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What to Do If Your Dog Can't Poop?

Typically, dogs defecate one or two times a day.  Once the dog has chosen his spot, he should eliminate completely within 60-90 seconds.  Dogs that are straining to produce a stool for more than two minutes, and fail to produce a stool or produce small, hard feces, may be suffering from constipation. If your dog has not produced a stool in over two days, his condition has progressed from constipation to obstipation, a more serious condition.

Dog constipation remedies

Symptoms of Dog Constipation

  • Straining for over 2 minutes to defecate
  • Hard, dry stools
  • Absent or infrequent stools
  • Scooting
  • Senior dogs tend to have more issues with constipation as they age.

Occasional and chronic constipation, caused by environmental factors, can usually be treated with at-home remedies.  Constipation in combination with excessive licking of the anus, pain, lethargy, inappetence, dehydration or vomiting merits a visit to the vet. If the source of the blockage is physiological, your vet will need to examine him to discover the underlying cause.

Environmental Causes of Constipation

Too much or too little fiber in his diet - Too much fiber can cause diarrhea followed by constipation, as the colon has been stripped of its healthy bacteria and natural mucus coating.
Too little fiber can cause stools to be harder and more difficult to pass through the intestine. Soluble fiber (found in the meat of oats, whole grains, fruits, beans, legumes and nuts) allows more water to remain in the dog’s stool, making feces softer, larger, and easier to pass through the intestines.

Insoluble fiber (found in the skins of fruits and vegetables and the husks of oats and grains) adds bulk to fecal material, which hastens its passage through the gut, sweeping away fecal matter as it passes. Often this fiber looks the same coming out as it did going in, since it is not digestible.

Lack of exercise – Exercise reduces the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the digestive system, permitting less water to be absorbed by the body from the waste as it passes. When excess water is absorbed by the body, the stool becomes dry and hard and difficult to pass.

Excessive self-grooming  - Excessive grooming can cause large amounts of hair to collect in the stool, creating a clog in the intestinal tract. In cats, this issue is cause for hairballs being thrown up. In both instances a lubricant such as olive oil, fish oil or coconut oil taken oral with food, can help loosen the blockage.

Ingested rocks, bones, clay, sticks or pieces of toys or toy stuffing caught in the intestinal tract - If this is suspected, a trip to the vet is immediately advised. Sharp objects can perforate the intestines, while blockages from stuffing can cause parts of the intestine to infect or die.

Side effect of medication or post-surgery recovery – Some antibiotics can cause diarrhea followed by constipation. Some pain medications slow the intestinal tract, thereby causing constipation. Pre-operative dogs usually fast for 12 hours prior to surgery and often abstain from eating and drinking many hours post operatively, resulting in an empty, dry tract.

Dehydration – Dehydration can be caused by excessive exercise in high temperatures or an underlying illnesses. If your dog has pale gums that feel tacky to the touch and he does not want to drink water, you need to visit the vet.  He can provide subcutaneous floods to immediately rehydrate your dog, and examine him for underlying conditions.

Physiological Causes of Canine Constipation

Blocked or abscessed anal sacs – Impacted anal glands make it very painful for your dog to poop.  Symptoms of impacted sacs include constipation, excessive licking and scooting the anus across carpets and grass. A short visit to your vet can provide immediate relief for your dog. They can quickly express the anal sacs; in the case of an infection, you will receive antibiotics.  Left untreated the sacs could rupture, causing a more serious condition.

Orthopedic problem that causes pain - When a dog positions himself to defecate, such as spinal arthritis or hip dysplasia.

Neurologic disorder

Hypothyroidism - A condition that can cause constipation. It is frequently accompanied by thinning of coat, excessive shedding, lowered tolerance for exercise and weight gain. Onset is typically at 4-6 years of age.

Enlarged prostate gland or prostate cancer – In cases of prostatitis, the prostate can make it painful to pass a stool, stifling the urge to eliminate.

Masses or tumors on the anus or within the rectum, causing an obstruction

Abdominal Cancers - Cancers such as Hemangiosarcoma can cause constipation late in stages of their development.  Usually is is accompanied by other symptoms, such as abdominal distension, lethargy and inappetence. 


What to Do If Your Dog Can’t Poop? Home Remedies

Occasional Constipation

If your dog appears and acts normal in all other respects, you can begin treating his constipation with these natural remedies.  Be careful not to overdo it by flooding him with these treats and treatments.  These initial remedies are intended to address constipation that arises from too little moisture and fiber in the colon which cause small hard stools.

Milk - Many dogs are lactose intolerant. For immediate relief, offer a couple of teaspoons, for small dogs or tablespoons, for medium and large dogs, which may quickly have the desired effect.  Once your dog has pooped, its a good idea to follow up with the same amount of yogurt or kefir. The lactose in these products has been reduced in the fermentation process, and will help rebalance the bacteria in the tract.

Add canned pumpkin to his food - Pumpkin his high in fiber and will add moisture to his kibble.  Pumpkin is one of the most nutritious foods; it is low in calories and high in both soluble and insoluble fiber plus dogs love it.
Add yogurt or kefir with active bacteria to his food -  The probiotics present in these dairy products will help add moisture and regain the natural balance of the bacteria in the colon. This is especially helpful for dogs who have had surgery and been on antibiotics and pain management medication.
Allow him to digest for 45 minutes, then go for a 15 minute walk to speed up the digestive process.

Probiotics can help improve gut health, and are highly recommended for dogs with food allergies and irritable bowel symptoms.  Probiotic Premium Plus has the highest customer satisfaction rating.

Chronic or Frequently Recurring Constipation

Frequent Anal Sac Blockages – Once your dogs has been treated by a vet, he should not require having his anal glands expressed again for a year or more.  If you see your dog frequently scooting, and he does not appear to need a cleaning there, he may have a predisposition to anal sac blockages. 

You can minimize future impactions by adding insoluble fiber to his diet in the form of raw carrots or sweet potato.  A medium or large dog can enjoy a full raw carrot or one third of a sweet potato.  The chunks of vegetable will natural express the glands as they pass them, essentially undigested, in their stools.  For smaller dogs, cut the vegetable into chunks or large shreds.

Irritable Bowel – If your dog is experiencing bouts of diarrhea followed by constipation, a good canine probiotic may help even things out. Probiotics can help with a number of skin and yeast conditions as well. Probiotic Premium Plus is the highest rated probiotic, and it is made in the USA.  Pet owners cite its ability to improve digestive issues such as constipation, loose stool, gas and skin and coat conditions. 

Excessive Self-Grooming – Excessive grooming can be the result of boredom or an allergy.  Dogs can be allergic to fertilizers and pesticides they encounter on walks, or they can develop a food allergy. Symptoms of a food allergy include stomach upsets, yeasty ear infections, excessive licking of paws and arms and stomach areas.  

Dogs who have eaten the same kibble year after year can spontaneously develop allergies to some of those ingredients.  In these instances, their body’s immune system has begun to attack that ingredient as an enemy to the body in the intestinal tract. Changing the diet to a new main protein with new supporting carbohydrates can help.  Adding a good probiotic can improve the balance of the gut and immune system as a whole. Fish oil, an anti-inflammatory, can help reduce the symptoms of allergies.
Senior Dog Constipation - Just as humans do, dogs experience more issues with constipation as they age.  Senior dog foods address this by increasing the fiber in their formulas.  You can also add a fish oil supplement which will act as a lubricant for both his intestines and joints. High quality fish oils are anti-inflammatory, and can aid with many age related disorders.

fish oil supplement to improve dog gut health
Fish oil supplements can soften stools naturally and reduce inflammation caused by food and environmental allergies.  Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet Oil Supplementis the purest producer of fish oil supplements, this can be poured on kibble to improve its taste.

Can You Give Your Dog a Laxative?

Human laxatives can be toxic to cats and dogs, so they should never be employed with pets.  If milk does not work to loosen the stool, there are canine specific laxatives and canine enemas.  Enemas should only be used with vet approval, if the condition is the result of a tumor, and enema can do more harm to the colon.

Stool Softeners and Enemas – Only canine specific stool softeners and enemas should be used.  NaturVet makes a soft chew product called Stool Ease, that is palatable and effective.   The active ingredients include a proprietary blend of sugar beet pulp, pumpkin powder, psyllium husks and dandelion root powder.

If the cause of your dog’s constipation is the result of a medication, your vet may prescribe or recommend one of these remedies. It is not advised to attempt this at home if the cause of the constipation has not been determined. 

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