Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Help, My Dog Hasn't Pooped For Several Days!
If your dog hasn't pooped for several days, you are right to be concerned. Pooping regularly is a sign of good health in dogs just as it is in humans.
Before worrying about your dog not pooping though, first ensure your dog isn't hiding away to poop (like under a bed or couch) or even eating his or her feces. Dogs can sometimes be sneaky when it comes to doing their business.
In this article, veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec discusses what can cause dogs to not poop for several days—from dietary issues to an underlying health issue such as being in pain or even suffering from a bowel obstruction.
She also will cover what can happen when a dog doesn't poop for too long and what dangers owners need to be watchful for
Finally, Dr. Ivana will go through the diagnosis process and possible treatments.
Difference Between Constipation and Obstipation
For many pet owners, it is quite distressing when their dogs cannot poop for several days.
Constipation as an introductory phase to obstipation is a common problem in modern canines.
Constipation is medically defined as infrequent or difficult stool passage, and it is classified as a temporary condition. The main symptom is dyschezia – straining and pain while trying to defecate.
On the other hand, obstipation is a more severe form of constipation, and it is not that temporary. Namely, obstipation is almost always linked with an underlying medical condition, thus requiring more aggressive management.
Is a Dog's Inability to Poop a Serious Issue?
Yes, not being able to poop for several days is a dangerous situation. As described, over time, constipation leads to obstipation.
As the fecal matter forms and grows, it puts pressure on the dog's intestinal wall. The constant pressure may result in permanent damage and a condition known as "megacolon."
A dog with a megacolon loses its ability to poop on its own even after the underlying issue has been resolved. The only way of solving megacolon is through corrective and rather invasive surgery.
11 Reasons Why a Dog Has Not Pooped for Several Days
There are many reasons why a dog may have trouble pooping with some being more common than others.
Also, some obstipation/constipation causes are benign and self-limiting, while others are more severe and complex. Let's go through the most common reasons for dogs not pooping regularly.
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1) Too Much or Too Little Fiber
When it comes to regular pooping, dietary fiber is the most important nutrient. Both low levels and excess levels of fiber can result in decreased intestinal motility and constipation.
Most commercially available dog foods lack adequate levels of dietary fiber. Therefore, it is no surprise that dogs often experience pooping issues due to low dietary fiber intake.
2) Low Water Intake
A dog that does not hydrate properly is at a higher than average risk of becoming constipated.
Water is necessary to moisten the stool and enable easier passage through the intestines.
If the dog does not drink enough water (or is urinating a lot), chances are it will experience pooping issues. Also, it is worth mentioning that some dogs are not very fond of drinking water.
3) Lack of Physical Activity
It is a well-known fact that physical activity keeps the intestines active and moving. Therefore, a dog with a sedentary lifestyle is likely to experience constipation.
Since certain dog breeds are more of a couch potato than others, this constipation form will be more common in those breeds.
Other Causes For a Dog Not Pooping for Several Days
The above three are the most common reasons for dogs not pooping. They are also relatively easy to solve—all it takes are some minor changes in the everyday routine to get them under control.
However, there are also other more severe causes of not pooping. They are indicative of an underlying medical condition and require immediate veterinary attention. Here are the more serious reasons dogs may have trouble pooping.
4) Stress and Anxiety
Stressed or anxious dogs may refrain from normal everyday activities such as eating, drinking, playing, or even pooping.
The list of potential stress triggers in dogs is long and includes noises, separation, car rides, vet visits, etc.
To manage the problem, you need to determine the trigger and, if possible, either eliminate or at least minimize the dog's exposure to the stressor.
5) Severe Pain and Discomfort
Pain can be a huge limiting factor for dogs. Namely, a dog with orthopedic issues like hip dysplasia or a senior dog with a bout of arthritis will avoid pooping because the squatting position is too painful.
In such cases, pain management is vital, not only to solve the not-pooping problem but also to improve the dog’s quality of life.
6) Ingesting Foreign Objects
When it comes to dogs ingesting inedible items, only the sky is the limit.
Foreign objects can trigger a myriad of clinical signs and symptoms and intestinal blockages are potentially life-threatening issues.
A dog with an ingested foreign object will inevitably develop obstipation at a certain point. If you suspect your dog has ingested something it was not supposed to, call your vet immediately.
7) Excessive or Absent Self-Grooming
Grooming problems often result in pooping issues. Too much grooming will lead to the formation of fur balls which can block the intestines, causing constipation.
On the other hand, a dog that does not groom at all may develop mats in the anal region which once again will result in pooping issues.
8) Problems With the Dog's Prostate
Benign hyperplasia is a possibility in older intact male dogs. A hyperplastic prostate is an enlarged prostate that puts extra pressure on the surrounding tissues.
In simpler words, the enlargement may inhibit the passage of stool, leading to constipation. If the dog manages to poop, the stool will be like a ribbon instead of a cylinder.
9) Tumors and Masses
Newly formed masses and tumors around the anus, colon, or rectum may put pressure on the intestines, thus preventing the passage of stools.
Such a situation can also be the result of an enlarged prostate gland (a common issue in intact males).
10) Anal Sac Disorders
Anal sac issues are widespread among modern canines. Interestingly, anal sac issues are more common in certain dog breeds.
A dog with blocked or infected anal sacs may be unable to poop because of two reasons.
First, the sac enlargement is causing physical obstruction, and second, straining is too painful, and the dog literally refrains from pooping.
11) Medication Side Effect
Sometimes, constipation can be due to certain medications. The list of meds causing constipation is long and includes both over-the-counter and prescription drugs such as antihistamines, antacids, diuretics, and Fe supplements.
So, if you just started your dog on some of these drugs and now your dog cannot poop, you have the culprit.
What Should I Do if My Dog Has Not Pooped for Several Days?
In this situation, there are two main things you need to establish. First of all, you need to make sure your dog is really not popping.
As unusual as it sounds, it is not uncommon for some dogs to eat their poop, especially if they pooped inside the house, which they know is unacceptable.
The second thing is to set a timeframe of how long the dog has not pooped.
Dogs can go without pooping for up to 48 hours. However, if it has been more than 48 hours, you need to assume something more serious is going on. The more time goes by, the more severe the situation.
The next step depends on the timeframe—if it has been more than 48 hours, call the vet and have your dog examined as soon as possible.
Four Tips to Help Your Dog Poop
On the other hand, if it has been less than 48 hours, you can try the following simple yet helpful tips:
1. Entice your Dog to Drink
The simplest thing to do is ensure your dog is taking enough water. Since not all dogs are keen drinkers, we understand this can be a little bit challenging.
The easiest way of promoting water appetite is by adding a few drops of chicken or beef broth to the water bowl (or even tuna juice, based on your dog's taste preferences). Just make sure that there are no onions or garlic as ingredients.
2. Add Canned Pumpkin
Canned pumpkin is another great idea. Just visit the local store and get plain and unsweetened canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling as it can contain harmful ingredients).
Pumpkin is rich in dietary fiber and will keep your dog's bowel moving. Plus, dogs love the taste of pumpkin, so you will not have trouble adding it to the menu.
3. Use Probiotic Supplements
Additionally, you can invest in a high-quality probiotic supplement. Probiotics are health-boosting and will support your dog's overall health in addition to promoting a healthy gut and intestinal motility.
There are many different probiotic brands, and the thing that matters is choosing a product formulated exclusively for dogs (humans have different beneficial gut bacteria).
4. Keep Your Dog Physically Active
Last but not least, you need to make an exercise regimen and stick to it. Modern dogs tend to be couch potatoes, but treats and praises can be good motivators.
The more active your dog is, the less its risk of pooping problems. Not to mention that being physically active supports healthy body weight and overall wellness.
These tips are useful for managing the problem on hand. They can also be useful in the long-run—to prevent future constipation episodes.
If your dog is prone to pooping issues, consider switching to a veterinary prescription diet that is already rich in dietary fiber and probiotics. As always, make sure you talk to the vet first and get a prescription for the formula.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Adrienne Farricelli