Like humans, all sorts of different animals can suffer from constipation. However, this uncomfortable condition can be particularly unpleasant for your dog. When your dog becomes constipated and unable to have regular bowel movements, he can experience pain, confusion, and anxiety. So, it’s best to take measures to prevent constipation from occurring in the first place.
There is, fortunately, a wide range of preventative daily digestive supplements for dogs that are formulated to keep your beloved pet healthy and regular. If your dog is already constipated and you are looking for effective ways to treat the condition, keep reading to discover some safe dog constipation remedies.
What is dog constipation?
In the medical world, constipation describes the irregular passage of stools. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a large build-up of stools in the digestive tract. Constipation is characterized by the inability to pass stools despite the need or feeling to go. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to identify the symptoms of constipation in your dog. That said, you’re likely to notice visible signs of discomfort when your canine is attempting to empty his bowels if he is constipated.
Common canine constipation types:
- Extraluminal Constipation – something outside of the colon is causing the blockage.
- Intraluminal Constipation – the passage of stools is prevented by a blockage inside the colon.
- Intrinsic Constipation – constipation resulting from hormone imbalances, medication side effects, or neurological disorders.
What causes dog constipation?
There is a multitude of things that can cause your dog to become constipated. When it comes to intraluminal constipation, the cause of a blockage in the colon can be an object your dog has swallowed or a tumor.
The most common type of constipation in dogs is intraluminal constipation, as many canines are known for eating just about anything in sight. The good news is that in most cases the object blocking your dog’s colon will be something that will eventually pass in time, such as hair, string, grass, hay, etc. In rare cases, however, the obstruction may require surgery for removal. Alternatively, sometimes the obstruction can be broken up using an enema.
When it comes to extraluminal constipation, the source outside of the colon causing the condition may not be visible. While in some cases the cause can be easily detected, such as a clump of matted fur covering the anus, in others, the cause may be harder to detect. For example, arthritis or a broken bone can affect the function of the colon.
The most common cause of intrinsic constipation is a side effect of certain types of veterinary medications. That said, neurological disorders can also cause intrinsic constipation in rare causes.
Here are some of the most frequently seen causes of constipation according to AvoDerm:
- Insufficient exercise
- Neurological disease
- Dietary changes
- Matted fur
- Exterior damage to the anus
- Side effects of supplements and medications
- Colon related disease
How to detect constipation in dogs
Prior to selecting a suitable treatment, you need to identify if your dog has constipation. If your pet is having any digestive problems, be sure to check for constipation symptoms. If your dog is the type that usually passes stools of roughly the same consistency and size and at a regular frequency, it will be easy to detect constipation.
Here are some key signs that your dog may be constipated according to lists from VCA Hospitals:
- Stools containing foreign objects, like grass or hair
- Lack of appetite
- Small, dry stools
- Licking the anus
- Biting or gnawing at the tail
- Trouble urinating
In addition, if your dog starts dragging his hindquarters across the floor, this is a further sign that he may be constipated. Dogs do this to try and reduce pressure around the anus. If you want to help alleviate some of the pressure, you can do so by gently massaging the area where your dog’s hip joints connect with his lower abdomen. However, if your dog snarls, whines, whines, growls or bites the moment you touch his lower abdomen, you should immediately stop rubbing the area and book an appointment with a vet.
Rather than constipation, a sensitive abdomen can sometimes be the sign of a serious medical problem that may require emergency veterinary care. Your main goal when your dog is suffering from constipation is to keep him calm — you don’t want to aggravate the condition by causing him more stress and anxiety.
In many cases, gently massaging the abdomen is all that is needed to loosen a stool blockage. But, if that doesn’t work, here are five effective home remedies for treating constipation in dogs:
#1 Visual Inspection
While taking a look might not sound pleasant, it’s often one of the most effective ways to find out what is causing constipation. It’s not uncommon for long-haired dogs to get impacted matted hair around the anus. Fortunately, it can be easily removed. After the removal of hair that is blocking the anus, the dog’s constipation should quickly resolve.
Top Tip: To remove matted hair from the anus area, always use clippers. If you use scissors, there is an increased risk of you accidentally cutting your dog’s skin if he decides to make a sudden movement. You don’t want to add an anus cut into the mix with your pet’s constipation problems.
If you don’t see any exterior causes of the blockage, a visual inspection can still give you more insight into the possible causes of the condition. Take a close look at your dog’s anus. You might be able to see what is preventing the poop from coming out, such as hair, candy wrappers, string, plastic toys, or other everyday objects. The cause of the blockage will often be slightly exposed if your dog has attempted to pass the items. Never try to remove anything yourself. On your dog’s second attempt at passing the object, it may come out naturally and all will be well. If this doesn’t happen, you will need to take your dog to the vet where the object can be professionally removed.
#2 More Exercise
Insufficient exercise is one of the leading contributing factors of constipation in pet dogs. When your dog is not being active, his digestive system will slow down and food can start to build up in the stomach and digestive tract. Over time, this buildup can become impacted and more difficult for your dog to pass.
The good news is that even severely impacted fecal matter can often be broken up with some vigorous exercise. While it may take multiple tries for your dog to excavate the impacted matter, it will eventually come out by itself. Furthermore, the fresh air and smell of nature will encourage your dog to urinate and defecate. Dog’s naturally want to mark their territory with bodily fluids when they are outdoors. If he smells the scent of other animals, his brain will signal to the bowels that it’s time to go.
If more exercise does not resolve your dog’s constipation issues, it’s likely all the impacted fecal matters has become too big for your dog to pass naturally. In such a case, you will need to take your dog to the vet for an enema. The enema will break up all the hard waste that has built up in your dog’s intestines.
#3 Dog Stool Softeners
Stool softeners contain active ingredients that can help to resolve temporary constipation quickly. However, a dog’s digestive system is slightly different from the one found in humans, so you need to make sure you buy a stool softener that is specifically formulated for canines. Dog stool softeners that contain laxatives are generally fast-acting, so your dog should get some relief within 24 hours.
For stool softeners to function most effectively, your dog needs to be eating fiber-rich natural foods or taking fiber supplements. One natural fiber source that is a favorite among dog owners is canned pumpkin. It has a high fiber and moisture content, which results in the formation of large, soft stools that help to push impacted matter through the digestive tract.
Stool softeners and canned pumpkin should only be used for short periods and in small quantities. While both are great remedies for alleviating constipation, they are not healthy for your dog to consume for long periods. After giving your dog stool softeners and supplementary dietary fiber, be sure to take him outside frequently so he can clear his bowels. If your dog has been suffering from constipated for a long time, he’s more likely to have an accident if you fail to administer the remedies slowly and take him outside as often as possible.
#4 Sufficient Hydration
Dehydration is a common cause of constipation in all animals. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your dog is drinking enough fluids. Here are some common signs of dehydration in dogs:
- Dry Nose
- Thick foaming drool
- Glazed over eyes
According to The American Kennel Club, one of the best ways to see if your dog is dehydrated is to gently pull up the loose skin on the back of his neck. If the skin quickly snaps back, your dog is sufficiently hydrated; if it doesn’t, he is dehydrated.
Unfortunately, if your dog is suffering from dehydration and you know this is contributing to his constipation, just giving him extra water is not enough. He needs electrolytes and salts in addition to extra fluids to rehydrate his body. Bone broth and Pedialyte are both effective dehydration remedies.
To avoid causing any additional digestive issues, be sure to provide bone broth or Pedialyte in small increments. If your dog is severely dehydrated, he may be very lethargic and unable to drink by himself. So, it may be necessary for you to administer water and bone broth into his mouth using a syringe.
Once your dog is cured of dehydration, his constipation should resolve within 24 hours. If your dog is regularly experiencing constipation resulting from dehydration, it could be helpful to buy daily hydration supplements to add to his water bowl.
#5 Improved Diet
When you change your dog’s food, it’s not uncommon for him to suffer from temporary constipation and a few stomach abnormalities. However, if constipation continues, it could be a sign that the formula of the dog food is not right for his nutritional requirements.
A nutritious diet is vital to the long-term health and vitality of your dog. If your dog regularly suffers from constipation, it could be worth switching to special vet-approved formulas. Most vets have their favorite brands and will be happy to recommend the best food for your specific breed of dog.
When dealing with short-term digestive issues, it can be helpful to temporarily restrict your dog to wet food only. Wet food helps to keep your dog hydrated and is much easier to digest. Often just a few days of wet food only is enough to alleviate constipation. Be sure to slowly reintroduce dry pellets if you keep your dog is on wet food only for longer than a week.
Making homemade dog food can time-consuming, but it is one of the best ways to ensure your dog gets the highest quality diet. However, you need to make sure you add vital probiotics, vitamins, and supplements that are only found in commercial dog food to your homemade recipes. Making your own dog food can work out to be more expensive, but many dog owners can get good deals from their local butchers.
If it has been over 72 hours since your dog’s last bowel movement, it’s time to call a vet. While the home remedies discussed in this article can be effective at dealing with mild cases of dog constipation, some cases of the condition require professional medical attention. Left untreated constipation, can have very serious long term consequences. So, never delay contacting a veterinary.