Just like humans, dogs can become constipated. It may seem
like a relatively mild condition, but if left untreated, constipation in dogs
can lead to much more serious health problems. Veterinarians have been
researching remedies for canine constipation for several years, and have made
some useful advances in treating this condition. There are many identified
causes of constipation in dogs, most of which are able to be treated by better
lifestyle habits and attentive health care.
How to Identify
Constipation in Your Dog
Constipation is a condition that can be defined by a visible
difficulty in your dog's bowel movements. If you have a dog that lives
primarily indoors, and requires supervised bathroom visits outside, you will
be able to identify this condition almost immediately after its onset. If you
have a dog that spends a lot of time outdoors, you may not recognize this
condition for quite some time since you will not be with him every moment. As
a responsible dog owner, it is your duty to a keep constant watch over your dog’s
health and well-being. Be sure to pay attention to any changes in your dog’s
attitude or behavior, as these may be symptoms of existing health problems.
A constipated dog will be very uncomfortable, and will most
likely let you know. Early signs are very important for discovering if your
dog is suffering from constipation. Most dogs are intelligent enough to give
their owners some visible clues that something is wrong.
Possible signs of
constipation in your dog may include:
- Straining while going to the bathroom, and staying
in the “pooping position” (both back legs are bent, with the
rear close to the ground) for a significant amount of time
- Excessive whining and shuffling in circles
- Not be able to make normal bowel movements,
and may even excrete a watery substance that can be mistaken for
- Difficulty walking
- Refusal of food
- Hemorrhoids: painful, swollen
veins in your dog's rectal area that can make treatment of this
condition much more difficult
Diet and Constipation in Dogs
Constipation is usually 100% preventable. Many of the known
causes of constipation are due to an inadequate dietary intake of liquids,
poor or low fiber diets, or dysfunctional digestive enzymes. The primary
cause of constipation is excessive water absorption by the large intestine that
is recycled into the bloodstream. However, this does not
necessarily mean that drinking excess water will prevent constipation in your
dog. This is a very common misconception, as many people think that
constipation is directly related to low water intake.
Most dogs will have normal bowel movements when adequately
hydrated, and drinking too much water will not make any difference. Although dehydration
can lead to constipation, the best preventive measure is to feed your dog high-quality
dog food. Over-processed dog foods are difficult to digest, and can be very
hard on your dog's digestive system. A high-nutrient, high-fiber diet,
combined with a regular exercise routine, is the best way to ensure that your
dog remains constipation-free.
DO NOT feed your
dog commercial laxatives! Human medicine is not designed to be used on pets,
unless specifically directed to do so by a veterinarian. Doing so may result
in much more serious problems for your pet. Constipation is a health problem
that can be easily prevented, and there are many treatment options available
for dogs with this condition.
Primary Causes Of Constipation
Dehydration is the cause that is most commonly associated with
constipation. When your dog is dehydrated, the colon absorbs more fluid from
the waste being passed through the intestines. This results in dry, hard
stools, and can greatly contribute to constipation in your dog. However,
constipation can only be treated with an increase in drinking water if the
condition is specifically caused by an inadequate supply of fresh drinking
water. If there are other contributing causes to your dog’s
constipation, simply increasing water intake will not cure your dog's condition;
this is a very common misconception.
Dogs are very active, and most dogs love to play. However,
many rambunctious dogs chew on objects that are not meant for ingestion. Such
objects can include: rubber balls, sticks, shoelaces, paper clips, and
plastic bags. If you are a dog owner, odds are that you are already familiar
with your dog's oral fixation on non-food items and inanimate objects.
Just like with small children, it’s important to keep a
close eye on your dog and what he puts in his mouth at all times. Many dogs that
are suffering from constipation have ingested indigestible objects, which can
cause blockages in the small and large intestines. Sometimes, this can be remedied
with at-home care, while other dogs may require surgery or invasive
procedures to remove the foreign object.
3. Poor Quality Food
An extremely common cause of constipation in dogs is often
cheap, low-quality dog food. Many pet owners do not understand the importance
of carefully choosing the best food for their dog. As a result, many dogs are
fed highly processed, inexpensive dog food that can cause many digestive
issues. Recently, it has been suggested that a high percentage of processed
grains can also lead to constipation in dogs. Highly processed grains do not
retain much of their natural fiber, and can be difficult for a canine
digestive system to process.
Lower-quality dog food is often subjected to harsh
preservatives and chemical dyes. Some dog food is also allowed to have a
certain percentage of "ash", which is a byproduct of dog food
ingredients cooked at high temperatures. As well as having a negative effect
on your dog's digestive system, ash has been linked to many other canine
All of these substances may cause constipation, as well as
negative effects on your dog's overall health. As a dedicated pet owner, it
is your responsibility to give your dog the highest quality food that you can
Just like humans, exposure to stressful situations can cause
direct negative effects on your dog's physical health. If your dog is
constipated, it may be a temporary condition brought on by excessive
environmental stress. A dog under significant stress may not fully digest its
food, which will result in a larger percentage of the food intake being
expelled as waste.
This excess of food waste can cause congestion in a dog's
large intestine, which then causes constipation. Dogs under significant
stress are also prone to muscle tension, which can inhibit the proper passing
of stools. Stress-induced constipation can be a temporary condition, or, in
more serious cases, may require medical care.
5. Low Fiber Intake
This is the most widely known cause of constipation in dogs.
A dog that is lacking sufficient dietary fiber has a much higher likelihood for
constipation. Fiber absorbs a large amount of water during digestive
processing, and combines with waste material to form much softer stools. It
is extremely important to make sure your dog is getting a sufficient amount
of fiber. Another benefit of fiber, as well as helping to prevent
constipation, is that it helps maintain a proper weight for your dog. A high
fiber diet can help prevent your dog from over-eating, and maintain a healthy
weight as well as proper digestion.
As with any condition, prevention is always the best measure.
If you are diligent in caring for your dog, the odds of health related issues
greatly decrease. This is also true in respect to constipation, and there are
several things that you can do to help prevent this condition.
Dogs that have a sedentary lifestyle are much more likely to
suffer from constipation. Exercise is important for overall health, and can
be a large part of preventing your dog from becoming constipated. When your
dog leads an active life, waste is able to move more freely through the
bowels. Exercise has also been proven to improve digestion, as well as
promote thorough expulsion of waste. When it comes down to it, there is no
excuse to not exercise your dog! Exercising your dog is also a great way to
bond, and can help you to become healthier as well.
2. High Fiber Diet
A very important preventive measure against constipation is maintaining
an adequate supply of fiber in your dog’s diet. Fiber is a very
important supplement for proper digestion, as it can absorb water and help make
your dog's stools easier to pass. It can also help your dog maintain a
healthy weight by preventing overeating. However, too much fiber can cause
diarrhea, as well as preventing the absorption of some vitamins and minerals.
A healthy dog should consume between 2.5-4.5% of their diet in fiber. More
fiber can be added temporarily if your dog seems to be suffering from
constipation, but this should be used mainly as a preventive measure.
3. Adequate Hydration
Although drinking an excess of water will not cure
constipation, the cause of some cases of constipation is dehydration. This is
because the colon absorbs a set amount of water before waste is processed in
the intestines. If there is not enough water to supplement the colon, the
stool becomes hard and dry. Your dog will instinctively know how much water
they require, so be sure to always have fresh water available. It's
recommended to change your dog's water once per day.
4. Low-Grain Pet Food
Your dog's digestive system is designed for a high-nutrient,
high protein diet. Recent studies have suggested that a high grain diet is
not easily processed by canine digestive systems. A meat-and-vegetable
approach to dog food has been growing in popularity, as many companies are offering
grain-free or low-carb dog food. This can be a good
preventive measure, as better digestion of food will lower the chances of
your dog becoming constipated.