If your dog can’t poop every once in a while, that’s not really uncommon. Constipation affects dogs just like it does humans. So, what can you do to help? Do you need to change the brand of dog food your canine companion is eating? Is constipation a sign that something’s wrong with your dog’s health?
Let’s take a look at a few common causes of constipation, and whether or not it can lead to health problems for your pet down the road.
Constipation – The Basics
Constipation happens because your dog can’t produce feces as they normally would. Just like humans, dogs tend to have a regular schedule when they do their business. Most of the time, this is once or twice per day — but this gets turned on its head when constipation hits.
One type of constipation is called intraluminal constipation. It happens because something inside your dog’s GI tract, or gastrointestinal tract, is blocking the movement of feces through the bowels. There’s also extraluminal constipation occurs due to a blockage outside the colon, and a third type of constipation, intrinsic constipation, is caused by certain ailments or nerve injuries.1
How Waste is Supposed to Move Through a Dog’s GI Tract
There are a lot of reasons why a dog may not “go” after they eat. You see, when the digestive system is working as it should, food moves smoothly through your dog’s GI tract. Then, the body does its job of taking in water and electrolytes from their food, and it glides through the large intestine and finally gets eliminated.
This bowel movement process is known as peristalsis. But if peristalsis is interrupted for some reason, stool can harden and dry out. If this happens, you’ll see signs of constipation, such as straining to defecate.2
What are the Causes of Constipation in Dogs?
In many instances, a dog’s diet plays a big role in their inability to eliminate waste. For example, if there isn’t enough fiber in their food, they might not be able to go potty.
Older dogs tend to be at a higher risk for constipation, since they typically don’t get as much exercise as a younger pup. This can slow down peristalsis, making harder for a dog to poop. Medications and dehydration may also result in constipation.3
Enlarged Prostate and Constipation
One of the culprits behind constipation that most pet owners don’t think of is an enlarged prostate. Yes, this can happen to dogs, just like it does in humans. This is more likely to affect older dogs (eight years old or older) who are not neutered.
The good news is that, in most instances, an enlarged prostate is usually harmless. There are, however, rare cases where an enlarged prostate can cause dog health problems.
If you notice your dog can’t poop, or any of these other symptoms, you may want to get them to the vet to be checked out:
- Feces in the shape of a ribbon
- Bloody urine
- Pain during defecation or urination
- Pain while walking (moving in a stiff fashion or taking shorter steps than normal)4
Signs of Constipation
A lot of signs are associated with constipation in dogs. The most obvious sign is that your dog hasn’t pooped in a couple of days. One common sign is poop that is extremely hard and dry.
Straining to defecate without producing much in the way of waste is another indication. There’s actually a name for this – tenesmus. A dog experiencing tenesmus will usually only produce a tiny amount of diarrhea. There may also be blood mixed in.5
If your pet scoots their anus on the ground, they could be finding it difficult to have a bowel movement. Walking in a circular motion or crying out when trying to poop could also signal constipation.
Vomiting due to common digestive problems such as indigestion might also be a sign. If constipation is severe, it can sometimes lead to dehydration.6
Ways to Help Relieve Constipation
Pet parents have a lot of options when it comes to helping a dog that can’t poop. Just remember that all dogs may react differently. Some options will help them feel better, while others might not have any effect. And remember to see your vet before trying anything.
Turns out, lots of dogs love pumpkin. They enjoy the smell and especially the taste. That’s great news because pumpkin is also great for helping to relieve constipation.
It’s packed with fiber as well as moisture, helping to promote regular bowel movements. It’s been shown to be helpful with diarrhea too, since it helps to make feces firmer.7
If your vet says it’s OK, try to get your dog out and about more often.
Regular exercise could help stimulate regular pooping. If the body’s moving, the bowels could begin moving too.
There could even be a psychological component as well. If you take your dog for a walk in a spot where another dog has recently pooped, it could trigger a “poop thought” in your pet’s mind.8
Changing Dog Food
What your dog eats could have an effect on bowel movements. If your dog eats dry kibble, you may want to consider mixing some wet food into their food for a little while. The moisture in the food could stimulate pooping. Herbs such as olive oil and ginger may also work.9
You might be thinking of trying other solutions such as organic apple cider vinegar, or switching your dog raw food — but it’s best to consult your vet before you try any of these yourself.
How to Help with Dehydration in Dogs
Constipation can cause serious issues in your dog, like dehydration. Dogs, just like all other mammals, need water for a lot of reasons. It helps to keep internal organs cushioned, aids digestion, lubricates joints, and much more.
Water also helps the cells in your dog’s body absorb the nutrients from the food they eat, but dogs can lose water in a lot of different ways.
They could lose water from panting, urination, and by sweating through their paws.
To keep an eye out for dehydration, look for signs like a loss of appetite, loss of skin elasticity, excessive panting, a dry nose, and lethargy.10
To help keep your dog from becoming dehydrated, make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water throughout the day. If you have any reason to believe your pet is suffering from dehydration, get to the vet as soon as you can.
Dog Can’t Poop? Don’t Ignore It
Although constipation is usually not serious, you don’t want to ignore it. It could be due to your dog’s diet, a lack of exercise, or something else. If it lasts for more than a day or two, take your pup to the vet to see what’s going on.
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