Natural laxatives for dogs may be necessary in cases of dogs suffering from constipation.
As it happens in humans, occasional irregularity in man's best friend can happen at times. While an occasional bout of constipation in dogs may be nothing majorly worrisome, when it takes place for extended periods of time or becomes uncomfortable or painful, it warrants attention as it can be a sign of something troublesome.
Let's face it, no dog parent likes watching their dog straining to poop. However, there is straining and straining in the dog world.
Sometimes, what may look like constipation is actually the opposite problem: a dog with a bout of diarrhea reacting to the unpleasant sensation of feeling the urge to still pass stools (tenesmus). This may lead to the dog repeatedly assuming a pooping position as if straining
It is therefore important keeping track of a dog's waste. If your dog has recently had diarrhea, chances are he is straining due to a a bout of colitis with diarrhea rather than true constipation.
Unfortunately though in dogs left unsupervised outside for most of the day, it becomes challenging to know whether they are truly constipated or not.
Although not very common, constipation in dogs does occur occasionally and can affect any dog regardless of breed and sex; however, its incidence increases with age.
After taking a look at several constipation causes in dogs, we will then take a look at several natural laxatives for canines.
On top of this, you will understand signs of potential problems and when it's important to call the vet.
Understanding Constipation in Dogs
Constipation is defined as infrequent defecation characterized by the passage of small amounts of dry and crumbled feces. A constipated dog is likely to strain and exhibit signs of pain when defecating.
On the other hand, obstipation is the upgraded version of constipation – it manifests with a complete absence of defecation –in other words, the dog still strains when trying to defecate, but in the case of obstipation, there is no passage of feces, explains veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec.
10 Causes of Constipation in Dogs
To make constipation, and its more severe cousin obstipation, easier to understand, let’s take a closer look at several possible causes.
1) Foreign body ingestion: according to a study, the most common constipation cause in dogs is a foreign body ingestion getting lodged somewhere. This can be a life-threatening condition that warrants urgent veterinary help.
It is therefore important determining whether a dog's constipation is stemming from an intestinal blockage from a foreign object. If your dog ingests non food items such as rawhides, toys, bones, etc. then you should would worry about that.
2) Dietary Indiscretion: this is just a fancy way of saying dogs eat everything they can find, including inedible objects like dirt, wood, gravel, rocks, paper, bones etc. Even if these items don't happen to cause a blockage, consider that stools produced after eating these things can be sharp, hard and painful to pass leading to straining and general discomfort.
3) Low-Quality Diets: more precisely, a lack of fiber from low-quality foods and excess calcium from bones (a main cause of white poop in dogs with a sand-like consistency ) can cause dogs to become constipated.
4) Lack of Exercise – as it happens in people, physical activity is critical for normal bowel movement in dogs, meaning that dogs lacking exercise are at high risk of becoming constipated.
5) Inadequate Water Intake – basically what happens is that, the intestines need water to modify the consistency of the feces before they enter the colon, so reduced water leads to dry, hard to pass stools.
6) Arthritis & Injuries – when a dog presents with inflamed joints and painful conditions of the pelvis, back, and hind legs, they struggle getting into the pooping position.
7) Stress and Anxiety – these are widespread issues in modern dogs and usually manifest with digestive upsets, either diarrhea or the total opposite which is constipation.
8) Certain Medications – several frequently used drugs (for instance, opioids, antihistamines, diuretics) can potentially cause constipation in dogs as a side effect.
9) Mechanical blockages- for instance blocked anal glands or an enlarged prostate gland which may impede the normal passage of stools.
10) Matted fur around the dog's anus- in this case, the mats in the rear area become so tight and intertwined that they as well interfere with the free passage of stools.
These latter problems therefore all work the same way, in other words, they physically block the passage of feces which eventually leads to constipation, further points out Dr. Ivana.
The Issue Behind Traditional Laxatives
The traditional constipation treatment includes laxatives and enemas, but these can be problematic. Let’s see some of the cons of each approach.
Laxatives: although efficient, laxatives fail to tackle the underlying cause of the constipation. Plus, if used too often, they can cause dependence and often trigger abdominal pain as a side effect. It goes without saying that several over-the-counter human laxatives can be toxic and therefore dangerous to dogs.
Enemas: these are relatively invasive or, in other terms, painful procedures. They need to be performed at the vet's office and, more often than not, require sedation.
Plus, there is no guarantee they will work and many over the counter enemas for humans are are made for human physiology which is different than dogs and therefore they are unsafe, points out veterinarian Dr. Loretta.
Mineral oil: An old-fashioned remedy is mineral oil, but there are main risks with this, Many dogs object to its taste and forcefully administering it can cause it to be inhaled accidentally into the dog's respiratory tract which can trigger aspiration pneumonia.
Some commercially prepared products are toxic to pets so it is important that human constipation products, be they enemas or laxatives, not be used in pets without specific veterinary instruction. ~Dr. Wendy Brooks, veterinarian
Top Natural Laxatives for Dogs
All in all, the above info doesn't mean that the use of mainstream laxatives is entirely wrong and that they should not be used. Its just that their use appears redundant when there are natural, simple, and side-effect-free methods of managing some constipation cases in dogs.
Following are several natural laxatives options for dogs.
Pumpkin is the most popular first aid for constipation in dogs. In addition to being rich in insoluble dietary fiber, it adds moisture to the feces. You can use either fresh or canned pumpkin puree (just make sure it is xylitol-free and non-seasoned).
Look for the 100 percent pure pumpkin version, and skip the pumpkin pie filling.
Most dogs will produce a bowel movement within 12 hours of this treatment.
The recommended serving size is around one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight.
Pumpkin is excellent, but there are other veggies with similar constipation managing benefits. For example, if your dog dislikes the pumpkin taste, you can add shredded carrots, zucchini, or green beans to the menu. They are loaded with fiber and will keep your dog hydrated.
3: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can help move things along in the case of doggy constipation. You can try to give a dog 2 teaspoons of coconut oil twice daily as a lubricant for your dog's intestinal tract, suggests veterinarian Dr. Denise Nelson.
4: Bran cereal
Th theory being adding fiber to a dog's diet is the fact that fiber is not absorbed by the intestinal tract and therefore results is a bulkier stool. A bulkier stools provides stronger sensory stimulation to the colon compared to a regular stool which results in improved motility.
Consider adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of wheat bran to your dog's meal, suggests veterinarian Dr. Scott Perry.
5: Increase in Water
As mentioned, dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Make sure your dog has always easy access to fresh water.
To entice its water appetite, you can add a few drops of chicken/beef broth or tuna juice or clam juice in the water.
Also, soaking your dog's food with warm water for 5 minutes before serving can help increase water consumption while also helping soften the stool, suggests veterinarian Dr. Rhett Burch.
For picky drinkers, you can also make a "hot dog infusion" by boiling some low-sodium hot dogs with water and then offering the drink to the dog once cooled down.
6: Canned Food
Offering more canned or soft food can be also helpful since these will be softer on the GI tract and will help further increase fluid intake. Care must be taken though as abrupt dietary changes may trigger the opposite problem, that is, diarrhea.
7: Flax Seeds
There is a reason flaxseed is sold in "healthy food" aisles. Flax is an extremely rich and health-boosting source of dietary fiber.
Not coincidentally, ground flax seed is an ingredient in some natural products sold to firm up dog stools (along with psyllium husk).
The recommended dose is ¼ of a teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight.
Metamucil contains the active ingredient psyllium, which is the husk of plantain seeds. It works similarly to bran cereal in that it adds fiber, however it's important following important guidelines.
When you give a dog Metamucil, it's imperative to ensure the dog receives extra water. To be on the safe side, a dog should be drinking at least 8 ounces of water with each dose of Metamucil.
This is because Metamucil works by pulling extra water into the intestines and when there's is not enough water chances are high that it can actually make a dog's constipation worse. Without enough water, Metamucil may also cause esophageal and intestinal obstruction.
Consult with your vet for proper dosing instructions.
9: Beet Pulp Fiber
Dehydrated beet root powder is found in several dog foods or supplements meant to aid dog digestion and regularity.
According to Research Gate, beet-pulp fiber promotes digestion of nutrients, intestinal motility and it helps firm stools and good bacteria in the large intestine.
In particular, beet pulp accelerates the flow of waste towards the anus and increased the frequency of defecation.
Studies have shown that when dogs were switched to a food rich in beet pulp fiber, the stool volume increased, which is something that is generally considered disadvantageous to many dog owners.
10: Cat Hairball Remedy
This may sound odd, but petroleum-jelly based cat hairball medication such as Laxatone (often sold in pet stores) can help lubricate the dog's gut while facilitating the movement of hard feces out of the rectum.
Should You Give Your Dog Milk for Constipation?
Lately, there has been a tendency to no longer suggest giving a dog milk as a natural laxative. This is due to its laxative effect considering the fact that most dogs are lactose intolerant.
In other words, there is concern that, while milk may help with constipation, it may also wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive system causing a painful abdomen, gas and diarrhea.
While it's true that dogs normally are unable to digest milk and therefore end up often getting diarrhea, in the case of constipation giving some milk can work as a stool softener, explains veterinarian Dr. Peter.
Should You Give Your Dog Aloe Vera for Constipation?
Turns out, aloe vera is listed by the Pet Poison Helpline as toxic to dogs. Ingestion of aloe may lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
The vomiting and diarrhea occurs as a result of the plant's anthraquinone glycosides, which, once ingested, act as purgatives (they encourage bowel movements).
Other signs of toxicity include depression, loss of appetite, changes in urine colors and tremors.
How toxic aloe vera is to dogs turns out to be will vary based on the amount ingested. Caution is needed to prevent problems.
"Unfortunately aloe can actually be toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and cause stomach upset. "~Dr. Whitehead veterinarian
Should You Give Your Dog Miralax for Constipation?
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with a true case of constipation and has ruled out serious underlying causes, you may think of giving Miralax a try.
Miralax to treat dog constipation can be added to a dog's food and it should soften the stool enough to ease a dog's constipation, generally working after about 24 to 48 hours, explains veterinarian Dr. Dan.
Consult with your vet for the exact dosage instructions as they may vary based on your dog's precise circumstances and weight. For general dosages, see the guide on Miralax for dog constipation.
And What About High-Fiber Foods?
Feeding foods rich in fiber is recommended for dogs with constipation. This is where things get tricky though because, even if the dog food manufacturer used high-fiber ingredients, most of the fiber gets destroyed in the kibble processing, explains Dr. Ivana.
When to Call the Vet for Constipation
The natural laxatives reviewed above do wonders when it comes to managing mild and uncomplicated constipation. However, not every constipation episode can be resolved at home.
If your dog has not been able to poop for more than 24 hours or, in addition to constipation, is showing other troublesome symptoms (like vomiting, appetite loss, low water intake, fever), skip the “home-treatment” part and schedule an immediate vet visit, points out Dr. Ivana.
Calling the veterinarian is therefore imperative because some underlying issues are serious, and even if the issue turns out being truly a case of constipation, your vet may have more effective medications such as Lactulose.
4 Vet-Approved Ways to Prevent Constipation in Dogs
Although there are many natural laxatives for dogs, why treat when you can focus on prevention? According to Dr. Ivana, there are 4 simple (and natural) yet efficient ways of preventing constipation in dogs.
1) Feed a High-Fiber & Low-Residue Diet
Dogs need both soluble and insoluble fiber to stay regular, and fruits and veggies are their best source. Also, invest in high-quality dog food that leaves low residues, thus preventing bulk formations in the intestines.
2) Give Probiotic Supplements
Regular use of probiotics is an excellent way to support your dog's gut health and prevent constipation issues. For extra efficacy, most probiotic supplements feature added prebiotics and digestive enzymes too.
3) Provide Constant Access to Drinking Water
As mentioned, dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Make sure your dog has always easy access to fresh water. To entice its water appetite, you can add a few drops of chicken/beef broth or tuna juice in the water.
4) Ensure Regular Physical Activity
Keeping your dog active will keep its bowel movements regular. Exercise or simply walking your dog daily and in accordance with its breed and age requirements can help a lot. Even minor changes in the physical activity regimen can help constipation prevention.
The Bottom Line
Natural laxatives for dogs are an excellent alternative to traditional constipation medications – they are safe, efficient, and free from side effects.
However, it is always advisable to check with your vet before giving your dog a home remedy.
It is also critical to call the vet if your dog’s constipation seems to persist despite all efforts and if accompanied by additional signs and symptoms.
And, of course, as with all health issues, do not forget that prevention is much easier than treatment!