Gut-Wrenching Woes: How to Ease Your Dog's Constipation
Is your furry friend feeling a little "backed up"? Don't let dog constipation get you down! From dietary changes to at-home remedies, we'll explore everything you need to know to get your pup's digestion back on track. Say goodbye to bowel blues and hello to happy, healthy pups!
If there’s one thing all pet parents can agree on, it’s this: nothing is worse than feeling helpless when your pet isn’t feeling well. Thankfully, we’ve got vets to turn to, and a variety of tools in our toolbox to do the best we can to help our pets feeling like themselves again.
Dogs are certainly no stranger to stomach upset — from getting into things they shouldn’t, to food allergies, and every possible scenario in between — even though it may seem like they have a lead stomach, they are far more sensitive than you might expect.
Like us, dogs are pretty routined animals and have a fairly regular “schedule.” So, what happens when things go awry? What constitutes constipation in dogs, what symptoms should you look out for, what causes it, and what can you do to fix it? Let’s get into it.
How long is too long between poops?
The first order of business: familiarizing yourself with your pup’s poop schedule so that you know when something’s amiss.
We know this isn’t always easy — especially if you’re past the puppy stage when you’re monitoring them more closely, or if your pup isn’t a ‘go for a walk and poop’ kind of dog. As your dog builds their own bathroom routine in your yard, take a few trips out with them to see when they’re just moseying around, and when they’re getting down to business (it could likely be in the morning, and/or after meal times).
When you’re aware of their timing, you can be better in tune with how long it’s been between poops. In general, any window over 24 hours between poops could be cause for concern and at the very least requires closer monitoring.
What could be the cause of constipation?
Constipation, like diarrhea in dogs, can be challenging when it comes to pinpointing a cause because there are so many things that can contribute to this issue.
Here are some common causes of constipation:
- Consumption of a foreign object (can be anything from toys to dirt)
- An intestinal obstruction/blockage
- Reaction to a new medication
- Reaction to a new food
- Low fiber in diet
- - Metabolic diseases, according to the AKC this could include hypothyroidism and kidney issues
- Recent change in diet
- Infrequent exercise/movement
- Issues with their anal glands
If your dog is presenting signs of constipation, but you're not 100% certain that's the cause of their stomach upset, consult your vet.
According to PetMD, during your visit to the vet, "your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, including a rectal palpation (feeling the area with their hands). Based on the exam and your dog’s health history, they will likely be able to determine whether your dog is truly constipated.
Radiographs (x-rays) of the abdomen can confirm the diagnosis and severity. They can also help identify possible causes, such as ingestion of foreign material, previous pelvic fracture, enlarged prostate, or perineal hernia."
Getting things moving again
After you’ve ruled out any potentially serious causes of constipation with your veterinarian, you can now get on the road to finding your dog some relief.
Treatment options run the gamut from medications and IVs to very accessible home remedies. If your vet is providing you medicine, be sure to ask about any additional things you can offer your pup to help them find comfort — specifically any particular food items you can give.
One of the most common ingredients people turn to when their dogs are experiencing stomach upset is canned pumpkin. It’s a great natural option that supports digestion, is gentle on most dogs’ stomachs, and provides some rehydration thanks to its high water content.
Oftentimes when dogs have an upset stomach they aren’t very interested in water, and when it comes to constipation, dehydration plays a huge factor so finding ways to get your dog to take in water is key! If your dog isn’t interested in canned pumpkin, you can try adding warm water to their usual food as well. You can also try a wet-food option for your dog, similar to canned pumpkin, this will provide some necessary rehydration.
Gentle exercise can also be a great way to help your dog get things moving again.
Keeping your pup’s belly happy long-term
Of course, ensuring your pup doesn’t dig into any items they’re not supposed to (like dirt in the yard, kitty litter in the house, etc.) is key to keeping them feeling their best, but there are a few other things you can do as well to avoid constipation that’s caused by other factors.
- Incorporate more fiber into your dog’s diet
- Give your pup regular daily exercise
- Add more hydrating elements into your dog’s diet (like canned pumpkin at meal times)
- Incorporate probiotics into your dog’s diet (we've got some treats that can help with that!)
- Regular vet check ups to make sure everything is operating as it should (particularly your dog’s anal glands, if that was the cause!)
Just like with humans, stomach upset can happen at random to our dogs so it’s helpful to know what to expect, what to look out for, and what you can do to help them feel better fast.
Remember to get intune with your dog’s bathroom habits so that you can spot an issue early — you know your dog best, and if you think something is wrong ahead of that 24 or 48 hour mark, trust your instincts!
Authored by Dr. Leanne Mellbye
Dr. Leanne Mellbye graduated from Oregon State University in 1991. She has been a lead veterinarian and mentor at Carlton Veterinary Hospital since 1992, but recently joined ownership with Dr. Nichole Pilakowski in 2017.
She is an active member of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association and American Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Mellbye's primary interest is small animal medicine and surgery.
She is owned by one dog named Riley (pictured) and two cats. You will often find her hiking, camping, kayaking, rafting, traveling or spending time with family and friends.