Vet-Approved Home Remedies for Dog Constipation
You may notice that your dog is straining to produce a bowel movement. Is this constipation? Chances are, if your dog strains and has a dry, firm bowel movement, you are truly dealing with a case of constipation. If your dog strains throughout the day and produces no bowel movement, this is technically called “obstipation,” the inability to produce a bowel movement, which is of more concern than just constipation.
Keep in mind, though, that when your dog strains and strains and produces nothing, his problem may be tenesmus, not constipation. Tenesmus means the dog has had diarrhea, and is attempting to pass stool, but the bowels are empty so nothing comes out. Diarrhea or colitis requires a totally different treatment plan from constipation!
Potential Causes of Dog Constipation
The cure for constipation will depend on the cause. Some cases may be treated at home through a natural home remedy, while others need immediate attention from a vet. The most worrisome cases are those where dogs develop other symptoms along with constipation. It’s easy for an attentive owner to diagnose constipation, but not easy to diagnose the underlying cause.
It’s the owner’s responsibility to decide whether a dog can be treated at home or needs immediate veterinary attention.
Medical Causes That Are Likely to Require a Vet’s Attention
- Obstruction by a foreign object. It’s possible that something your dog ate is obstructing his intestine. If your dog is a known foreign-object eater, you should keep an eye out for the signs of an intestinal obstruction: He strains, but produces either no stool or only a little diarrhea, and he vomits and can’t keep food down. Diarrhea doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an obstruction; sometimes some liquid feces make it through around an object blocking the gut. If your dog loves ingesting rocks, buttons, coins, or simply anything he can find, and the above symptoms seem all too familiar, then a prompt vet visit is required. X-rays will confirm whether some object is causing the obstruction. Emergency surgery may be needed, so the sooner you find out, the better.
- Obstruction from other causes. Even if If your dog does not have a "vacuum cleaner" reputation, if he has the symptoms above, have him seen anyway, as there are other medical problems that could block the passage of stools, such as polyps, tumors, intestinal intussusception, or an enlarged prostate.
- Blockage in the anus or rectum. Sometimes the issue is lower down the road. Rectal abscesses, fistulas, prolapse, or an anal tumor may be the contributing factor. Check the area for any abnormalities, and have a vet check the area since many times the problem may not be readily seen.
- Endocrine conditions such as hypothyroidism or parathyroid disorders may cause constipation. A regular thyroid level test may be helpful to rule these conditions out.
- Parasites such as whipworms may cause constipation. Have your dog's stool checked for parasites. The stool sample needs to be no more than 12 hours old.
- Neurological damage, due to trauma, spinal cord disease, or other problems, may disrupt the nerves that control bowel movements.
- Pain in the hindquarters—for example, from hip dysplasia, back problems, or tail problems—may make a dog reluctant to empty the bowels.
- Medication side effects may trigger constipation. Diuretics, antihistamines, and antacids may be the culprits. Read the medication's label carefully and see if constipation is listed as a side effect.
- Megacolon. Dogs with frequent bouts of constipation may become prone to megacolon, or a distended large intestine. This condition is irreversible (unless surgery is performed) and requires frequent enemas and trips to the vet to empty the bowels manually. This can be painful and very inconvenient.
When constipation is accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting, it needs attention; visit a vet as soon as possible. Any time your dog exhibits a symptom that does not go away, appears unexplainable, or is accompanied by other symptoms and pain, please drive him to a vet or emergency center the same day. In simple words, when in doubt, get on route!
There are, of course, causes for constipation that will respond to home treatment.
- Diet is a common cause. Your dog may just simply need a little extra fiber. As a home remedy, you can try to add one to two teaspoons of plain canned pumpkin (not pie filling) to the dog's food. This helps keep things moving. Pun intended!
- Dogs that do not drink enough may get a little constipated now and then.
- Dogs that are not exercised enough may get constipated. Just as in humans, lack of exercise may slow down the system.
- Post-surgery obstipation is fairly common, because the dog fasts the night before surgery and is likely to refuse food afterward. The dog should relieve himself as soon as he is eating a regular diet, taking pain meds, and somewhat recovered.
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Dog Constipation Home Remedies
- Bran. Some people have had success adding bran to dog food.
- Metamucil. Add a sprinkle of Metamucil to canned food only, and with plenty of water, because Metamucil soaks up water.
- Plain pumpkin (not the pie mix with spices) may help a constipated dog get some healthy fiber.
- Milk or dairy products can relieve constipation in dogs that are lactose-intolerant. However, if you provide too much, the opposite problem will shortly arise! See Home Remedies for Dog Diarrhea should this occur.
- Adding some moisture to dry dog food may help. A few teaspoons of water added to kibble should suffice.
- Medications such as docusate sodium (Colace) or Lactulose may be prescribed by your vet to help soften stools.
- Enemas. Your vet may tell you how to give a homemade enema of warm, soapy water. DO NOT give dogs over-the-counter enemas meant for humans; they may be toxic to pets and do more harm than good.
- Exercise can get the bowels moving.
- Water. Always make sure your dog has access to fresh water. Consider investing in a water fountain. Extreme cases of constipation may require a vet to give IV fluids.
- Changing a senior dog's lifestyle can fend off constipation. Try adding extra fiber, or putting your dog on senior diet, which contains more fiber. Check labels for fiber content. Always provide fresh water as senior dogs sometimes do not drink enough. For older dogs, try two short walks a day, as opposed to a single long, tiring walk.
This article is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian or as a diagnostic tool, as various conditions may resemble the descriptions provided. When in doubt, always take your constipated dog to a vet.