Can Dogs Get Constipated?

Most dogs have a bowel movement on a daily basis. And yes, there are canines who produce more poop than others and also seem to do so much more often than you'd expect. Just like humans, everyone is different and there are no set parameters. But what if there are concerns that your pooch is not defecating enough?  Sure, you’ve been constipated before, but can your dog get constipated, too?

Can Dogs Get Constipated?

YES!

The fact of the matter is that just like any building with plumbing can get a clog, any animal that poops can get constipated. Your dog definitely poops (and poops and poops) so this means your dog can get constipated too. If this happens, remember your four-legger is probably pretty uncomfortable and might benefit from seeing a vet.

Is My Dog Constipated?

If your dog stops pooping for a couple of days, strains to poop, or begins to have much smaller, harder, pellet-like stools, or can only pass small amounts of liquid poop, your dog is probably constipated. Constipation can be caused by a low-fiber diet, dehydration, or obstructions in your dog’s bowels such as kitty litter, a small toy, or a ball. Other causes are side effects of some prescription medicines, a sedentary lifestyle, old age, or something in the environment that has your dog too nervous to poop. There are some more serious causes of constipation such as tumors or diseases, but these are quite rare. Since your vet can’t follow your dog around all day, they will have to depend upon the information you give about the problem. The veterinarian will also likely feel around the dog’s abdomen, do a rectal exam, try to take a stool sample, and may need to do an x-ray or ultrasound to see if something is blocking the bowel. You can learn a lot more about the issue by checking out our guide to Constipation in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Constipation?

Well, this depends on what has caused your dog to get plugged up. If there’s a physical obstruction--ball, avocado pit, toy car--surgery will probably be necessary. But in a lot of cases of constipation in dogs you’ll end up treating it the same way you’d treat yours--more liquid intake, stool softeners or laxatives (made for dogs, not for humans), fiber supplements, enema, or medication that will increase peristalsis (muscle movements that move waste through the intestines). Once you and your vet identify and treat the cause of your dog’s constipation, most dogs have little problem recovering within a few days. Read about the experiences of other dog owners at our guide on Constipation in Dogs.

How is Constipation Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Constipation means pretty much the same thing for dogs as it means for humans, which is an inability or difficulty passing fecal waste out of the body. Whether human or dog, food is supposed to go in the mouth, be digested in the stomach and intestines, and then the waste is supposed to be passed out the rectum. When this system gets a kink in it, it’s no more fun for your dog than it is for you.

  • Think of how you feel when you’re constipated--full, bloated, gassy, uncomfortable. Your dog feels the same way.

  • Just like people, dogs feel best when they’re regular and probably even have a poop routine--usual time, favorite spot.

  • Most of the time, the cause of your dog’s constipation is probably similar to what causes yours--dehydration, low-fiber diet, pain medication.

How is Constipation Different in Dogs and Humans?

While constipation is pretty similar in dogs and people, there are a few differences that might be worth noting.

  • In some cases, the main difference between your dog’s constipation and yours is that hopefully, you are not as likely as your dog to swallow a racquetball, blocking up your system and keeping you from pooping. This means that you need to consider a bowel blockage as a much higher possibility for your dog than it would be for you.

  • It’s easy for you to know if you’re constipated, but your dog is not able to sit down at the kitchen table with you and say, “Mom, I’m having a bit of trouble in the bathroom.” It can be difficult to even realize that your dog is constipated unless you watch your dog every time they go in the backyard.

  • It can also be helpful to know that most dogs have a faster acting gastrocolic reflex than you do. This means that when your dog eats, their expanding stomach triggers a reaction in the intestines that tells them it’s time to clear things out to make some room for what they just ate. That’s why your pooch usually needs to go out about 20 minutes after they eat. This is helpful to know when you’re trying to figure out if your dog is constipated.

Case Study

Your lovable mutt, Max, is a typical dog who poops a couple of times a day. But one day when you’re at the dog park, you notice that he “comes in for a landing” to poop but nothing comes out. When you get home you take him for a walk, walking him by his favorite poop spot, but this time, after straining and straining, all he can produce looks more like a big rabbit pellet than his usual amount. This goes on for a couple of days and eventually he isn’t even interested in eating much. It’s time to call the vet.

When you get to the vet, she feels around Max’s abdomen and can tell that he’s chock full of poop. She decides that it’s not time to do an x-ray yet, but sends you home with some stool softener chews, a bag of high fiber dog food, and the suggestion to add some water to Max’s food to help him rehydrate. You give him some chews immediately and do so again the next day. Even though Max still isn’t very interested in his food, he barks at the back door. You follow him out into the yard and he barely makes it off the patio before he has a bowel movement. At the advice of your vet, you continue to give him chews over the next couple days until he’s back to pooping at his normal time in his normal place.

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