If your dog hasn't pooped in 3 days, you are likely worried about it. Perhaps, it's because we're not used to seeing our dogs get constipated.
When talking about bowel movements in dogs, indeed, diarrhea is the most common issue. However, it is not the only one – the opposite situation or constipation is possible too.
So, what is constipation? What are the causes and remedies for constipation in dogs?
In this article, we will talk about the reasons dogs might not poop for several days. We will cover constipation in dogs – its most common causes as well as possible solutions. Finally, we will say a word or two about preventing constipation.
What is Constipation in Dogs?
Constipation is defined as altered bowel movement manifesting with infrequent, difficult, or even absent defecation.
An inability to defecate is considered a medical emergency and requires prompt veterinary attention.
Constipation can be accompanied by some additional signs and symptoms like straining while defecating, producing hard and dry stools, scooting on the ground, circling and squatting without producing poop, passing too much mucus when defecating.
A constipated dog is likely to have a sensitive or, rather said, painful tummy. Namely, if you gently press the dog's belly, you will feel the tension, and the dog will probably respond by whining or even growling.
What Causes Constipation in Dogs?
The list of constipation causes in dogs is long and includes both simple (transient) and complicated (long-term) issues. Here is a short review of some of the most common causes of constipation in dogs.
Cause Number 1: Poor Dietary Choices
By poor dietary choices, we generally refer to low-quality commercial kibble, lacking nutrients, and only adding bulk to the diet.
One of the main issues with such foods is the lack of dietary fibers that dogs need to keep their intestines working.
Cause Number 2: Inadequate Water Intake
Low water intake in dogs leads to firmer and dryer stools, and such stools are logically harder to pass.
The more time the stool spends in the intestines, the more dehydrated it becomes, thus aggravating the situation.
Cause Number 3: Lack of Physical Activity
Physical activity has a positive impact on bowel movements – it makes the intestines move correctly. A dog with a sedentary lifestyle that goes out only when to go potty is likely to experience constipation at some point.
Cause Number 4: Dietary Indiscretions
Dogs are notorious for their tendency to dietary indiscretions – from stealing food on countertops to raiding garbage cans.
While most cases of dietary indiscretions are linked with diarrhea, constipation is possible as well.
Cause Number 5: Medication Side Effect
If your dog develops constipation after starting to use a new medication, it is possible that the lack of pooping is associated with the drug itself.
Many medications cause constipation as a side effect (including antihistamines, narcotic pain relievers, diuretics, and sucralfate meds).
Cause Number 6: Impacted Anal Glands
A dog with impacted anal glands is likely to have issues passing stool. In such cases, the problem is two-fold.
First, there is the physical barrier by the enlarged gland, and second, the pain associated with defecating attempts.
Cause Number 7: Grooming Problems
Both excessive grooming and lack of grooming can result in constipation. In the first case, there is a high risk of furballs forming inside the digestive tract and eventually causing an obstruction.
In the second case, the dog may have matted fur around the anus, which physically blocks the defecation.
Cause Number 8: Orthopedic Pain
Dogs experiencing pain due to orthopedic problems (osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, spine issues, neck pain) may refuse to defecate simply because they find the squatting position to be painful.
Cause number 9: Foreign Bodies
This is a rather serious scenario. Namely, dogs often eat inedible things (toys, wood, rocks, paper, fabric, etc.). These objects may get lodged along the digestive system, thus causing obstruction and triggering constipation.
A dog with a foreign body in the intestines is a veterinary medical emergency.
Cause Number 10: 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 male dogs).
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How it Constipation Treated in Dogs?
As with most multi-factorial medical issues, the treatment depends on the underlying cause.
For example, if the constipation is caused by a dietary indiscretion and stomach upset, a few days of a bland diet, probiotic supplements, and some tummy medications are everything the dog needs.
On the other hand, if constipation is a side effect of some medication, there are two potential solutions – discontinuing the drug or replacing it with an appropriate alternative that does not cause the same side effects.
Finally, if the constipation is secondary to some other health condition like prostate enlargement or abdominal tumors, the treatment is focused on the underlying cause.
Anyway, a dog with constipation requires veterinary attention. While it is true that some constipation cases can be managed at home using over-the-counter meds and home remedies, it is always mandatory to consult with your trusted veterinarian.
Is it Possible to Prevent Constipation in Dogs?
Yes, it is possible to prevent constipation. However, the exact answer depends on the underlying cause. Namely, some constipation causes are preventable, and others are not.
If your dog’s case falls under the preventable category, there are several things you can do. Here are some simple yet efficient ways of preventing constipation in dogs.
Tip Number 1: Adding Dietary Fiber to the Menu
Dietary fibers keep the intestines moving and regular. Most commercially available dog foods do not include enough fibers, and additional sources are recommended.
Perhaps the most popular way of increasing the dog's fiber intake is by adding pumpkin puree to the menu.
Pumpkin puree is rich in fiber and palatable. Plus, it is health-boosting and readily available (canned pumpkin puree is a better choice than fresh boiled pumpkin).
You just need to make sure you get a plain (unsweetened, spice, and xylitol-free version).
Tip Number 2: Using Probiotics Made for Dogs
Probiotics are critical for supporting the dog’s gut health and preventing bowel movement issues.
In the past, human probiotics were often given to dogs. Today, this is highly inadvisable considering the high-quality probiotics made specifically for dogs (the right dog-specific bacteria strains and in the right doses).
Dog probiotics are available in various forms like powders, pills, liquids, and chews. If you are not sure which probiotic is best for your dog, talk with the veterinarian.
Tip Number 3: Enticing the Dog’s Water Appetite
Low water intake can cause constipation or contribute to its occurrence. Some dogs are keen drinkers while others are not.
If your dog is not taking enough water (the recommended amount is one ounce per pound of body weight), you need to entice its water appetite.
You can do this by adding more water bowls at easily accessible locations, using elevated water bowls (especially if your dog has joint issues), and adding a few drops of chicken/beef broth or tuna juice into the water.
Tip Number 4: Making the Dog Move More
Physical activity is vital for regular bowel movements. Therefore, making your dog move more is quite helpful.
In general, sedentary lifestyles are highly inadvisable. All dogs need to be active (the exact extent depends on the breed, age, and individual health profile).
Consult with your vet on how much physical activity your dog needs, set up an exercise regimen, and stick to it.
Depending on what motivates your dog, use dog-friendly treats or praises to reward its efforts and make the exercising fun.
How Do I Fix a Constipated Dog?
This is a frequently googled question, and while some results are helpful and legit, others are sketchy and can only make things worse. If your dog is having constipation, talk to your vet before trying something on your own.
When Should I Worry About Constipation in Dogs?
You must call the vet if constipation lasts for more than two days. If the dog shows additional worrisome signs (vomiting, lethargy, appetite changes, or fever), instead of waiting for the two-day timeframe to pass, call the veterinarian immediately.
What is The Prognosis for Dogs with Constipation?
In most cases, dogs with constipation experience a speedy recovery after the treatment is initiated. However, the exact outcome depends on the underlying cause.
Can a Dog's Constipation Go Away Without Treatment?
Constipation tends to be a progressive issue, and if left untreated, it can evolve into obstipation (a more serious bowel obstruction) or, in rarer but more severe cases, into megacolon (dilated and weak colon).
Final Thoughts on Constipation in Dogs
Although not as common as diarrhea, constipation is a plausible scenario in dogs. Some dogs may never experience constipation, while in others, it can be a frequent issue.
Each constipation case requires a different approach. Usually, constipation due to dietary issues is preventable. However, constipation triggered by other ailments cannot be predicted and therefore prevented.
If your dog has a constipation episode, call your vet and schedule an appointment. Things can go from bad to worse really fast and time is of the essence when dealing with constipation.