As a pet parent, it’s important to be aware of the different common causes of constipation in dogs so you can help your furry friend feel better. You know your pet is constipated when they go more than two days without a bowel movement, has hard stools, or struggle to defecate.
While occasional constipation is normal, if it becomes a frequent problem, it could indicate an underlying health problem, so you should take them to the vet.
There are many potential causes of constipation in dogs, including:
1. Inadequate Diet
Your dog may be constipated if they lack enough fiber in their diet. Ensure your pet is eating high-quality food appropriate for their age, breed, and activity level. You may also want to add enough canned pumpkin (not the pie filling) to their food to help add more fiber.
In addition, dogs that eat a lot of table scraps or people’s food might be more prone to constipation since these foods are often low in fiber. Talk to your veterinarian if you’re unsure which dog food is best for your pet.
Here’s a list of some food high in fiber you can give to your dog:
- Sweet potatoes
- Milled flaxseed
Dehydration can also lead to constipation since water helps keep stools soft and easy to pass. Always give your dog fresh, clean water and encourage them to drink throughout the day. In addition, try adding some chicken or beef broth to their water bowl to make it more enticing.
If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, look for these signs:
- Sunken eyes
- Dry nose
- Increased thirst
- Lack of appetite
If your animal companion is senior, your vet may recommend a diet change or additional supplements to keep them regular. Note that elderly dogs may need professional senor or geriatric care services (see this page for more info).
3. Certain Medications
A few medications can cause constipation as a side effect, including:
- Pain relievers (such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
- Iron supplements
- Certain heart medications
- High blood pressure medication
- Parkinson’s disease medication
- Calcium channel blockers
If your dog is currently taking one of these medications, talk to your vet about the possibility of constipation and whether you should adjust the dosage or give additional supplements.
4. Intestinal Obstructions
Intestinal obstruction is a blockage in the intestines that prevents food or stool from passing through. This can be a result of eating something they shouldn’t have, like a toy or a foreign body that’s become lodged in the intestines.
Intestinal obstructions are serious and can be life-threatening, so if you think your dog may have one, take them to the vet immediately. If it happens outside office hours, look for a 24-hour vet facility like this pet emergency in Grand Prairie.
Keep an eye on your pet when they’re outside and pick up any toys or objects they might be tempted to chew on.
There are a few diseases that can cause constipation, including:
- Kidney disease
- Neurological disorders
- Cushing’s disease
Dogs with these diseases may experience constipation, so you should take them to the vet immediately. Your vet will most likely suggest a treatment plan to help relieve constipation and manage the underlying disease.
While it’s inevitable, annual veterinary wellness exams play a significant role in disease prevention.
6. Inadequate Exercise
Dogs without enough exercise are also more prone to constipation. Lack of physical activities can lead to weak muscles, including those in the intestines that help move stool through the digestive system.
Make sure your dog is getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether going for a short walk, playing fetch, or going for a swim. If your dog is senior, start with shorter walks and work up to longer ones as they’re able.
7. Anxiety and Stress
Like people, dogs can get constipated when feeling anxious or stressed. If something is causing your pet stress, like moving to a new home or adding a new family member, that may be why they’re having trouble going to the bathroom.
Try creating a calm environment for your dog and help them feel comfortable and safe. This may involve providing a quiet space to retreat or using calming aids like pheromone diffusers or supplements.
You can also try a massage on their lower back and hindquarters to help relieve tension and promote bowel movements. Do this for a few minutes daily until their constipation subsides.
8. Anal Gland Problems
Dogs have two anal glands located just inside the anus. These glands fill with a foul-smelling liquid that’s released during bowel movements. If these glands become full and don’t empty properly, your dog may get constipated.
You can try to empty the glands yourself, but it’s best to leave this to a professional. Your vet or an experienced groomer can do it quickly and without causing your dog any discomfort.
Once the glands are emptied, your dog should be able to have a normal bowel movement. If the problem persists, there may be an underlying medical condition causing it, and you should take them to the vet.
A diet change is often the first line of defense when treating constipation in dogs. Adding more fiber to their diet makes their stool softer and easier to pass. You can do this by adding canned pumpkin (not pie filling) or bran cereal to their food.
Just make sure to start with a small amount and increase it gradually to avoid upsetting their stomach. If home remedies don’t seem to be working, or if your dog is showing other signs of illness, contact your veterinarian.