Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from constipation. For some, it may happen on a one-off occasion and they can recover on their own, while others seem to have an easier time getting an upset stomach every now and then. In this article, we will take a closer look at the causes behind constipation in dogs, common symptoms and treatment, as well as how it can be prevented.
What is the cause of constipation in dogs?
A common cause of temporary constipation in dogs is that they have eaten a large amount of hard-to-digest food. The food swells in the intestine and absorbs a lot of liquid, which causes the passage to stop. It can also make the dog dehydrated and, in turn, make it even more difficult for the feces to pass through the intestine.
Other causes of constipation can be pain or osteoarthritis in the back and hips that make it difficult for the dog to sit down and poop, foreign objects stuck in the intestine, intestinal parasites, dehydration, inactivity or incorrect diet. Certain diseases, such as enlarged prostate, tumor in the abdomen, or problems with the thyroid gland can also cause constipation as a symptom.
What symptoms does the dog show when constipated?
Constipation means that stool has difficulty passing through the intestine. This can be shown by the dog sitting and trying to poo without anything coming, or having to sit and poop for a long time and only passing out small amounts of hard and dry faeces. Other symptoms may be that the dog has not pooped for a long time and also shows fatigue, possibly vomiting and a sore and tense stomach. The dog may also find it difficult to calm down or can be anxious.
When should you seek veterinary care?
A mild constipation can pass on its own, or with preventive treatment, which we will return to below. If the dog has severe symptoms, or recurrent constipation despite preventive measures, the dog should be examined by a veterinarian.
Can constipation be prevented in dogs?
It is possible to prevent constipation in the dog, and for a dog that is easily constipated, small adjustments can be enough to get the stomach in better condition, if it is otherwise healthy.
Feed with a balanced feed with healthy dietary fibres
Dietary fiber fulfills several functions in a feed, one of which is to contribute to normal bowel movements and transit time of the feed. Our complete food for adult dogs and puppies contains natural, healthy dietary fibers from beetroot and brewer's yeast, which contribute to good stool quality. They also contain prebiotics to support a healthy intestinal flora and nourish the intestinal cells. If your dog's food does not contain enough fiber, it can also be added in the form of supplements, such as psyllium seed.
Make sure the dog gets plenty of fluids
Lack of sufficient water can make the stool hard and difficult to pass, as the intestine then absorbs more liquid from the food passing through. Most dogs can regulate their fluid intake well on their own, but if you have a dog that is easily constipated, it's good to make sure it always gets enough fluid. That your dog always has access to clean water is of course number one, but it can also be good to soak the dog's food, or replace some of the dog's dry food with wet food instead.
Exercise is good for a multitude of reasons, but regular movement is also good for the stomach. Take your dog on regular walks and out and play and move! Physical activity helps stimulate bowel movements and can be helpful. To keep the dog in good body condition also prevents many other diseases.
Avoid hard-to-digest food
Avoid feed with a high content of bones, or giving the dog too many bones to chew on. These cannot be digested and instead risks stuffing up in the intestine. Also make sure that the dog does not get access to hard-to-digest food such as horse feed or seeds, or ingest large amounts of dry food.
Constipation or an upset stomach are common problems that can affect dogs. By providing the right diet, ensuring adequate fluid intake and promoting exercise, you can help your dog prevent and treat constipation. If the problem persists or if your dog shows serious symptoms, it is important to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
For more tips on how to keep your dog healthy, read our top tips on how to give your pet a long and healthy life.
Sources and further reading
Moreno AA, Parker VJ, Winston JA, Rudinsky AJ. Dietary fiber aids in the management of canine and feline gastrointestinal disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2022 Oct 26;260(S3):S33-S45. doi: 10.2460/javma.22.08.0351.