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What to Give a Constipated Dog – Laxatives, Probiotics, OTC Drugs

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Constipation in dogs can be caused by underlying health problems or certain medications.
  • To treat constipation, your vet may recommend laxatives, probiotics, or prescription medicines.
  • Laxatives for dogs include bulk-forming, lubricant, osmotic, emollient, and stimulant types.
  • Probiotics can help improve digestion and soften stools, but not all constipated dogs need them.
  • Increasing fiber intake through high-fiber dog food or adding pumpkin to the diet can also help prevent constipation.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Gold medalist veterinary student from UVAS Lahore writes captivating articles and is passionate about animal care.
Published on
Tuesday 6 October 2020
Last updated on
Wednesday 5 July 2023
what to give a constipated dog
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Constipation is a common problem in dogs. In most cases, it’s temporary and will be resolved at home. It’s totally normal if you want to know what to give a constipated dog. However, if your dog is frequently constipated, an underlying health problem could be to blame.

Some drugs, including opiates, diuretics, and antihistamines, may cause constipation. Tumors, spinal diseases, and orthopedic disorders can make it difficult for your pet to go to the toilet. If your pet is frequently constipated, always ask your vet for advice before attempting to treat a dog’s constipation yourself.

What to Give a Constipated Dog?

Depending on the cause of your dog’s constipation, your vet might recommend one or more of the following treatments: laxatives, probiotics, and prescription medicines. Without treatment, your pet’s constipation can worsen enough to become obstipation. This is the inability to empty the colon. Wondering what to give a constipated dog to prevent this from happening? Read on to find out!


Canine laxatives are classified into five types:

  1. bulk-forming
  2. lubricant
  3. osmotic
  4. emollient
  5. stimulant

Bulk-forming laxatives are amongst the most common laxatives for dogs. They are added straight into the diet. These laxatives consist of dietary fiber supplements, including poorly digestible polysaccharides and celluloses. By absorbing water and softening feces, bulk-forming laxatives improve contractility. However, continued and long-term use is discouraged unless absolutely necessary, especially when the dog is already dehydrated. Your vet will need to monitor your pet’s condition whilst they take laxatives.

It’s important to only administer laxatives with guidance from a vet. Laxatives may cause unwanted side effects, especially when given in excess, potentially harming your pet more than helping them. In addition, laxatives may interact with other medicines that your pet is taking. To name a few, laxatives may interact with antacids, neomycin, and warfarin. Your vet will be able to indicate which medicines to avoid whilst your pet is undergoing laxative treatment.


Probiotics are microorganisms that help to improve or restore the gut flora. For dogs, probiotic products typically contain the kinds of bacteria found in the canine gut. These include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Enterococcus faecium, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium breve. Studies suggest that probiotics increase the number of weekly bowel movements, as well as softening the stools and making them easier to pass.

Not every dog with constipation needs probiotics. However, some may benefit from supplementation. If your dog faces digestive problems such as diarrhea and constipation, then your vet might recommend a probiotic to help your pet alongside other treatments. Some owners find it beneficial to give their pet probiotics a few days before a stressful occurrence, such as taking them to a show or kennel. Keep in mind that using probiotics will not correct the underlying issue. If your dog suffers from digestive problems, be sure to ask your vet for more information.

probiotics and dog constipation
Not all constipated dogs need probiotics.

High Fiber Intake

Commercial dog kibble contains usually crude fiber at 2.5 to 4.5%. If your dog is constipated, their regular food may not be rich enough in fiber. Consequently, a diet richer in fiber may support some dogs suffering from constipation. However, too much fiber can increase fecal volume, which is contraindicated in cases of obstruction and dehydration. It’s important to ask your vet for details before making major changes to your pet’s diet, as it’s possible to do more harm than good during the process.

A common addition to a constipated canine’s meal is pumpkin. Pumpkin is rich in fiber and essential vitamins. Not only this, but plain, organic pumpkin is available year-round. Depending on the cause of your pooch’s problems, your vet might recommend adding one to four tablespoons of pumpkin to your pet’s meal. It’s best to start with smaller quantities to avoid giving your dog diarrhea.

Signs and Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs

Constipation in dogs can be caused by different things and can be shown in different signs and symptoms. Here are the symptoms that you should look out for to know if your dog is constipated.

  • excessive circling
  • lack of defecation or hard stool
  • scooting
  • frequent squatting
  • vomiting
  • painful or difficult defecation
  • mucus with stool
  • bloody stool

Preventing Dog Constipation

While it helps to know what to give a constipated dog, it’s best to know how to prevent this uncomfortable problem in the first place. As with any health issue in dogs, prevention is the best policy. While some cases of constipation are caused by underlying health conditions, others are caused by simpler problems such as a lack of water, exercise, and oils in the diet.


Dogs are messy drinkers and it can be difficult to gauge just how much they drink in one day. However, research suggests that most dogs need one ounce of fluids per body weight per day. This means that a 10-pound dog needs just over one cup of clean water daily. Highly active and lactating dogs require more water than other dogs. Puppies also tend to drink more often than adults. But how does drinking enough water help to prevent constipation?

Drinking water is essential for healthy digestion. Water helps to break down food so that the body absorbs enough nutrients. It also softens the stool, making it easier to pass when your dog goes to the toilet. It’s easier to keep an eye on your dog’s water consumption by sticking to a routine. Refill your dog’s water bowl at roughly the same time every day, and be sure to fill it to about the same level. Pay close attention to how much you pour into the bowl each day and how much is left later on.

Using a water fountain makes the water more appealing to dogs. It is built in our pets’ instinct to prefer running water over still water. Indeed, the latter can be an ideal spot for germs and bacteria to grow and multiply, especially outside.


Is your pup a couch potato? A lack of exercise is a leading cause of constipation. For your dog’s digestive system to function properly, they need exercise to process and digest their food. Physical exercise increases blood flow towards the digestive tract, which helps to move food along faster. As a result, exercise may help to alleviate gas, cramps, and constipation!

Conversely, the less exercise your pup gets, the more their body will go into “survival” mode, causing food storage in the stomach and intestines. This leads to impacted feces, which are difficult for your pup to pass. However, even when your dog’s feces are impacted, they can be broken and passed with more vigorous exercise. Be sure to keep your pooch active not only for their digestive health but their mental health too!

Add Oil in the Diet

Some oils can help to smooth the insides of the bowel. This makes it easier for stool to pass, thus relieving constipation. Oil also helps the stool to retain more water which keeps it softer. Not only this, but some oils can improve your pet’s coat condition, adding a shine to their fur! But which oils are safe for dogs? Olive oil and extra-virgin coconut oil are both good options for constipation relief in dogs. To add oil to your pet’s food, mix one teaspoon of oil per ten pounds of body weight. Large dogs may have one tablespoon with each meal.

Once a jar of oil is opened, it can quickly become rancid. For this reason, some owners prefer to give their dogs oil capsules. Some dogs will take capsules when the liquid is pierced and mixed into moist food. While it may be tempting to add lots of oil to your pet’s food, be aware that it’s possible to give too much. Excessive oil can cause digestive issues as well as weight gain. Too much oil can even contribute to a vitamin E deficiency.

oil for dog constipation
Some oils can help with constipation in dogs.

What to Give a Constipated Dog – FAQ

Still wondering what to give a constipated dog? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.

What is a natural constipation remedy for dogs?

Surprisingly, there are many natural remedies that are effective in preventing constipation. The two most common natural remedies are canned pumpkin and olive oil.

Pumpkins are an excellent source of fiber. With nearly 7g of fiber in canned pumpkin, adding pumpkin to your pet’s diet can help to increase their daily fiber intake. As well as fiber, canned pumpkin is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, and iron, amongst other important nutrients. These nutrients also support heart health. While fresh pumpkin also contains lots of fiber and vitamins, canned pumpkin is more concentrated and thus delivers more fiber with every meal.

Olive oil is often touted for its health benefits in humans, including balancing blood sugar and lowering cholesterol. However, this oil may also help to relieve constipation in dogs. The laxative effects of olive oil are mild, so it can usually be taken without unwanted side effects. The oil coats and smooths the insides of the bowel. This makes it easier for feces to pass through. It also helps the stool to retain more water, keeping it soft but bulky. To add olive oil to your pet’s food, mix one teaspoon per ten pounds of body weight. Alternatively, large dogs may have up to one tablespoon of oil per meal. While it may be tempting, be careful to not go overboard with olive oil. Excessive consumption can cause digestive upsets as well as weight gain, and in some cases can even contribute to a vitamin E deficiency.

What food can I give my dog for constipation?

In some cases, your vet will prescribe a high-fiber dog food to help your pet with their constipation. A high-fiber therapeutic diet can encourage water absorption, making the stool softer and thereby promoting intestinal motility. High-quality therapeutic food often contains clinically proven antioxidants, essential vitamins, prebiotic fiber, and essential fatty acids. But when will a vet prescribe a therapeutic diet?

High fiber dog food is sometimes prescribed for weight loss, diarrhea, anal gland issues and even to support diabetic dogs. In theory, prescription dog food is a type of medication and a potentially expensive one at that. The companies that manufacture them must undertake research to develop them, which costs a lot of time and money. In order for a pet food manufacturer to claim that their product is effective in treating a certain condition, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) must evaluate research that the manufacturer has done. However, most manufacturers caution against feeding prescription diets on a long-term basis. This is because deficiencies can develop as a result. For these reasons, your vet will need to monitor your pet’s progress on therapeutic food. With that being said, not all vets recommend prescription diets.

Can I give my dog milk for constipation?

Because many dogs are lactose intolerant, some owners suggest that milk makes a good treatment for constipation. Some dogs who are lactose intolerant have difficulty drinking regular cow milk but can handle cheese and plain yogurt with ease. Others have adverse reactions to any dairy product. These reactions include vomiting, abdominal pain, and acute diarrhea.

Many owners don’t know if their pet is lactose intolerant until they try feeding them milk. If your pup is constipated, taking a risk with cow milk is not usually recommended as it can cause more harm than good. Before offering your dog cow’s milk, it’s best to consult your vet about the decision beforehand so that they can monitor your pet’s condition.

What happens if constipation isn’t treated?

Constipation itself is not a medical emergency. However, it is a sign that something is amiss with your pet’s diet, exercise regime, or overall health. If your dog does not defecate for a couple of days, they are at risk of obstipation, the inability to go to the toilet.

Obstipation may cause abdominal distention and bloating, dehydration, difficulty passing gas, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. Obstipation causes a massive backup of dry feces. This can cause impaction of the entire colon, causing permanent damage if left untreated. Ultimately, obstipation results in bowel perforation or rupture if severe enough. To prevent this from happening, surgery may be necessary to remove the impacted area of your pet’s bowel. Any damaged areas of the intestines may also need removal.

food for dog constipation
High-fiber food can help with dog constipation.

It’s important to ask your vet what to give a constipated dog before giving any medications or a prescription diet. While many cases of constipation can be resolved at home, others are caused by underlying health issues that will need veterinary treatment.

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