Constipation is common in dogs, and while it can be uncomfortable, it's not usually a sign of an underlying health problem. You can often treat canine constipation with some simple home remedies. So, if you're asking yourself, "What can I give my dog for constipation?," the answer may be as simple as changing or adding to your dog's diet.
But, in rare cases, chronic constipation can be a sign of a more serious condition, like obstipation, megacolon, or a blockage in your dog's digestive tract. All of these will require help from a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) to diagnose and treat the condition.
Learn how to tell the difference between constipation and more serious health problems. Plus, discover what causes constipation and what you can give your dog to treat it.
Signs of Constipation vs. Obstipation in Dogs
A healthy dog should poop 1-3 times per day and produce normal stool that isn't too hard or too dry but is still easy to pick up. (There are some guidelines that can help determine if your dog's stool is normal.) A constipated dog will have difficulty pooping and will produce small, hard stool. An obstipated dog won't be able to poop at all.
Essentially, obstipation is a form of complete constipation, and it can be a sign of a serious health problem. For example, if your dog swallows a foreign object, it can lead to a total blockage of their digestive tract. Without proper veterinary care, a blockage can cause a tear in your dog's intestinal lining or rectum.
Obstipation and chronic constipation can also be signs of megacolon, a condition where your dog's colon is dilated to an unusually large size. This condition may require an enema or surgery to treat.
If your dog hasn't produced any feces for 48 to 72 hours, go to your vet. This is a sign of obstipation, and it needs to be treated as soon as possible to prevent serious damage to your dog's digestive tract.
You should also see your vet if your dog's constipation is accompanied by other signs of discomfort, like whining or whimpering, especially when their abdomen is touched.
If your dog only has 3-4 bowel movements per week for a couple weeks in a row, then they have chronic constipation. When you try the home remedies below, your dog should start having normal bowel movements within 48 to 72 hours. If they don't, see your vet to rule out an underlying condition.
What's Causing My Dog's Constipation?
Typically, constipation isn't caused by an underlying health problem. Dietary and lifestyle factors are the most common causes of constipation in dogs, and identifying the issues that could be affecting your dog can help you select the best remedy. Here are the main suspects to consider:
- Low-fiber diets: Dietary fiber helps move food through your dog's digestive system. If your dog doesn't get enough fiber, that system will get backed up.
- Dehydration: Interestingly, constipation can also emerge if your dog eats too much fiber — while not drinking enough water. Hydration can help stave off constipation.
- Lack of exercise: Exercise not only gets the body moving, it also gets the digestive system moving. A dog that's mostly sedentary is more likely to experience constipation.
- Side effects from medication: Some medications, especially antihistamines, antacids, diuretics, and iron supplements, can cause side effects, including constipation.
What Can I Give My Dog for Constipation?
For your average case of canine constipation, these five easy home remedies should help clear things up. Try one or a mixture of these solutions, and watch your dog closely to see if they improve. In most cases, your dog will get relief within 48 to 72 hours. If they're still struggling to have a normal bowel movement, take them to the vet.
Pumpkin is rich in dietary fiber, which makes it one of the best solutions for digestive tract issues of all kinds. Whether your dog has constipation or diarrhea, pumpkin can help them get back on track. And because of its sweet taste, this vegetable is easy to feed. You can stir a spoonful into your dog's food, mix it with yogurt for added digestive benefits, or just let your dog lick it off the spoon.
Feed your dog plain pumpkin — it should be unsweetened and unseasoned. You can roast fresh pumpkin for your pet, but if that sounds like too much work, try picking up a can of pumpkin (just like you would use to make pumpkin pie filling), or use organic air-dried pumpkin for dogs. Air-dried pumpkin is easy to keep on hand, and unlike canned pumpkin, it won't go bad in the fridge a few days after opening.
Probiotics are a collection of good bacteria that live in the gut. When your dog's gut is in balance, the good bacteria help break down food and ward off bad bacteria. But, when there isn't enough good bacteria, it can lead to digestive issues. Probiotics for dogs can help keep your dog's gut in balance, which can help them produce normal stool. In studies in humans, probiotics helped improve constipation by 10-40%.
3. Water, Wet Food, or Bone Broth
If your dog isn't drinking enough water, it can lead to dehydration, which can lead to chronic constipation. This becomes even more likely if your dog is on a high-fiber diet.
However, we should note that most complete and balanced diets for dogs only contain around 3-5% crude fiber, so your dog is unlikely to get too much fiber from their food. But, some well-intentioned pet parents might accidentally introduce too much fiber into their dog's diet by serving homemade meals. Always work with a veterinary nutritionist before preparing meals for your dog.
If you suspect that dehydration may be contributing to your dog's constipation, you can encourage your dog to drink more by making sure they always have fresh water available. You can also add more moisture to their diet by feeding them wet food, or offer them a more tempting drink with an all-natural bone broth, which you can feed on its own or stir into their dog food.
4. Olive Oil or Mineral Oil
Mineral oil has long been used as a natural laxative, and in one study on constipation that compared olive oil to mineral oil, the two were equally effective as both laxatives and stool softeners, so you can use whichever you have on hand. Simply add a spoonful to your dog's food (or a couple spoonfuls for larger dogs).
5. More Exercise
A lack of exercise can contribute to constipation, and in studies on humans, adding exercise in any form offered patients significant relief. If your dog is suffering from constipation, try adding more exercise into their daily routine.
The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on their breed, age, and energy levels, but most dogs need around 30 to 90 minutes of exercise a day. Sporting breeds and herding breeds may need more.
You can try using a doggy exercise calculator to determine your pet's needs, or start with 30 minutes each day and slowly increase the amount of exercise if your dog seems bored or hyperactive around the house. If your dog needs more exercise than you can provide, try hiring a dog walker or putting your pup in doggy daycare a few times per week.
Offer Relief With Easy Home Remedies
If you've wondered, "What can I give my dog for constipation?," the answer may already be in your cupboard. Try offering your dog pumpkin, probiotics, fresh water, bone broth, wet food, olive oil, mineral oil, or exercise. These therapies are safe to use in combination, so you can try a mixture of any or all of these options.But if your dog hasn't had a bowel movement for 48-72 hours, it's time to go to your vet. For more information on your pet's health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog.