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What is Constipated?

When a dog is constipated it means that they are not able to produce normal stools regularly. Dogs will generally defecate once or twice each day. If your dog is constipated, they will strain to go, have very hard stools or no stool at all. 

Constipation occurs when fecal matter is not properly moving through the colon and extra moisture from the fecal matter is lost. The loss of the extra moisture will cause the fecal matter to become dry, hard and very difficult to pass. 

Your dog may be constipated for a number of reasons including:

  • Activity level
  • Diet 
  • Tumors
  • Anal gland issues
  • Dehydration
  • Medications
  • Physical impairment
  • Surgery

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Why Constipated Occurs in Dogs

Activity Level

Dogs that are more active are less likely to become constipated. If your dog is a couch potato, it is time to get them out and moving. This will allow their digestive tract to function properly and move the fecal matter through the colon. As your dog ages and their activity levels decrease, take the extra time to make them exercise. 


Dogs do require a diet that has enough fiber to help their digestive tract stay active. Commercial dog foods that are high in dietary calcium such as bone meal will contribute to constipation and cause hard, dry feces. Also, dogs will find almost anything to eat such as rocks, hair, toys, kitty litter, or sticks. These foreign objects can cause abnormal fecal matter or movement. Blockages can also occur, causing your dog to be unable to defecate. 


Digestive tract tumors or even tumors that are located in the pelvic region can cause your dog to become constipated. These tumors can create a blockage that does not allow the fecal matter to pass, or it allows a very small amount of feces to pass with an excessive amount of straining.

Anal Gland Issues

Dogs that are prone to anal gland issues can also be prone to constipation. If your dog needs their anal glands expressed often, you will need to closely monitor your dog’s fecal output.  


Dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance can cause your dog’s feces to become very hard and difficult to pass. Always offer plenty of clean, cool water for your dog throughout the day. This helps keep them from becoming dehydrated and constipated.


Some medications can cause your dog to become constipated. Consult with your veterinarian about the side effects of medications that have been prescribed to your dog. Medications that are known to cause constipation include antihistamines, opiates, diuretics, certain antacids and some cancer drugs.

Physical Impairment

There may be some type of physical impairment that is causing your dog to be unable to defecate. Physical impairments can be spinal diseases or injuries, orthopedic disorders or central nervous system disorders that make it very hard for your dog to squat or hunch their back to move the feces out of the colon and body.


Surgical procedures can cause your dog to become constipated, anesthesia and pain medications such as opiates can cause your dog’s feces to become hard and almost impossible for your dog to defecate without medical intervention.

What to do if your Dog is Constipated

Most cases of mild to moderate constipation, meaning that the problem has just started within a day or two, can be treated by trying a few home remedies. Always speak with your veterinarian before trying any home remedy to ensure that it is safe for your dog. Not every remedy will work for your dog and you need to be certain of the amount to give your dog. 

Feeding your dog pumpkin may loosen up their bowels and allow them to defecate without having to strain. Pumpkin is high in moisture and in fiber and it also has a pleasing taste to most dogs. Ginger, wheat bran and olive oil may also help. Canned dog food has an elevated moisture content that may help regulate your dog’s bowel movements. Giving plenty of clean, fresh water and/or an electrolyte supplement may also help your dog have normal, regular bowel movements. 

You will want to actually take your dog to see your veterinarian when it has been a few days since your dog has had a bowel movement or if you notice severe straining and hard, pebble-like feces being expelled. When you visit your veterinarian, bring a stool sample with you if your dog was able to defecate. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and determine the cause of their constipation. Once a diagnosis has been made, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you. 

Prevention of Constipated

Sometimes constipation is unavoidable. However, there are measures you can take to help keep your dog’s digestive tract moving smoothly and help prevent severe constipation from occurring. Feed your dog a balanced diet that has plenty of fiber. Be sure to provide plenty of clean, fresh water throughout the day.

Cost of Constipated

Depending on your demographic and the severity of the constipation, treatments can range from $120 to $5000. The average national cost for constipation treatment in dogs is $2200.