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Why is my dog constipated?

Labrador dog pooping advice

Not drinking enough water can make a dog constipated.

© Shutterstock

If your dog doesn’t poo for a couple of days, they may be constipated and you may need to call a vet. 

By Dr Karen Ingleby BVetMed MRCVS

Updated on the 12/08/2020, 13:20

As a rule, most dogs will produce faeces every day or multiple times a day. Yet if this reduces, stops or your dog is finding it difficult to pass faeces, then they are likely to be constipated. There are many reasons why a dog may be constipated, but if it continues for more than couple of days it is worth contacting a vet.

How do I know if my dog is constipated?

There are various signs that may indicate your dog is suffering from constipation. Infrequent or total lack of stools or straining, crouching or crying out when attempting to defecate are obvious symptoms of constipation. This can be accompanied by swelling around the anus. Or they can be passing stools, but they are small, dry and possibly hard, and there may be some blood or mucus on the stool. Some dogs can also have a change in temperament becoming quiet, off their food and dull or lethargic.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What can cause constipation in dogs?

There is a long list of reasons that dogs can become constipated. Some of the most common are: incorrect levels of fibre in the diet; dehydration or not drinking enough water; lack of exercise and not having sufficient time on a walk to poo; blocked or infected anal glands; matted fur around the anus; a blockage in the gut due to a tumour or eating bones/toys etc; pain associated with the position for passing stools, for example arthritis of the hind legs; a side effect of certain medications; and male dogs can develop an enlarged prostate, which can cause an obstruction.

What can I give my dog to relieve constipation?

If your dog is suffering from constipation and it has been going on for more than two days or they seem particularly off colour or in pain, then please contact a vet rather than trying to treat them yourselves. But for mild cases or for an animal you know suffers from constipation, there are a few ways to help your animals at home.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Make sure they have plenty of water available all the time, as a very common reason for dog constipation is lack of fluids. If you are struggling to get water into your dog, then you could add in some canned food into their diet or just add water to their dried food. But be aware that sudden changes of diet can also lead to diarrhoea.

How to get your dog’s gut moving

Exercise helps natural movement in the gut, so taking them for additional walks may help get things moving. Increasing fibre intake can help things move, but this should be done carefully and it should be monitored.

Two of the more common ways to increase their fibre intake are by: 1) adding in tinned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) or fresh cooked pumpkin. Small/medium dogs can have 1-2 teaspoons mixed in with each meal; larger dogs can handle up to a tablespoon. 2) Another form of fibre additive is Psyllium, at a dose of about ½ a teaspoon per 4kg, once a day.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What home remedy can I give my dog for constipation?

If your dog is suffering from constipation and it has been going on for more than two days or they seem particularly off colour or in pain, then please contact a vet rather than trying to treat them yourselves. Having said that, for mild cases or for an animal you know suffers from constipation, there are a few ways to help your animals at home.

Make sure they have plenty of water available all the time, as a very common reason for dog constipation is a lack of fluids. If you are struggling to get water into your dog, then you could add in some canned food into their diet or just add water to their dried food. Be aware that sudden changes of diet can also lead to diarrhoea.

Exercise helps natural movement in the gut, so taking them for additional walks may help get things moving. Increasing fibre intake can help things move, but this should be done carefully and it should be monitored. But if the problem is not getting better in 24 hours, seek the help of a vet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can you give a dog laxative?

Do not give your dog a laxative without first speaking to a veterinarian. Many aren’t safe for dogs and can be dangerous. If the vet feels that your dog requires help, they will advise you as to what to try or they will prescribe something from the practice once they have seen your dog.

Can I give my dog milk for constipation?

Cow milk contains a sugar called lactose and many dogs do not have the ability to digest this sugar, which means that it can cause diarrhoea, flatulence and abdominal discomfort or even vomiting. This generally occurs within 12 hours of drinking the milk.

As a rule, avoid giving your pets cow’s milk, but during a bout of constipation some people suggest offering your dog ¼ cup to ½ cup of milk to help relieve constipation symptoms. If you know your dog is particularly intolerant to milk, it’s not advised to try this and, if you do try it and it does not help, do not continue to give more milk and instead you should contact a vet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can I give my dog olive oil for constipation?

Adding a little olive oil to your dog’s food may help lubricate the gut and pass any faeces that are firm and dry, and therefore struggling to get out. Do not give too much oil, only a spoon or so, as too much can cause severe diarrhoea.

Do not syringe it directly into the mouth either, as it can be inhaled and go into the lungs. If you are giving oil to your dog, then add it to the food. If you do not see any faeces in the 24 hours after treatment, or your dog seems to get worse, contact a vet.

Can I give my dog milk of magnesia for constipation?

Milk of magnesia can sometimes be used for the relief of gastric reflux, acid indigestion and mild constipation in dogs. But you should discuss it with a vet before giving it, as they will advise if it is appropriate and at what dose it should be given.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can chicken and rice make a dog constipated?

Homemade chicken and white rice is a bland food that is often recommended by vets to help dogs recover from a gastric upset such as diarrhoea or vomiting. It is easily digestible and as a rule would rarely be the cause of constipation. Yet if you are concerned that there may be a problem after feeding your animal this diet, please contact a vet for advice.

How can you prevent constipation in dogs?

As the owner of your dog, you will be more than aware of their toilet habits, so if you notice a change regarding frequency or consistency of your dog’s stools, then monitor this closely and seek help from a vet sooner rather than later.

There are a few ways to prevent a lot of routine constipation problems: make sure your dog has regular exercise; feed a complete dog food that meets all their nutritional requirements; and make sure they always have plenty of water available. A vet may also suggest adding extra dietary fibre to their diet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How long can a dog go without pooping before it becomes dangerous?

Most dogs pass a stool anywhere between 1 and 5 times a day. If your dog has not passed any faeces for 48 hours, it’s recommended that you speak to a vet.

Can a dog die from constipation?

Constipation itself is not an emergency. It is the underlying cause of the constipation that can be the emergency. If your dog has eaten a toy or stone and blocked part of the gut, this often requires emergency surgery, so contact a vet ASAP. Also just having a blockage of faeces for a long time can lead to a condition called obstipation, which means they can't pass stools. This can cause permanent damage, often requires a full enema under anaesthetic and the worst-case scenario can be death.

When should I see a vet?

If your dog has been constipated for more than 48 hours, please contact a vet. Also, if your dog often strains to pass stools that are hard and dry, or you see the presence of blood or mucus around them, please seek veterinary advice.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk