Dog Constipation: Why Your Dog Can’t Poop

by Brooke Butler, DVM

Is your dog constipated? Do you suspect that he might be? Have you noticed him straining or not pooping quite as often as is normal for him? Constipation is a common issue in dogs, and most of the time, it’s something that your pet can recover from fairly quickly on his own. However, in some instances, it may be a good idea to find a treatment option that works for your furry friend to help him along.

Pet seeing a vet for dog constipation

Keep in mind, too, that constipation can sometimes be a sign of a more serious underlying problem. Although this is a lot less common than a simple bout of normal, everyday constipation, there’s always the possibility that there’s something else going on. If you think your dog may be sick or none of the usual treatments for constipation are helping him, take him to the vet right away.

Symptoms of Dog Constipation

Holding in Poop

Dogs can sometimes hold their poop for a while. If you don’t see your dog poop for 24 hours, don’t panic, but do keep an eye on him. If he goes over 48 hours without pooping, he may be constipated.

Strains While Pooping

If your dog strains a lot while pooping, or if he crouches to poop but then just keeps walking instead of pooping, then he’s very likely constipated.

Whines When Trying to Poop

If your dog tries to poop but whines or yelps from pain, then he may be constipated. He may also have a urinary tract infection or some other health problem, and you should take him to the vet if he’s in pain.

Poop is Hard and Compacted

Dogs may also be slightly constipated if they are able to poop, but the result is very hard and compacted. Keep an eye on your dog if this happens to see if the situation improves or begins to get worse.

Potential Causes of Constipation in Dogs

Eating Too Much Fiber

Dogs may become constipated if they eat too much fiber. This can sometimes happen from eating low-quality dog foods, but it’s a lot more likely to occur if your dog is being fed table scraps.

Not Eating Enough Fiber

On the other hand, having too little fiber can also cause a dog to become constipated. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to choose a good-quality food that is intended for dogs and stick to that when feeding your pet.

Extremely Matted Fur

Dogs whose fur is extremely matted can become constipated if the fur mats around the anus. This problem can be prevented entirely by making sure your dog stays well-groomed and trimmed, especially in his more sensitive areas. If this is happening to your dog, you may need a professional groomer or a vet to help you get his fur back under control and resolve the problem.

Enlarged Anal Glands

Dogs with enlarged anal glands may have trouble going to the bathroom normally. Dogs’ anal glands should be regularly expressed by a vet or a groomer. Don’t try to do this yourself at home unless you’ve had a professional show you how, as it can hurt your dog and may be traumatic for the both of you.

Eating Foreign Objects

If your dog regularly eats rocks, sticks, or other items he shouldn’t eat, then he may develop an obstruction. This can also happen if your dog eats part of a chew toy. This is a very dangerous situation and must be treated, usually via surgery, by a vet immediately.

Tumors

Dogs with tumors in the rectum or on the anus may develop an obstruction because of the tumor. This must be treated by a vet and often involves surgery.

Treatments for Dog Constipation

Feed Your Dog Canned Pumpkin

One of the easiest and most common at-home treatments for constipation in dogs is to feed them some canned pumpkin. Pumpkin is a high-fiber food and is perfectly safe for a dog to ingest, as long as nothing else has been added to it. Buy a can of 100% pure pureed pumpkin in the baking aisle at your grocery store and mix some into your dog’s food. Many dogs will also eat it right off of a spoon.

Give Your Dog a Stool Softener

Your vet may tell you to give your dog a stool softener. Some dogs can take stool softeners meant for humans, but others should not. This is one of the many reasons why you should speak to your vet before medicating your dog, especially with medications that are not originally intended for dog use.

Give Your Dog More Exercise

Your vet may also suggest you simply exercise your dog more for a few days and see if that helps. Many times, dogs will improve their pooping habits if they are taken on longer walks or are engaged in outside play for longer periods of time than they’re used to. A lack of exercise can contribute significantly to constipation in dogs.

Feed Your Dog Prescription Dog Food

Your vet might instead suggest you start feeding your dog a prescription dog food that contains more fiber than regular dog food mixtures do. You will need to go to the vet to pick up this food the first time, but you may be able to order it from a service or store with your vet’s prescription after the fact.

Enemas

If your dog does not respond to any of these treatments, you may need to take him to the vet for an enema. This should never be done at home and should always be performed by a professional. Trying to do this at home may result in severe injury and could even be fatal to your dog.

Get Help For Your Dog’s Constipation

Dogs become constipated often, and most of the time, the problem can be taken care of with something as simple as a little canned pumpkin or extra water for a couple of days. However, if your dog is in pain or seems to be struggling at all, take him to the vet. This way, you can receive specific information and care that is catered to your dog’s needs, and you won’t have to keep wondering whether or not you’ll be able to treat his constipation before it gets too bad. Be sure to do this especially if your dog goes more than two days without being able to poop, as he can develop an obstruction quickly after this time.

Call your nearest VEG location if you have any questions or concerns about your pet. You will always speak with qualified veterinarians who are happy to help.

brooke-butler
Regional Medical Director

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