Digestive systems have a delicate balance. When your dog’s digestion isn’t working right, it goes one of two ways – diarrhea or constipation. Either way, it’s not ideal.
If you see your dog struggling to poop with hard, dry, lumpy stools … or he’s been a day or two without a poop, it’s likely your dog is constipated.
What Causes Constipation In Dogs?
More often than not, the reason your dog gets constipated is because he ate something he shouldn’t have. It might be anything from a piece of a plastic toy, to a stone, a stick, or any other piece of contraband he found.
If you suspect that's what happened, keep a close eye on your dog because if he can't poop at all, he might have a bowel obstruction .. and that can be life threatening, so he'll need a vet visit.
But, there are other possibilities too. Some other reasons for constipation are ...
- Too little or too much dietary fiber
- Too much bone in his diet - you'll see white, chalky, crumbly poop.
- Lack of exercise – plenty of walking and play keeps the digestive system moving.
- Injury or arthritis – if your dog has sore joints, like his hips or knees, he might find squatting painful. An enlarged prostate gland can also cause discomfort when pooping.
- Anal gland problems - the sacs on either side of the anus can get blocked and cause difficulty pooping
- Matted hair around the anus can make it hard to poop. Watch out for this in long-haired dogs.
- Dehydration – plenty of water helps move food through the digestive tract..
- Age - dogs' digestive systems may slow down as they get older
- Stress – anxiety can affect your dog's digestive system and cause constipation or diarrhea
- Medication – diuretics, antihistamines and cancer drugs can all cause constipation
Consider these possibilities when you're trying to figure out why your dog is constipated. Did your dog eat anything he shouldn’t have? Do a quick body check – is there matted hair over his anus, lumps, or foreign objects at the opening? Did you change his diet? Is he dehydrated?
To test for dehydration, pinch the loose skin on his neck together. If it sticks or doesn't bounce back right away, he’s dehydrated.
What Are The Symptoms Of Constipation In Dogs?
Normal bowel movements usually happen once or twice a day – the same as the number of daily meals your dog gets. If your dog hasn’t pooped in the last 24 hours, it’s likely that he’s constipated.
Here are some constipation symptoms in dogs:
- Crying while pooping
- Not pooping for more than 24 hours
- Straining to poop and then producing stool
- Straining to poop and not producing stool, or only small amounts of stool
- Rock hard, dry stools
If your dog has these symptoms, read on to learn about natural remedies you can use to relieve him.
When To Call Your Vet About Your Dog's Constipation
Some signs of constipation can be more serious. If your dog hasn’t pooped for more than three days, or, or he has any of the following severe symptoms, call your vet for advice. They can be signs of a severe constipation problem that may need veterinary care.
- Abdominal pain
- Distended abdomen
- Loss of appetite
How To Help Your Constipated Dog
First, let's talk about conventional treatments. Vets may prescribe laxatives, enemas or prescription diets for constipation relief. But these are best avoided.
Avoid Conventional Treatments For Constipation
Laxatives may temporarily relieve symptoms but don't fix the underlying problem. They can have side effects like diarrhea, dehydration and abdominal pain, and they utilize synthetic sugars. And your dog can become dependent on laxatives, so they'll stop working over time.
Enemas stimulate pooping, and should be a last resort. Only give enemas with your holistic vet's guidance.
High fiber prescription diets are are low quality foods that contain high levels of starchy carbohydrates that can harm your dog's digestive system.
Natural Remedies For Dog Constipation
Here are some ways you can help canine constipation at home, using natural remedies.
First, consider the possible causes of constipation mentioned earlier, to figure out why your dog's constipated. If he has any medical conditions like arthritis or prostate issues, make sure you address those with your holistic vet.
Did your dog eat anything he shouldn’t have? Is he getting enough exercise? Do a quick body check – is there matted hair over his anus, lumps, or foreign objects at the opening? Did you change his diet? Is he getting too much bone? Is he dehydrated?
Note: To test for dehydration, pinch the loose skin on his neck together. If it sticks or doesn't bounce back right away, he’s dehydrated. Give him plenty of fresh water, adding a little bone broth to entice him to drink if necessary.
If there's nothing obvious, start out by taking him for a good walk or play a game of fetch. Exercise can often help stimulate a bowel movement.
If that doesn't work, read on for more ideas.
Steps To Relieve Your Dog's Constipation
- Give your dog fiber-rich foods: Your dog needs insoluble fiber to draw water into the stool and helps soften it. Insoluble fiber comes from foods like pumpkin (canned pumpkin is OK), green beans, zucchini or carrots. Veggies or fruit with high water content are ideal as sources of fiber. Make sure your dog drinks plenty of water when you give him extra fiber.
- Add organ meat. Try some raw liver, kidneys or heart. If your dog doesn’t already eat organ meat, this will be very effective, ... but start slowly if he's not used to them, or you could cause the opposite problem – loose stool. If you can't get organ meat easily, or your dog doesn't like it, try a powdered organ supplement:
Feed lubricating herbs: Lubricating herbs like marshmallow root, plantain, chickweed, flaxseed or slippery elm soothe and lubricate the digestive tract, helping to relieve constipation.
- Marshmallow root: ½ tsp of dried root per lb of food, sprinkled or mixed into food once or twice daily.
- Plantain: give 20 drops of tincture per 15 lbs of bodyweight three times a day.
- Slippery elm: give ¼ tsp of powder per 10 lbs of bodyweight, mixed into food.
- Chickweed: give 20 drops per 15 pounds
- Flax seeds: give ¼ tsp per 20 lbs of bodyweight
Use a natural laxative: Aloe and apple cider vinegar are both natural laxatives that can help your dog when he’s constipated.
- Aloe: use food-grade juices or gel without additives, giving ¼ tsp per 10 lbs of body weight to your dog’s food. (If you’re using fresh aloe leaves, avoid the yellow substance called aloe latex – it’s toxic to dogs)
- Apple cider vinegar: mix organic raw ACV with water or food – don't give it undiluted
- 1 tsp for dogs under 15 lbs
- 2 tsp for dogs up to 35 lbs
- 1 tbsp for dogs up to 85 lbs
- If none of the above work, ask your holistic veterinarian about one of these remedies. You''ll need her guidance about a safe dosage for your dogs, so don't give these on your own. .
- Senna – caution because long term use can cause dependence.
- Cascara sagrada – do not use in pregnant or lactating dogs
- Turkey rhubarb – short term solution as it can cause diarrhea and cramping
Safe Constipation Remedies For Pregnant Dogs
Don't use laxative remedies for pregnant dogs. They'll increase activity in the digestive tract and can stress the fetus and reproductive organs.
For pregnant dogs, choose marshmallow root or chickweed. They'll be gentler on your mama dog's system.
How To Prevent Constipation In Dogs
To help your dog avoid constipation, be sure to feed a well-balanced diet ... preferably whole foods, raw meat based ... with plenty of fruits and veggies to provide moisture and a source of fiber. Add digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics to maintain your dog's digestive health and keep things flowing smoothly.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of water and regular exercise, and is well groomed.
And go easy on yourself – gut problems, and tummy troubles happen. It’s how you react, and adjust your dog’s diet, that truly matters.