By The Farmer's Dog | October 27, 2017

Your dog’s digestive system is tough – it can handle everything from raw meat to animal bones and the occasional bite of grass. There are times, however, when something goes awry and your dog’s digestive system stops working as smoothly as it should. 

Constipation is a condition characterized by difficult, infrequent, or completely absent bowel movements. Dogs are normally very regular, producing stools once or twice a day, but they are just as prone to digestive difficulties as humans. Here is what you need to know about constipation in your dog. 

What Causes Constipation in Dogs?

Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems seen in dogs and is typically easy to diagnose. Some of the most common symptoms of constipation include:

1. Forceful but ineffective attempts to defecate
2. Small, hard, or dry stools Redness or swelling around the anus
3. Discharge from the anus after defecating
4. Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
5. Lethargy or depression
6. Pain when defecating
7. Scooting the bottom on the floor

If your dog hasn’t had a bowel movement in more than a day or two, it is a sure sign of constipation. But what exactly leads to constipation?

There are a variety of causes ranging from inadequate fiber content in your dog’s diet to dehydration. Constipation can also be caused by an enlarged prostate gland, excessive self-grooming, injury or trauma to the pelvis, and various neurological disorders. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or the result of an intestinal blockage.

What Can You Do About It?

Mild cases of constipation in dogs typically resolve themselves with time, but more severe cases may require intervention. If your dog has only been constipated for a day or two, something as simple as stirring a little canned pumpkin (the human-grade variety is perfect!) into his food can provide a boost of fiber that might get things moving again. Increasing your dog’s water intake or switching to a fresh food diet with natural moisture can help as well.

If neither of these relieve your dog’s constipation, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about a stool softener, laxative, or other medication to help get your dog’s digestion back on track. In some cases, an enema might become necessary to evacuate the bowel, but this is definitely not something you should try at home.

How Do You Prevent Constipation?

Older dogs are more likely to develop constipation because their bowel activity naturally decreases with age. If your dog doesn’t drink a lot of water, he is also at risk for developing constipation. So, how do you prevent your dog from becoming constipated?

The best thing you can do is feed your pup a healthy, high-quality diet that includes fresh, real food. Make sure your dog’s diet has plenty of protein and healthy fats as well as digestible carbohydrates for dietary fiber. You may also want to consider supplementing with probiotics to help ensure healthy and regular digestion.

Though constipation is usually a short-lived problem that resolves itself with time, chronic or prolonged constipation is not something you should ignore. If your dog exhibits severe signs of digestive distress or discomfort, take that tummy to the vet.

Image: @trinity.approved