Constipation in Dogs: What Causes It & What to Do

Your normally happy-go-lucky dog is whining and having trouble when you let them outside. If you’ve noticed that your dog is having issues “going,” they may be dealing with constipation.

Read on to learn more about what constipation in dogs is, how to recognize it, and what you can do to help your dog feel better.

What Is Constipation in Dogs?

Constipation is the infrequent or difficult passage of stool. It’s usually a temporary condition, though chronic constipation can be caused by specific conditions.

One of the major functions of the colon is water absorption, and when the absorption of water is off in your dog, retained stool becomes hard and dry. This makes passing it even more difficult. In some cases, constipated dogs may become dehydrated.

Some constipated dogs may pass small amounts of liquid feces or even blood due to straining. You may mistake liquid feces for diarrhea, but the reality is that the liquid feces is moving past the hard fecal mass as the dog strains.

What Causes Constipation in Dogs?

Constipation in dogs is usually caused by a lack of fiber, inadequate hydration, or an obstruction such as a tumor, enlarged prostate, or rectal stricture. In some cases, it can be caused by intestinal disease, an abdominal mass, spinal cord problems, or neurological disorders. In other cases, constipation can be caused by medications or mineral imbalances.

Some common reasons dogs become constipated include:

  • A diet that lacks fiber
  • Eating non-food items that cause blockages
  • Being an elderly dog
  • More sedentary
  • Digestive tract tumors
  • Tumors that narrow the pelvic region
  • Issues with the anal gland
  • Prostate enlargement
  • Dehydration or electrolyte imbalances
  • Taking certain medications
  • Metabolic diseases, including hypothyroidism and kidney issues
  • Spinal diseases and injuries
  • Central nervous system disorders
  • Stress
  • Orthopedic disorders that make it difficult for your dog to squat

What Are the Signs of Constipation in Dogs?

The most common signs of constipation in dogs are infrequent stools, straining, or difficulty passing stool, and the presence of hard, dry feces. Some dogs may have a decreased appetite, become lethargic, or vomit.

What Should You Do if Your Dog Is Constipated?

In many cases, dogs that appear constipated actually have severe diarrhea. A dog with diarrhea often has the urge to defecate even if there is no material left to expel. This unproductive straining is often confused with constipation. 

If you suspect your dog is constipated, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet may conduct an exam and do bloodwork to rule out any underlying medical conditions. If they find one, they will recommend appropriate treatment.

Your vet may also recommend dietary changes, such as increasing your dog’s fiber intake and decreasing their fat intake, to help alleviate the constipation. They may also recommend an over-the-counter laxative, such as a fiber supplement, or a prescription laxative. Additionally, they may suggest increasing your dog’s hydration by feeding them wet food.

Some things your vet may suggest include:

  • Pumpkin: This is high in both fiber and moisture, and many dogs will readily eat it.
  • Food and herbs: Ginger, wheat bran, powdered psyllium seeds, and olive oil may be recommended.
  • Hydration: Ensuring your dog is properly hydrated, and even adding electrolyte supplements, may help.
  • Exercise: Increasing your pet’s exercise may be suggested.

In severe cases, your vet may need to manually remove the retained stool through manual disimpaction.

Veterinarian for Dogs in Frederick, MD

If your dog is experiencing symptoms of constipation, Old Farm Veterinary Hospital can help. Our team of veterinarians can diagnose and recommend treatments to get your pet comfortable and healthy again. Call today for an appointment!