid this scenario.

Intestinal movement problems

When your dog experiences intestinal movement problems, they can also derive in bowel movement issues, which means that it can cause constipation and even obstipation. There are many reasons why your pet is experiencing intestinal movement problems:

  • Infections
  • Intolerances
  • Allergies
  • Absence of essential digestive enzymes
  • Inflammation

In any case, they disrupt the normal functioning of the intestines, which leads to several problems including constipation, pain, limited nutrient absorption, etc.

As you can see, there are many causes for this type of problem, and therefore, you should visit your veterinarian to determine the roots and the treatment to follow.

Enlarged prostate in male dogs

When the prostate of a dog enlarges, it pushes up the rectum, which in consequence makes it difficult for your pet to defecate, causing constipation. It is a normal occurrence in old and unneutered dogs, and in most cases, it is benign, and therefore, it is not as dangerous as a tumor.

Nonetheless, it is worth remembering that senior non-neutered dogs are more prone to suffering prostate infections, which in addition to enlargement, can worsen constipation and lead to several health problems.

According to statistics, it affects 95% of intact male dogs by 9 years of age. Therefore, it is a common scenario and professional inspection is recommended.

Therefore, if you suspect that your pet is facing this problem, then go and get expert help as soon as possible before it evolves into a serious health issue.

Neurological or orthopedic conditions

Neurological and orthopedic conditions, like arthritis, can cause constipation. They make it hard for your dog to squat, and therefore, it cannot get in the appropriate position to defecate. It is due to the pain that arthritis provokes, as well as the limited range of movement.

Furthermore, there is a type of constipation known as neurological, which creates a neuromuscular deficiency in the colon. In addition, there are other neurological disorders that affect control and can manifest constipation as a symptom:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hypokalemia
  • Hypercalcemia

Moreover, a condition known as megacolon, which is the term for a very big, flaccid and incompetent colon, can cause constipation.

Infected anal sacs

Anal gland problems, such as infections, can cause constipation. It happens when your dog is not capable of emptying the anal sacs when defecating. The infection creates internal abscesses, which are lumps filled with pus that can cause pain and hinder the normal function of the organs they are near.

If you notice that your dog cries and shows discomfort when trying to defecate, then it is a good indicator of the presence of infected anal sacs. It requires immediate veterinarian attention because the infection can expand and evolve into something more serious, even life-threatening.

Side effects & Allergies

Food intolerances and allergies can cause constipation, however, it alone is not enough to confirm this scenario. If you notice that it comes accompanied by vomiting, discomfort, abdominal pain or any other sign of gastric distress, then you can be sure that something in the food of your dog is causing issues.

For example, many over-processed dog foods with tons of fillers such as wheat and soy can be hard to digest and can spark allergies in your pet, which as a result can cause constipation.

Therefore, you should watch how your dog reacts after eating, especially if you have replaced its food or introduce a new type of meal because it can be the root of the problem.

YouTube video giving a breakdown of some solutions to treat a constipated dog.

Signs & Symptoms that your Dog is Constipated

You already have an idea of the signs and symptoms of constipation, but now it is time to review them in detail, to help you with the diagnosis.

No Bowel Movements

As explained before, your dog should go to defecate 1-2 times per day depending on the number of meals. If it is been more than one day without bowel movements, then it is a sign of constipation. This symptom, on its own, is conclusive.

Circling

This is a characteristic behavior of dogs with constipation problems. If you notice that your dog squats without defecating and drags its bottom across the floor (scooting), then you can say it is constipated.

Passing Mucus

This is another characteristic symptom of constipation. If you notice that your pet passes mucus after straining, in addition to other signs, then you can conclude that your dog is constipated. In some cases, instead of mucus, you may notice a bit of liquid stool.

Abnormal Stools

If you notice that the stools are hard and dry, then it is a sign that your dog is suffering from constipation. Crying and evident signs of discomfort will usually accompany it. Like no bowel movements, this is often a conclusive symptom. Although, we recommend you to watch out for other signs for a complete vision of what is going on.

Lethargy

Because of discomfort and pain, the energy levels of your dog will decrease. If you notice that your dog does not want to exercise or it tires out very fast, then it is another sign. However, on its own, it does not tell anything. Watch out for additional symptoms for a complete diagnosis.

Vomiting

In some cases, your dog may start vomiting, although it is not severe. On its own, it is not conclusive, and in consequence, you have to evaluate it along with other symptoms.

No Appetite

Due to the pain and discomfort, your dog will stop eating. If you noticed that it has not eaten any of its meals, and you detect the other signs, then you can say with confidence that it is a case of constipation.

Crying

Because constipation, especially when it is total obstruction or obstipation, produces pain and discomfort, your dog may express it by crying. If you notice this sign, along with lethargy, abnormal stools, circling and passing mucus, you can say that your dog is facing constipation and you need to take immediate action.

Diagnosis of Canine Constipation

If you have detected any of the previous symptoms, especially no bowel movements for more than two days, then the next step is to bring a proper diagnosis and find the real causes.

constipated dog schedule
Just like humans, dogs can go for a couple of days without pooping. This is especially true when there is a sudden change in the dog’s environment such as travels, new people around, and so on.

To bring an accurate diagnosis, the veterinarian will have to analyze different factors:

  • Number of days without bowel movements
  • Since when your dog has been experiencing the symptoms
  • Eating habits and diet
  • Medical history (surgeries to the digestive tract)
  • The appearance of stools (texture, shape –ribbon-like in the case of an enlarged prostate–, presence of blood, etc.)
  • The medication your dog is already taking (to detect possible side effects)

Depending on the preliminary analysis, the veterinarian can order any of the following examinations and tests:

  • Physical examination around the anus
  • A complete rectal exam
  • Check blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature
  • Check for a possible case of dehydration
  • Radiography
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • Lab tests (blood tests, stools tests, and urine tests) to detect inflammation, diseases like diabetes and disorders such as hypothyroidism
  • Imaging tests
  • Bowel tests (anorectal manometry and defecography)

These tests will allow the veterinarian to confirm the cause of constipation and find the underlying causes, to start treatment as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Constipation in Dogs?

Prevention is the best policy, and therefore, we are going to bring you five tips that will allow you to avoid it that, as we have seen, can be drastic and lead to serious health issues.

Proper Hydration

It is necessary. Give your dog 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. When your dog is not drinking enough water, it makes the entire body to dehydrate including the colon, which leads to constipation. Therefore, if you want to prevent it, then follow our advice.

Trimming

As we have seen, matted fur in the anus can cause constipation, and it is a problem that longhaired dogs have to face regularly. Therefore, make sure to trim the surrounding area regularly, in order to avoid obstruction.

Exercise

Every dog needs daily exercise, although some breeds more than others do. However, the point of regular exercise in regards to constipation is that it decreases the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, which brings the stools an adequate contexture. In addition, exercise promotes the natural contraction of intestinal muscles, which makes it easier for your pet to defecate.

Adequate Diet

In addition to proper hydration, your dog needs an adequate diet. It should contain plenty of high-quality protein and nutrient-dense food. If you find that kibble gives problems to your dog, then explore other diets such as home-cooked meals or raw feeding.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is one of the most nutritious foods you can give to your food, and therefore, it is an excellent supplement. Nevertheless, when it comes to constipation, it is especially helpful because it helps to lubricate the stools, which makes it easier to expulse them. You can add it to any meal of your pet.

Treatment for Constipated Dogs

Now that we have explored the symptoms and possible underlying causes, now it is time to check the treatment to follow to restore the normal bowel movements of your pet.

However, a word of alert: it is always worth it to visit your veterinarian to explore the underlying causes, if any, because as we have seen, in some cases they can be as serious as cancer.

Professional Treatments

As always, we advise you to visit your veterinarian to determine the real causes with proper manual inspection and tests. Depending on the case, your veterinarian can recommend the following treatments:

  • Stool softeners or laxatives for dogs (not human)
  • Enema (administered by the veterinarian)
  • Medication that targets the large intestine, to increase its contractile strength to help your dog to defecate
  • Castration in case the prostate is the problem, which is common for intact males
  • Surgery in case of pelvis fracture or any other issues that compromises the pelvis area. It might also be necessary if your dog ingests foreign objects
  • For severe cases, the veterinarian may have to administer fluids intravenously

Home Solutions

There are some treatments you can administer as a dog owner to complement what your veterinarian recommends, and for mild cases of constipation, they will be enough to handle the problem:

  • Coconut oil and olive oil are excellent foods for making your dog poop. You can add such superfoods to their normal meals or administer it as a supplement
  • A sprinkle of Metamucil on canned food
  • Lactulose
  • Adding water to dry food
  • Bran
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Pumpkin (plain)

You can try these remedies to see how they benefit your dog. Although, we recommend you to visit your veterinarian for a proper inspection and a professional treatment, if necessary.

Canine Constipation FAQs

We perform in-depth research for every article we write, and during that phase, we find questions that appear quite often. You will find all of them below with a proper answer to clear all of your doubts.

How to know if my dog is constipated?

You must watch out for specific symptoms such as no bowel movements for more than two days, hard and dry stools, straining, circling, discomfort and pain behaviors such as crying, lack of appetite and lethargy. Our recommendation is to watch out for as many signs as possible, to give a concrete diagnosis.

Furthermore, it is also worth it to remember that this issue can be the symptom of an underlying health issue such as neurological disorders, infections, tumors, hernias or allergies.

How long can a dog go without pooping?

Your dog can go as long as two days without pooping and it should not raise any concern. However, if you notice that there have not been bowel movements for more than two days, then it might be because your dog is constipated. Watch out for additional symptoms such as circling, hard and dry stools and lethargy to confirm the diagnosis.

To maintain the good health of your pet, it is advised to observe how many times it goes to defecate and urinate. If you notice an abnormality, then you have to proceed to check for symptoms to confirm the problem.

Can I use laxatives on my constipated dog?

Once constipation has been confirmed, your veterinarian might recommend a mild laxative or stools softener to alleviate the problem. However, you should never give your dog a human laxative because it can damage your pet. You can also resort to natural laxatives for dogs such as coconut oil and olive oil.

Human laxatives can be too strong for your pet and they can damage it seriously, resulting in critical cases of dehydration, and even death. Therefore, keep your dog away from them and instead resort to natural alternatives or what your veterinarian suggests. Also, take into account that a normal laxative for dogs can take up to 72 hours to work.

Now you have in your hands all the knowledge about constipation in dogs. You know how to identify it, the causes, the diagnosis, and the treatment options and how to prevent it.

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