In addition to regular check-ups (see for more info), a healthy diet and lifestyle are essential for preventing constipation in dogs. There are numerous possible causes of constipation in dogs, so you should work with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause in your dog’s case.
Here are some possible causes of constipation in dogs:
1. Lack of Fiber in the Diet
A lack of fiber is among the top dietary causes of constipation in dogs. At home, make sure their food contains adequate amounts of fiber. Consider adding a small amount of canned pumpkin (not the sweetened pie filling).
Other sources of fiber that can be helpful include:
- Psyllium husk
- Ground flaxseed
- Beans (such as kidney, navy, or pinto beans)
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Apples (with the skin)
- Pears (with the skin)
If your dog is eating a homemade diet, consider working with a canine nutritionist to ensure it contains an appropriate amount of fiber.
2. Overeating Fat
Dogs that consume a diet too high in fat are also at risk for constipation. While some fat is needed for a healthy diet, excessive fat can lead to problems. If you’re unsure how much fat is in your dog’s food, ask your veterinarian or check the guaranteed analysis on their food label. This lists the minimum percentage of crude fat as well as the maximum percentage.
Ideally, dogs should get 5.5% of their calories from fats. Many commercial dog food products contain 8% to 18% by weight, so you should be aware of this because too much of these can contribute to obesity.
Meanwhile, if your dog is in pain, call your vet to ask about medications or home remedies that can help. For example, they can recommend a laxative so you can give it to your dog at home.
Never give your pets laxatives without talking to a veterinarian first. Sometimes, your dog may need to stay at the vet’s office for a day or two, so they can be monitored while taking laxatives.
3. Not Enough Water
Every cell in your dog’s body needs water to function properly. This includes the cells that make up their digestive system. When insufficient water is unavailable, those cells can’t do their job as well as they should, which can lead to constipation.
Provide your pet fresh, clean water at all times, and consider adding a little bit of broth or unsweetened cranberry juice to their water bowl if they’re not big drinkers. Also, try giving them ice cubes to chew on.
Dogs that don’t get enough exercise are also at risk for constipation. Exercise helps move food through their digestive system, so a lack of it can lead to problems.
If your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, try gradually increasing the amount they do each day. Walk them around the block. If that’s too much for them, start with a short walk and then slowly increase the distance as they get used to it.
Constipation is sometimes a side effect of certain medications. These include:
- Pain medications
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Iron supplements
- Calcium supplements
- Some heart medications
If your dog currently takes any of these medications, talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of constipation and whether any other options are available.
You can also help stimulate your dog’s digestive system through a massage. Here’s how you can do it:
- Your dog should be relaxed on their back and paws facing upward.
- Gently massage their stomach in small circular motions clockwise and counterclockwise for five minutes.
- Continue doing this for another five minutes.
6. Anal Gland Problems
Normally, dogs have two small glands located just inside their anus. These glands produce a foul-smelling liquid released when your dog goes to the bathroom. If these glands become full or impacted, they can cause constipation.
Your veterinarian can express (or empty) these glands if they become full. This is a simple and quick procedure they can do in the clinic. In severe cases, you may need to immediately bring them to a vet clinic or hospital when they show discomfort or pain.
Some animal facilities provide after-hours veterinary care if it happens at night or during the weekend.
Several diseases can lead to constipation in dogs, including:
- Kidney disease
- Bladder stones or crystals
- Neurological disorders
Only your vet can diagnose the underlying cause of your dog’s constipation, so make an appointment if the problem persists. This is especially true if your animal companions are senior dogs & cats with age-related health issues.
Keep in Mind
In dogs, constipation is a common health issue, but it’s usually not serious. Most cases can be resolved with simple dietary changes or more exercise. However, if the problem persists or your dog is in pain, it’s important to see your veterinarian.