Constipation in dogs – causes and remedies

Sad looking Basset Hound lying downConstipation is defined as a condition where there’s difficulty emptying the bowels, usually associated with hardened feces. It affects humans, dogs and other animals. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most common problems associated with a pet’s digestive system. You can tell your dog is constipated when he’s straining to defecate and his stools are hard and dry. So, let’s talk about constipation in dogs and what to do for a constipated dog.

Canine constipation causes

Constipation in a dog could even be something as benign as lack of exercise and conversely, something very serious like cancer. Here are some of the possible causes of constipation in your dog:

  • Lack of fiber in the diet
  • Age – elderly dogs seem to be more prone
  • Inactivity – for reasons unknown, being sedentary often results in slower transit
  • Digestive tract tumors that narrow the pelvis
  • Drugs like opiates, diuretics and antihistamines
  • Stress
  • Metabolic diseases like hypothyroidism
  • Spinal diseases and injuries
  • Central nervous systems disorders
  • Consuming objects that are not food such as hair, toys and kitty litter
  • Psychological problems
  • Orthopedic disorders that make it difficult for a dog to squat
  • Surgeries and medical procedures
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Bones, bone meal and other sources of dietary calcium
  • Certain cancer drugs
  • Anal gland issues
  • Prostate enlargement

Holly clogged canine! That’s a lot of reasons!

Signs a dog is constipated

Most dogs will poop at least once a day. And, some have bowel movements that correspond to the number of times they eat. Signs of dog constipation include:

  • Unsuccessful attempts to poop
  • Excessive circling
  • Scooting along the ground dragging the butt
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Small amounts of watery or mucousy stool
  • Frequent squatting
  • Crying out in pain

Canine constipation remedies – how to help a constipated dogConstipation remedies for dogs chart

Fortunately, most cases of dog constipation are relatively easy to treat. First, you need to loosen or remove the impacted and hardened fecal matter. There are a number of ways to do this that include enemas (should be done by your veterinarian), suppositories, manual removal and medications. Obviously, not a pretty job but I’m sure you’ll do anything to relieve his suffering!

Commonly prescribed medications include diocytl sodium sulfosuccinate or lactulose. Then, there are stimulate laxative type drugs that include cisapride or tegaserod. More serious conditions may require surgery or even life-long medical treatments.

Here are some dog constipation remedies you can use at home as well:

  • Pumpkin: This works for both diarrhea and constipation. This is because it’s high in both moisture and fiber. Fortunately, many dogs like the taste as well. Thus, this is a nice natural remedy for constipation in dogs.
  • Canned dog food: The moisture content might regulate the system.
  • Powdered fiber supplements
  • Herbs and food: Ginger, wheat bran, powdered psyllium seeds and olive oil may help. A 2011 study showed that fig paste was effective for Beagles.
  • Hydration: With water and even electrolyte supplements.
  • Exercise

When should I take my constipated dog to the veterinarian?

As soon as you become aware of the problem is a good time to visit your veterinarian. This is because dog constipation could be a sign of a more serious problem and you’ll want to check that out.

Chronic constipation in dogs can lead to a build-up of dried fecal material. As a consequence,  this can get stuck in the colon in a condition known as obstipation. This can further contribute to another defecation problem called megacolon. Megacolon is a condition where the colon is distended and loses its ability to move feces.

When you and your dog visit your veterinarian, bring as much information as possible, including:

  • The most recent time your dog had a bowel movement
  • Stool color
  • Stool consistency
  • Changes in diet
  • Changes in routine
  • Injuries
  • Straining and pain when trying to defecate
  • Any non-food items eaten
  • Drug treatments
  • Other signs of distress such as vomiting, lethargy or a bloated appearance

What will the exam consist of?

Some of the procedures your veterinarian may use are:

  • Abdominal palpation
  • Blood count
  • Urinalysis
  • Neurological exam
  • Rectal exam
  • Ultrasound
  • Radiograph
  • Colonoscopy


There are many causes of constipation in dogs. Remember, if you notice any of the signs, take him to your veterinarian right away. People often have constipation, so, if you’ve experienced it personally, think about how uncomfortable and even painful it is and know that your dog is feeling the same.Close up of dog who is constipated

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4 comments on “Constipation in dogs – causes and remedies

  1. Judy

    Thanks for this… my normally healthy dog hasn’t had this problem and I have noticed he’s not running on his regular schedule for a lack of better words! Wasn’t sure if a vet visit was going to be in order and I really don’t like the idea of taking him in. It’s stressful for both of us and expensive. Never would have thought about your pumpkin idea but we gave it a try and not only did he love the taste, he’s now back to normal. Thanks again!

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Judy:

      I’m so glad to hear the pumpkin was beneficial! I’m also glad to hear he loved the taste!

      Yes, going to the vet can be stressful and really expensive! I’ve had lots of experience in that area!

      Thank you!

  2. Denise

    Hi Chris, thank you for this very informative article on dog constipation.  It is not nice to have an unhealthy pet and something like constipation should be treated immediately before it leads to more serious conditions.  I did not know that pumpkin is a natural cure and I cannot believe I have never tried feeding pumpkin to my dog.  Thank you for sharing this information.  As you say always head off to the vet before trying to treat your animals for constipation yourself.  Exercises is also something that can be sadly lacking in older dogs lives, so it is a great reminder to keep them active.  Denise.

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Denise:

      Thank you for your comments!

      Constipation, even if it’s not an indicator of something more serious, is certainly uncomfortable and even painful.

      Pumpkin – pretty simple and pretty cool!


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