Help! My Dog Is Constipated!

Causes and treatment of constipation in dogs.

dog constipation

No one likes to be constipated, including your dog. So how can you help ease your dog’s discomfort if it occurs? And what causes constipation in dogs, anyway?

We spoke to Dr. Michelle Bourjaily, a veterinarian with Small Door Veterinary, and Dr. Shirley Furmanski, lead veterinarian with Stay Labs, for more insight on dog constipation.

While there could be a variety of reasons for your dog’s stomach issues, it’s best to get in touch with your veterinarian if your dog hasn’t pooped in a few days, even if his behavior is otherwise normal. Here’s why:

What causes constipation in dogs?

Constipation may be caused by a number of factors, which range from mild to life-threatening.

“Dogs can become constipated if there is not enough fiber in their diet, if they’re dehydrated, as a side effect of certain medications, or if they’re not getting enough exercise during the day,” Dr. Bourjaily told The Dodo. “Other more serious reasons include stress, anal gland problems, parasites, intestinal blockages, bloating, injuries to the spine or pelvis, kidney disease, and cancer, amongst others.”

Constipation in dogs is actually pretty common, unfortunately.

“Any dog at any age and any sex may experience constipation,” Dr. Furmanski told The Dodo. “Almost every pet parent has experienced their dog being constipated at least once, even if it resolved without any treatment.”

But determining if your dog’s actually constipated can be tricky.

“Some days your dog may poop less than usual and this could simply be due to them eating or exercising less than usual,” Dr. Bourjaily said. “In addition, changes in routine may upset your dog’s normal bowel habits for a day or two.”

And if your dog has just been spayed or neutered, it’s normal for him to not defecate for a day or so after surgery.

Can you treat dog constipation at home?

Treatment may vary depending on the exact cause of your dog’s constipation, and if there’s an underlying medical issue, it’ll need to be addressed. If the constipation is severe, it’ll require treatment at your veterinarian’s office — they may administer medication, such as a laxative or stool softener.

If your dog has a mild case of constipation, Dr. Bourjaily suggested the following for treatment at home:

  • Ensure your dog’s well hydrated by frequently offering him fresh water and keeping the water bowl filled.
  • Your veterinarian may suggest adding a tablespoon or two of plain, puréed pumpkin to his regular dinner — this contains plenty of fiber and moisture to aid his digestion.
  • Switching to a wet, canned dog food may also help as it has a higher water content than dry dog food.
  • Exercise can also help to get your dog’s bowels moving.

When should you call your vet?

If it’s been a few days and your dog hasn’t pooped, keep a mental note.

“I advise pet parents to take a ‘wait and see’ approach if their dog is otherwise behaving normally with a good appetite,” Dr. Furmanski said. “However, if your dog is uncomfortable or straining to defecate without producing feces, even if your dog has a good appetite, and/or if the dog is constipated for more than several days, the pet parent should consult their veterinarian.”

Dog constipation will likely happen at some point in your journey as a pet parent. Here’s hoping it clears up quickly and you can get back to the things that matter, like snuggling together on the couch.