There is nothing more irritating than fighting against your own body. When you're constipated, that's how it feels: like you are forcing your body to do what it should be doing naturally. When dogs experience this bothersome situation, they can become just as irate. Because constipation is fairly normal across all animals, there are several home remedies for dog constipation.
Dog constipation is rarely serious but it could be dangerous. If your dog's body cannot pass toxic waste, it could end up getting very sick. A bad diet and physical inactivity can lead to constipation. Before we dive into home remedies for dog constipation, let's explore the reasons for an issue with bowel movement.
What is Constipation?
The effects of constipation for dogs is similar to constipation in humans. Constipation can occur in all animals. It refers to the inability to excrete healthy stools on a regular schedule. Most dogs should defecate once or twice a day, although each dog is different. If your dog does not defecate in 24 hours, there might be an issue.
As an owner, you must decide what is normal for your dog. Your dog may go more often than others. A constipated dog will not defecate at all, strain to relieve themselves, or produce rock-hard stools. Complicated bowel movements can also lead to stress.
In severe cases, dogs with constipation may have hard, dry feces that get stuck in their digestive tract. This painful predicament is called obstipation. If your dog is experiencing obstipation, it will not be able to defecate because of blockage.
Dog constipation may be connected to an underlying disease, but oftentimes that is not the case. Disruption in a bowel movement can be caused by dehydration, lack of physical activity, not enough dietary fiber, or medication side effects.
Constipation in Dogs
The causes of constipation and bowel obstruction are plentiful. In order to get to the causes of these issues, let's start with how the body should work normally.
In a normal healthy body, fecal matter travels through the digestive tract and heads to the colon. The colon's job is to reabsorb water and electrolytes from the fecal matter before sending the rest of the unusable parts out for excretion.
According to the American Kennel Club, feces is moved through the colon in a process called “peristaltic waves.” If the process of the peristaltic wave is slowed, the fecal matter will stay in the colon and continue to have all the water extracted from it. If the feces stays too long, it will become hard and dry, making it much harder to excrete. Concretion is the scientific term for hardened feces.
The causes for concretion range from physical inactivity to cancer. Vets classify the causes of concretion based on where the issue occurs inside the digestive tract. Intraluminal refers to blockages inside the colon, extraluminal refers to obstructions originating outside the colon, and intrinsic refers to diseases and nerve injuries.
Sometimes, medical procedures or orthopedic disorders can make it hard for a dog to hunch or squat, prompting constipation as well.
Most Common Causes
Now that we have a good understanding of how healthy body functions and how constipation is classified, let's explore the most common causes. Just like with humans, any diet lacking fiber will lead to constipation. Make sure there is a decent amount of fiber in your dog's diet if it is experiencing constipation.
There are circumstances where fear has also led to constipation. A good example of this is a dog who is punished for defecating in the house being scared to go and subsequently holding its own stool in to avoid punishment.
Dogs also enjoy putting lots of things in their mouth, especially things that aren't food. They don't have thumbs like us, so they cannot pick things up in the same way (although some dogs make great use of their paws to snatch things). Because dogs use their mouths as tools to lift things, there is a good chance non-edible items will end up in their stomach. These items can cause blockages or bowel obstruction if ingested.
Digestive tract tumors, anal gland problems, dehydration or electrolyte imbalances, prostate enlargement, spinal diseases and injuries, stress, metabolic diseases like hypothyroidism, drugs including opiates, diuretics, and some cancer drugs may also cause constipation.
Bowel obstruction is a complete or partial blockage of the gastrointestinal tract that stops food and blood flow to the bowels. This can completely deny healthy bowel movements from taking place. More often than not, it is caused by your dog eating a foreign object. Bowel obstructions are very dangerous and painful for your dog. A vet should be contacted immediately if you believe your dog is suffering from a bowel obstruction.
Symptoms of Dog Constipation
It won't be hard for owners to tell if they have a constipated dog. When a dog is constipated, the first and most obvious symptom is the lack of defecation for over 2 days. Another sign of constipation is if your dog passes hard, dry stools that look like rocks. Typically, your dog will show signs of discomfort and pain when passing these hardened stools.
A dog that is constipated will strain to defecate. Other times, constipation may lead to blood in the stool or tiny stools that do not match up with how much your dog ate. These circumstances are usually very painful. Some of these symptoms, such as discomfort when defecating, can also be a sign of urinary tract infection.
Elderly pets are more likely to struggle with constipation and require more fiber and hydration to keep bowel movements regular.
Prevention of Dog Constipation
Think of preventative measures for constipation in dogs much as you do in humans. Your dog needs exercise, hydration, and fiber. It's important to provide your dog with normal workouts (long walks or runs, doggy park dates, etc.), give it regular potty breaks, and always make sure it drinks enough water (adding a hint of beef or chicken broth to your dog's water will promote more drinking). Try adding some ingredients that are rich in fiber and good for dogs, ensuring a healthy fiber intake will do wonders.
Wheatgerm, kale, broccoli, milled flaxseed, carrots, hemp protein, kelp, canned pumpkin, blueberries, and apples also contain good amounts of fiber. Adding these ingredients to your dog's diet can help prevent constipation. Canned pumpkin, in particular, is a very popular and easy way to boost fiber in your dog's diet.
We cannot preach the benefits of Probiotics enough! They can be used as a daily supplement to help keep a dog's immune system healthy. Probiotics are good for the overall quality of health for dogs, so owners should be implementing them into their dog's diet regardless.
Processed foods are bad for dogs (they aren't great for humans either). Try to avoid giving your dog table food that is heavily processed, such as cereal, cheese, milk, bread, cookies, and potato chips. Processed dog food has the same effect on dogs as junk food has on us, humans.
Most nutrients in kibble, or dry dog food, are lost during processing. This process creates various forms of carcinogens that could be damaging to your dog's long-term health. Speak with your vet about the type of dog food your dog is eating if constipation is a constant problem for your pet.
Home Remedies for Constipation in Dogs
There are various forms of home remedies for constipation in dogs. If your dog is constipated, owners should first make sure their pet has enough fiber in their diet and is properly hydrated. Most of the time, increasing fiber and water will fix the issue within days. An increase in exercise will also do the trick in many cases.
There are cases where the dog is so constipated that water and fiber don't help. If after 3 days of increased fiber and water don't do the trick, owners can add a little oil to the dog's diet. Healthy oils, such as olive oil and organic coconut oil, can lubricate your dog's digestive tract.
Owners can give a small dog 1 teaspoon of oil per 10 pounds of weight, while a large dog can get 1 tablespoon. Mix the oil into the food twice a day. This should help to promote or influence a healthy bowel movement.
Along with other healthy oils, CBD oil is one of our highly recommended home remedies for dog constipation. CBD (or cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid found in large concentrations in hemp plants. It supports the endocannabinoid system (or ECS) by interacting with the body's cannabinoid receptors.
The ECS is what's responsible for regulating the body's main functions. It maintains homeostasis — or overall stability and proper functioning — in almost all mammals. By supporting this system, CBD helps support proper digestion and can help alleviate upset stomachs.
Aside from its ability to support digestion and relieve upset tummies, CBD oil also works to calm your dog's mood, helping them to relax. To help your dog experience the benefits of CBD, try mixing their recommended dose into their food bowl or applying it onto a soft treat or two.
There are no current official dosing recommendations for CBD. But luckily, we at HolistaPet have carefully developed our own dosing guide. We generally recommend 0.25 mg per lb. of body weight for a regular dose or 0.5 mg per lb. of body weight for a stronger dose. To learn more about recommended CBD dosing, visit our handy CBD Dosing Chart.
Emollient laxatives, or "stool softeners," can may also improve the situation. Many emollient laxatives contain docusate, which is an agent that helps to moisten and loosen stool enabling a healthy bowel movement. Owners can find laxatives for constipation at many pet stores.
Psyllium seeds are among the best home remedies for dog constipation. They are a fiber that can help aid diarrhea and constipation. They come in many forms — like cereals, baked goods, powdered dietary supplements, and more — and can be eaten by humans and pups. Once ingested, the seeds absorb water in the digestive tract (specifically, the intestines). They then form a kind of paste that can help normalize stool.
Vets will often recommend psyllium seed supplements if your dog isn't exhibiting other symptoms outside of constipation because they're a great home remedy for mild cases. Generally, it's recommended that you give your dog 1 teaspoon of psyllium per 5 lbs. of body weight.
Ginger and Broth
Ginger has been used in medicine for thousands of years. It has many medicinal properties, which include the ability to relieve upset stomachs. But did you know it can help your dog's constipation, too? If your dog is feeling queasy or experiencing constipation, you can try giving them ginger broth to help. Ginger will help soothe the stomach, while broth will help hydrate your dog and encourage positive bowel movements.
Try mixing a hefty pinch of ginger powder with chicken or beef broth to cook up this home remedy. Alternatively, you can add ginger to your dog's daily diet to help encourage positive digestive functioning. Vets recommend administering no more than 10 - 25 mg per lb. of body weight.
Figs are a great remedy for human constipation, so it's no surprise they're capable of making dogs feel better, too. A 2011 study showed that figs effectively increased stool production for beagles, thus relieving canine constipation. This is because they're so high in fiber. Another benefit of using figs to help relieve constipation is that they're easy to feed to most dogs — not only are they soft, but they're delicious, too!
Since they're so high in fiber, it's important that you only give your dog one or two per week. Too many figs may upset your dog's digestive tract and cause them to experience diarrhea.
Fig plants also contain ficin, which can be unsafe for dogs to ingest in larger quantities. Because of this, it's critical that you only feed your dog washed fig fruits or fig supplements that are specifically made for dogs. You should never feed your dog other parts of the fig plant.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. It has anti-swelling properties, and research has shown that it can help relieve internal and external discomfort. By adding a small amount to your dog's food or water bowl, you can help calm their upset stomach and relieve any irritation caused by their constipation. This relief may help to encourage a positive bowel movement.
It's important that you only give your dog a small amount — you shouldn't administer more than 1 tablespoon per 50 lbs. of body weight, no more than twice a week. While apple cider vinegar has great benefits, it can cause irritation if used too often or if it's not diluted or mixed into another substance before consumption.
Can I Use Milk For Dog Constipation?
Since many dogs are lactose intolerant, some believe that milk is a good home remedy for dog constipation. While it may appear to act as a laxative, using milk is not on the list of home remedies for dog constipation. In fact, it can be counteractive.
Adding milk to your dog's diet can cause them to experience diarrhea and cause them to have more health issues. If you want to try using a laxative to help your dog, it's best to purchase one specifically made for dogs.
What About Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is commonly hailed for being a great sunburn remedy and topical product, but can you use it to help with dog constipation? While aloe vera can trigger diarrhea and regurgitation in dogs, we don't recommend that you use it as a remedy for constipation. It's considered mildly to moderately toxic for dogs and can make them feel worse than they already do when constipated.
Visit Your Vet
Extreme cases of constipation will require medical intervention. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog's constipation is severe. Owners should speak to their vet if the above methods are not working. A vet may need to manually remove hardened feces. In rare cases, surgery is necessary. A vet may also prescribe stronger drugs to block the production of certain enzymes and fix the issue.
Home Remedies For Dog Constipation - Final Thoughts
Dog constipation is both frustrating and painful, and no owner wants to see their pet suffering doing something that should come naturally. Unfortunately, your dog cannot tell you how their stomach feels, but attentive owners should notice if their pet hasn't defecated in two days. A constipated dog is an unhappy dog.
Sometimes, defecation will occur but in tiny hard pebbles that may have trails of blood. Since owners pick up after their pet's stools daily, they should be able to discern whether or not something seems off.
Home remedies for dog constipation typically alleviate the issue without a visit to the vet. The most common issue is dehydration or lack of fiber, and both are problems that are easy to solve. If you notice that none of the above home remedies are working for your pet, please see a vet immediately.