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It’s important to pay attention to what’s going into your dog and what’s coming out—or not coming out.

While many people may worry about diarrhea, you should also notice when your dog isn’t pooping on their normal schedule. If your dog is having trouble pooping or has not pooped as often as they usually do, they could be constipated.

Follow this guide to learn when you should go to the vet, and when you can try home remedies to help your constipated dog.

Know When to Go to the Vet

If your dog is showing severe symptoms of constipation, no home remedies can help. You need to call your vet for an appointment as soon as possible. Constipation can affect a dog’s entire body and cause permanent damage to their gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

If you see these signs, your dog needs to be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible:

If your dog is showing only mild signs of constipation, there are a few remedies that you can try at home to help ease their constipation. Signs of mild constipation include:

  • Straining to poop

  • Taking longer than normal to poop

  • Seeming a little uncomfortable while pooping: walking while in hunched position, vocalizing, panting, looking back at their hind end frequently

  • Producing small amounts of feces that are harder than normal

5 Home Remedies for Mild Dog Constipation

If your dog only has symptoms of mild constipation, and they seem to feel fine otherwise, you can try home treatment.

However, if your dog does not begin to poop normally within a day of starting home treatment, or their constipation becomes a recurring problem, call your veterinarian.

Here are five things you can do to help a mildly constipated dog:

1. Check Your Dog’s Rear End

Take a look at your dog’s bottom—sometimes the problem will be obvious.

Long-haired dogs are at risk for developing mats of fur that can completely cover the anus and make it impossible for your dog to poop. You may find feces stuck in these mats.

You can try removing the mats with electric clippers (not scissors!), but if you aren’t able to, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian or a groomer.

If you see any other abnormalities (anything sticking out of the anus, a tumor, etc.), make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. 

Do not remove any foreign material from your dog’s anus on your own, as this can cause trauma to the rectum or gastrointestinal tract.

2. Increase Your Dog’s Water Intake

Dehydration can cause constipation in dogs because the body responds by reabsorbing as much water as possible from the feces, making it hard and difficult to pass.

Make sure that your dog always has access to fresh water.  Dog water fountains can be helpful to entice dogs to hydrate throughout the day.

This is especially important for dogs that have trouble getting around—due to arthritis or other mobility issues—as they may not feel like making the effort to visit the water bowl. You can try elevated water bowls so your dog doesn’t have to bend down to drink water. Also place multiple water bowls or fountains around your home.

Feeding your dog canned food, and even temporarily mixing in a small amount of extra water, is another simple way to ensure that they are getting enough to drink throughout the day.

3. Go for More Walks

Exercise promotes normal movement within the GI tract. So if your dog is a little blocked up, consider taking them for an extra walk in the morning or afternoon—be sure your dog is well-hydrated first. Short, frequent walks help stimulate movement of feces.

The exercise combined with the smells of other dogs that have “used” the area previously might just do the trick for your constipated dog.

4. Give Your Dog More Fiber

Adding fiber to your dog’s diet can be tricky, since it can help some cases of constipation but worsen others.

It’s best to start with a small amount and monitor how your dog responds. Two safe options are:

  • Canned Pumpkin: Small dogs can get 1 teaspoon mixed in with each meal. Larger dogs can handle up to 1 tablespoon or so. Note: Be sure you’re using plain 100% canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.

  • Psyllium (e.g., unflavored Metamucil): Try giving 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight mixed with a meal once daily to start.

5. Try Probiotics

An over-the-counter probiotic such as Nutramax Proviable or Purina Pro Plan Fortiflora can help reinstitute good bacteria into your dog’s colon.

Can You Give a Dog a Laxative or Enema?

Never give your dog an enema at home unless your veterinarian has recommended a specific product and has shown you how to safely perform the procedure.

Do NOT give your constipated dog a laxative without first speaking to your veterinarian. Many are not safe for dogs, particularly if used under the wrong circumstances.

Also, never give your dog liquid mineral oil to help with constipation. This product can cause severe pneumonia if inhaled.

But if your veterinarian is comfortable doing so, they may recommend that you try giving your mildly constipated dog a gentle laxative at home before making an appointment. Petroleum-based lubricant gels like Laxatone are a good first option. If your dog won’t eat the gel on their own (most are flavored to make them taste good), do not force-feed them. 

Another option is over-the-counter unflavored Miralax powder. Discuss with your veterinarian the amount to add to each meal to avoid dehydration and/or diarrhea.

Featured image: iStock.com/Jacqueline Nix

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