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Constipation in Dogs

Constipation refers to a condition where a dog’s bowel movements are infrequent or absent altogether.

Constipation is one of the most common health issues among dogs.

The typical signs are hard, dry stools and straining when a dog is trying to relieve himself. Mucus might even be present.

Types Of Constipation In Dogs

Veterinarian typically classifies the more serious types of constipation into 3 categories:

#1 – Intraluminal

Blockages in the colon such as inflammation or abnormal growth.

#2 – Extraluminal

Blockages outside the colon such as pelvic fractures or tumors.

#3 – Intrinsic

Diseases, nerve injuries and hormonal diseases that affect the digestive system.


  • Hard, dry stools
  • Straining while trying to relieve self
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Tense, painful abdomen when touching their stomach or lower back.

If your dog doesn’t produce a bowel movement for more than two days, you should take your dog to the vet.

What Causes Dog Constipation?

For a simple case of constipation, dehydration or a poor diet is usually the culprit.

But, there are many other factors that can cause constipation:

  • Too little fiber in the dog’s diet
  • Age- older dogs tend to be more constipated
  • Abscessed or blocked anal sacs
  • To little exercise
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Too much hair in the stool as a result of excessive grooming
  • Ingested foreign items such as bones, plants, gravel that are blocking the intestinal tract
  • Medication side effects
  • Tumor or mass on rectum or anus which causes an obstruction
  • Trauma to the pelvis
  • Joint issues that make it harder for the dog to relieve himself
  • Neurologic issues
  • Dehydration from diet or another sickness, illness.
  • Dehydration due to other illness
  • Drugs, including antihistamines, some antacids, certain cancer drugs
  • Metabolic diseases such as hypo or hyperthyroidism

How To Treat Constipation In Dogs

The treatment depends on what is causing constipation.

In most cases, which is due to poor diet or eating a foreign substance, the following can help:

  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin has been known to fix both diarrhea and constipation in dogs. The high fiber and moisture are a great combination for either ailment and dogs generally love the taste.  A teaspoon a day can really help get things moving.
  • Canned Dog Food:  The extra moisture and water in canned food can help regulate the system.
  • Powdered Fiber Supplements: Fiber keeps more water in the stool, making it easier to pass.
  • Food and Herbs:  Ginger, powdered psyllium seeds, wheat bran, and olive oil, might help.
  • Water and Hydration: It’s very important for your dog to drink water and have easy access to it.
  • Exercise:  A minimum of 15 to 30 minutes a day is recommended.

However, if none of the above helps your dog or if your dog has not relieved himself in two days, you should take your dog to the vet.

Your vet might recommend the following:

  • A laxative or stool softener.
  • Medication to increase the strength of the large intestine.
  • A prescribed high-fiber diet.
  • An Enema

Pet insurance plans generally cover the cost of prescription medications, while some plans even cover part of the cost of a prescription diet.

What To Look For

When you visit the vet, it is important to have as much information as possible, including:

  • The last time your dog eliminated properly
  • The color and consistency of the stool
  • Any changes in your dog’s diet or routine
  • Any objects or non-food items you think your dog might have eaten.
  • Non-food items the dog may have eaten (even kitty litter or a bone)
  • Pain or strain when trying to eliminate
  • Any drugs or prescriptions your dog is taking
  • Any injuries notes
  • Any other sign of discomfort or stress such as lethargy, a bloated appearance or vomiting.


Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the vet exam may include the following:

  • Rectal Exam
  • X-rays of the abdominal area
  • Abdominal palpation
  • Enema
  • Colonoscopy or ultrasound
  • Neurological exam
  • Blood Work
  • Veterinary Treatment and prevention


In serious cases, some of the medical procedures that could be necessary:

  • A prescribed drug to help the colon to function properly.
  • Feces will have to be removed

In some very serious cases, surgery might be needed. One procedure, a colectomy, is when parts of the dog’s colon are removed.

Pet insurance plans generally cover the cost of prescription medications, while some plans, like Embrace, even cover part of the cost of a prescription diet.

Yet, another reason to enroll in pet insurance.

Dogs More Susceptible To Constipation

It is natural for older dogs to suffer more infrequent or have a hard time being regular.

But, of course, the condition can happen to any dog of any age.

If your dog’s constipation isn’t cured, it can lead to obstipation.

This happens when the colon can’t empty on its own.

This can lead to a build-up of feces which will lead to straining, appetite loss, vomiting, and lethargy.

Chronic constipation can be a contributor to this disorder.


Most cases of constipation can be easily treated with boosting water intake, dietary fiber and getting your dog to exercise regularly.

For most dogs, constipation will be an infrequent problem and easily regulated.

Again, if your dog is unable to produce a regular bowel movement for more than two days, make sure to see your veterinarian.

Return to the Dog Health Problems glossary.

  1. Reply
    Martyna P. 02/18/2016 at 11:46 am

    I think the best way to get rid of the constipation is to simply give your dog decent food and to provide it with healthy diet. Lots of dog eat very bad stuff for their stomachs: oily things, fried things, etc. I do realize those are dogs, but still, a human’s stomach and a dog’s stomach are two different things. Dogs should eat non-fried meat, they should also eat lots of good dog food and we must make sure the food has both meat and vegetables. We should make sure our dog drinks a lot of water too.

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