Signs Your Dog is Constipated and How to Treat It

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

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Has it been a few days since your dog last went for a number two? How do you know if your dog is constipated? Can dogs be constipated? Bowel movements are an important bodily function for both humans and animals alike.

However, struggling to pass stools, also known as constipation, is one of the most common digestive problems among dogs, and it can affect canines of all breeds and ages.

​​​​​​​The fact that we are responsible for clearing up our pet’s poop makes it relatively easy to keep an eye on how often they go, for any dog constipation symptoms, and if there is anything unusual about their stools. This is useful when it comes to determining if your dog is suffering from constipation. It can also help you to get her the treatment she needs before it becomes a painful or dangerous problem.

What Is Constipation and Why Is My Dog Constipated?

Constipation is a term used to describe the difficulty or inability to have a normal bowel movement. There are many different factors that can contribute to what makes dog constipated, and some of the most common causes include:

  • Dehydration
  • Insufficient fiber in her diet
  • Insufficient exercise
  • Eating non-food items such as hair, grass, or packaging
  • Side effects
  • Kidney problems
  • Hernia
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Presence of a tumor or mass around the anus
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacks

What Are The Most Common Causes of Constipation in Dogs?

Ingested toys, gravel, plants, dirt, and bones caught in the intestinal tract are some of the most common causes of a dog’s constipation. 

Your dog can also get constipated as a result of not exercising, too much fiber in the dog’s diet, and even becoming dehydrated as a result of other illnesses. Occasionally, a dog’s constipation is caused by blocked, abscessed, or enlarged anal sacs or prostate glands.

Even excessive self-grooming or the lack thereof can lead to a dog’s constipation if there is a large amount of hair deposited in the stool or matted hair surrounding the anus.

Other causes of constipation in dogs include: 

  • An adverse reaction to a medication can be the underlying cause
  • An orthopedic problem that causes pain during a bowel movement
  • Changing your dog’s diet suddenly or trying new foods
  • Disorders of the nervous system as well as obstructions by tumors on the anus or within the rectum
  • A painful abdomen injury or pelvic trauma that causes discomfort when the dog is passing feces

Signs That Your Dog May Be Constipated

The most obvious sign that your dog may be suffering from constipation is a lack of poop. Most dogs have a relatively efficient digestive system, so if your dog hasn’t defecated in two or more days, there is a strong likelihood that she is constipated.

Other signs to look out for include straining, crouching, and dragging their rear along the ground when trying to pass feces. You may also notice the presence of matted feces around your pet’s anus.

It is also important to notice signs that could suggest impending constipation, such as reduced frequency of defecation, or producing feces that are small and hard.

Sometimes the treatment can be simple, like adjusting diet. This can improve not just their digestion, but other areas such as their oral health. I may need to run some tests, a physical exam, do a rectal examination and study the dog’s medical history to get an accurate diagnosis of whether your dog has an infection, is constipated or dehydrated.

What Do You Do With A Constipated Dog?

If you believe that your canine best friend may be suffering from constipation, the first thing that you should do is arrange an appointment at our office as soon as possible. This is because it is important to determine the underlying cause of constipation, what to do, how to treat constipation in dogs best, and how to avoid reoccurrences.

Depending on the exact reason and the pet’s condition, I may recommend a variety of treatments that could include:

  • Increasing the amount of fiber in your pet’s diet. This could mean moving her onto a different food or adding natural supplements such as canned pumpkin.
  • Increasing the amount of exercise that you are currently giving her. Exercise is a great way of getting improving body functions, including those in the digestive system.
  • Increasing her fluid intake. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation, and the more your dog drinks the easier she should find passing her stools.
  • Medications such as a laxative or stool softener.
  • Medications that strengthen the large intestine.
  • An enema.

If you are concerned that your dog may be constipated, don’t delay seeking a professional opinion. Make an appointment at Care Animal Hospital today at 951-676-4690 for some constipation relief and to ensure your pet feels healthy and comfortable again.