HEALTH & CARE

Constipation in Dogs: Help Your Dog Empty Its Bowels

Constipation in Dogs
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Constipation in dogs is a frequent problem that can occur regardless of their age. This affliction can be determined by a series of factors, among which are a wrong diet, an intense parasitism of the digestive tract or even greediness when it comes to eating. Older dogs are predisposed to constipation and a dog’s breed is not relevant when it comes to this affection. Moreover, constipation should never be ignored because it can cause a number of serious health problems after as little as 3 days.

A constipated dog tries to empty its bowels and it doesn’t succeed or it eliminates very dry feces that have a hard consistency. This causes discomfort to any pooch, as well as pain and it can lead to immobilization. This problem requires immediate measures. Besides the treatments applicable by a veterinarian, there are a few tricks that you can try at home in order to solve your dog’s bowels problem. Those should be tried first, before seeking medical advice, but if they are not effective, a visit to the vet should not be delayed.

Dog trying to poop

Understanding the symptoms of this affection, as well as its causes can help a dog owner take better care of its beloved pet. Constipation is something that can be prevented too, so being aware of its causes would be a step forward when trying to avoiding them. Something as innocent as changing a pooch’s diet, trying to put together a better eating plan for it, could lead to this unpleasant problem.

When it comes to natural remedies, it would be ideal to keep a few ingredients at hand in case your dog ever suffers from constipation. Milk, honey and wheat bran might prove to be very efficient, as well as paraffin oil.

Dog’s constipation symptoms

A dog that encounters issues when it needs to defecate might suffer from constipation. Furthermore, if a dog has a well-established walking schedule and it normally empties its bowels on time, stopping to do so could be a sign. It could be affected by the same condition. Other signs that indicate constipation are dry feces and hardened grass found around a dog’s anus.

In addition, the size of its feces is abnormally small. This condition could last for days and it could determine any canine specimen to become lethargic and lose appetite. In severe cases they might start to vomit, trying to somehow empty their bowels or because of toxicity.

Medical explanation and clinical examination

Before moving on to the solutions that you can try at home it is recommended to know that constipation is a pathological condition that might be caused by much more than food. The intense parasitism of the digestive tract with ascaris occurs in young dogs. A clew of ascaris might block a pup’s intestinal tract, leading to serious bowel problems. Large amounts of intestinal contents could get stuck before the bowel blockage, fact which can cause the distention of the bowel, accompanied by the compression of the surrounding organs.

When a veterinarian palpates a dog’s abdominal area, it should feel a hardened mass near its stomach. The treatment targets two objectives, regardless of the severity of the constipation, namely emptying the bowels and resuming the intestinal transit, and restoring the fluid and acid-base balance that was disrupted because of the constipation. Emptying a dog’s bowels can be a simple or a complicated process, depending on the severity of the affection.

If the block occurs in the small intestine, purgative solutions that are oily or salty are recommended, as well as other chemical solutions that can only be administered by a specialist. The restoration of the acid-base balance and the fluid balance is made by using infusion solutions based on carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Frequent causes for dog constipation

A much more frequent cause of constipation in canine pets is their diet. Feeding your dog with bones, nutritionally incorrect food rations and food that contains exacerbated amounts of fiber might cause constipation. In addition, if your dog eats toys, rocks, wood, sand or fabrics, its intestinal transit will get slower or even stop. A dog’s living environments, as well as its lifestyle are also important. For example, lack of exercise can lead to constipation too.

However, constipation might occur as a symptom in many diseases or it may be a side effect of taking medications, such as anticholinergics, antihistamines, opioids, iron supplements and so on. The vet should alert you in case medication might affect your pup’s intestinal transit.

It is also a frequent symptom of a disease called colitis, which can be very harmful to your dog. To learn more about this disease and how to treat it, check out this article on colitis in dogs.

Husky with fiber and nutrition food

There are 7 major causes of constipation that occurs in dogs, as it follows:

  1. If you change your pooch’s diet suddenly, it might have a negative effect on its intestines. For example, if your dog is used with eating homemade meals and you replace them with dry food, the chances of getting constipated are quite high. If you decide to change its diet, do it gradually, replacing a part of its regular food with its new food.
  2. Another possible cause for constipation is greed. Some dogs are so greedy when they eat, that they barely breathe before finishing the food from their bowls. In this case, their intestines don’t have enough time to absorb the entire amount of food, leading to constipation. They eat too fast and they are too greedy.
  3. Another cause might be that your dog doesn’t drink enough water or consume liquids in general. Your pet should always have a bowl or two filled with fresh water. When they aren’t hydrated accordingly, dogs might get constipated. This is because the feces will also get dehydrated, so they become difficult to remove, getting stuck in intestines.
  4. The lack of fibers from a pooch’s diet, as well as too many fibers from a pooch’s diet may lead to constipation too. There are dietary supplements that contain fibers in case dogs’ diets lack fibers. Conversely, dogs should consume fewer fibers.
  5. As mentioned above, medication intended for treating simple ailments might have constipation as a side effect. Therefore, it is recommended to carefully read the prospectus and to supplement you pup’s diet with more liquids throughout its treatment in order to avoid the blockage of its intestines.
  6. Another cause of constipation is delaying defecation. If you postpone your dog’s walk, it might not feel the need to defecate when it goes outdoors anymore. So, you should try to stick to its walking schedule as much as possible.
  7. Constipation can be just a symptom of the following diseases: anal sac, perianal fistula, anal spasm, rectal prolapse, broken pelvis, prostatic hypertrophy, perineal hernia, paraplegia, dysdonia of the sacral nerve, colonic nerve dystonia (produces megacolon), hyperparathyroidism, hypothyroidism, hypokalaemia or neoplasms of the gastrointestinal tract. This list of diseases might not be self-explanatory, but its purpose is to highlight their seriousness.

Treatments for canine constipation

The treatment for canine constipation is quite complex and it lasts for a long time in case of chronic cases. A dog with such a predisposition should be supervised all its life. In order to apply a suitable treatment, one should know to what extent constipation is a secondary symptom of a primary disease or if it is the primary disease. In case it is just a secondary symptom, the treatment will be focused on eliminating the primary disease that causes constipation.

If the primary disease is not treated, constipation will reoccur regardless how many times one gets rid of it using naturist tricks. As a primary affection, constipation is usually treated with laxatives and emollient substances by administering suppositories and by dietary means too. There are countless naturist cures that can help the gastrointestinal transit. If none have the desired effect, then enema or even surgery might be necessary, depending on the seriousness of the situation. In case of megacolon, surgery is the only solution almost every time.

Naturist tricks for constipation

What to give a dog for constipation that is handy, natural and cheap? There are multiple options that can solve a dog’s defecation problems in early stages such as:

  1. Honey and flax seeds. Mixing a few tablespoons of honey and flax seeds in your dog’s regular food should be enough in order to fix its intestinal problems. Try to mix it really well in order to avoid your dog’s repulsion towards these two new ingredients.
  2. Wheat bran. Adding wheat bran in every meal can regulate the digestive system of any dog. However, quantities are very important when it comes to fibers, so make sure to mix an appropriate amount depending on your dog’s size and dietary needs.
  3. Milk and magnesium. A small dose of magnesium poured or dissolved into regular milk can help with the proper functioning of the canine digestive system. Milk itself is known to be efficient because it enhances the fermentation process.
  4. Pumpkin. An essential food for dogs suffering from constipation is pumpkin. Thus, you can add pumpkin puree cooked without salt in your dog’s meals when you notice that it has difficulties to defecate.
  5. Paraffin oil. Generally, veterinarians recommend the administration of a few drops of paraffin oil in the dog’s water bowl as soon as constipation symptoms are noticed. Be careful not to heat this oil because it becomes toxic. It is also used by humans with constipation problems.
  6. Water is not really a cure for constipation, but it is the right treatment in case your dog is dehydrated. Make sure to change your dog’s water daily or several times per day during hot summer days when it evaporates or it gets too warm to drink.

You can learn more about the other treatments for constipation in this article on dog laxatives.

In case your dog goes from being constipated to having diarrhea, you can solve that by adding two teaspoons of mineral oil in its food, twice a day, for a week. If you comply with these tips, you may not even need to go to the vet. However, if your dog’s condition shows no improvement after treating it at home, its appetite remains low and it is struggling to defecate, but it can’t, then it’s time to go to the vet for further investigations. Remember that waiting too long is wrong because your dog can develop megacolon or other conditions.

Treatment for dog constipation

What to do if your dog is constipated and none of the naturist remedies work? You can try one of the 4 following solutions that are usually recommended by a specialist after performing a clinical examination:

  1. If your pooch is already on some meds, call its veterinarian and ask him or her if they can cause constipation and if you can stop the treatment, replace them or at least give less meds to your pooch.
  2. Dietary supplements. A specialist can recommend dietary supplements for canine specimens that have intestinal problems. You can also find information online about different types of effective supplements, but administering without the confirmation of a vet is not advisable.
  3. In case the vet recommends laxatives for your pooch, you can trust him or her. However, giving laxatives to your dog without a specialist’s consent would be a mistake. A small dog requires a certain dose, while a large dog requires more. Therefore, you cannot establish how much to give to your dog without medical knowledge.
  4. Although this process can be unpleasant, some dogs may need it. An enema should be repeated until the dry feces get softer and they can be eliminated. The abdominal massage also helps in this situation. If the constipation is chronic, the dog might need surgery. An enema should only be done by a vet. Don’t try to do it by yourself because you might hurt your pooch’s tissue.

From constipation to megacolon

From a simple case of constipation, a dog can develop megacolon, which is a condition resulting from the chronic retention of feces. If a dog holds in feces for a long time, it will suffer from a prolonged colonic distention that, in turn, will result in an irreversible change of its motility and dimensions. So, megacolon represents a permanent dilation of the colon. There are two types of megacolon, namely the congenital megacolon and the acquired megacolon.

The factors that determine the latter are metabolic disorders, chronic constipation and so on. Among the signs of this disease is constipation, pain and repeated attempts to defecate, dry and hard stool, defecation at irregular intervals, vomiting, anorexia, depression and substantial weight loss. You might ask yourself why a dog might be depressed or vomit because of a simple accumulation of feces in its intestines. This is because all the toxins that should be eliminated are reabsorbed into its body.

In addition, because trying to empty its bowels gets frustrating, a dog becomes nervous and less playful than it used to be. As a general state, a pooch’s fur doesn’t shine anymore, it eats less, is more apathetic or almost comatose in severe cases.

Fecal scoring

This condition can be diagnosed after a clinical exam. A vet should palpate a dog’s stomach, searching for a dilated colon and a hardened fecal mass. An abdominal radiography is also useful because a specialist can see the hardened mass of feces.

Blood tests are essential too in order to see if there is any damage to the major organs. After the vet confirms the existence of a megacolon, he or she will sadly recommend surgery. Enema is efficient, but not enough. If the colon’s shape and size is changed, then surgery is the only solution.

If you want to avoid surgery, you shouldn’t wait too long before taking your pooch to the vet. Among the complications of this condition are its reoccurrence and a dog’s intestines might lose their ability to push the feces towards the anus.

Conclusions and prevention steps

Preventing canine constipation can be done simply by watching its diet. Feeding a young dog and an older dog with large amounts of bones is wrong. Despite the fact that the young ones are greedy and the old ones can no longer chew bones, both generations of pooches might develop intestinal problems because of eating too many bones. Combined with an inadequate quantity of water, both of them would get constipated in no time.

Uncooked bones, as well as turkey, rabbit or rooster bones are not recommended. In addition, watch your dog carefully and try to remove all the objects that it might ingest without knowing that they might harm it. All the other causes of constipation can also be prevented, but sometimes when a dog gets constipated all you can do is try the naturist remedies, combine one or more, and, in case nothing good happens, take it to the vet for a clinical exam and for other tests that might be required.

Going to see the vet sooner would be better than waiting for your dog to develop megacolon or other very unpleasant conditions that affect its quality of life and yours too.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Ruth Smith

    Psyllium husk is also pretty good for constipation. Our vet was the one to recommend it and it worked wonders for our case. I’m skeptical of adding so much mineral oil in the pooch’s diet, but in any case the option’s on the table for me!

    • Psyllium husk is a great option for constipation. It is generally safe when given occasionally. The husks swell up when in contact with water, and helps magnet the wastes inside the intestine.

  • Betty Roster

    Our Black Lab has digestive issues and seems to be constipated. I’m feeding him raw blend such as pumpkin, meat, seaweed, veggies and coconut oil. What else should I be feeding him? Should he also have fiber? I’m wondering what sort of fiber, though. Thanks for any help.

  • Psyllium husk is a good option in introducing fiber to the diet. Pumpkin is also good and very nutritious. However, if you happen to have a very picky Lab, you may want to put your veggies in a rotational scheduled feeding to make sure that the dog eats the meal and gets the nourishment it needs.

  • Matthew frost

    I have a shih Tzu who is normally very playful. He went to the groomer and then we traveled for a weekend. His diet was changed during the weekend, normally he eats beef liver and sliced beef sirloin with brown rice, organic pumpkin, squash, green beans, carrots and ground turkey. He seems lethargic and grumpy now. He is back on his regular diet. I gave him a saline enema this morning because I was concerned he was constipated. He expelled his bowels shortly after and they were full! Is there a time frame I should expect him to be back to his normal self? Is there anymore I can do to help him? What about hydration? How do I get him to drink more water?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Regarding the saline enema, what was the return? Is it semi-solid or sloppy or completely liquefied? Usually when there is a sudden shift in a dog’s diet (like a complete shift or change) it takes a while for it to adjust which takes from a few days to a few weeks. More readily available fluids would be a good idea.

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