Most dogs pass one or two stools a day. It’s not uncommon, though, for a dog to go a day or two without having a bowel movement. As long as the stools are normal in size and pass easily, it’s no cause for concern.
However, most dogs suffer from constipation at some time or another. For some, it becomes a chronic condition or signals a more serious problem. Luckily, most cases aren’t serious and are easily treated with changes in diet and lifestyle.
A common cause of constipation — especially in middle-aged and older dogs — is not drinking enough water. When your dog’s dehydrated, the colon (which draws water from the waste passing through it) can overcompensate, resulting in harder feces that are more difficult to pass.
Other common causes include:
- Not enough fiber in the diet
- Ingested objects such as rocks, bones, cloth, or garbage
- Worm infestation
- Lack of exercise
- Matted hair blocking the anus
- An underlying medical condition
- Medication to treat another condition
When it’s time to see a vet
- Painful defecation
- Passing blood or mucus
- Straining during defecation
- Weight loss
- Evidence that your dog has chewed splintery bones
With a little extra attention, you can help your dog to get over a run-of-the-mill case of constipation and back on a regular schedule.
- Be sure your dog has lots of water available.
- Add fiber to the diet. You can do this daily if your dog has ongoing constipation, but sometimes a bit of short-term help is all he’ll need to get over the occasional bout. Psyllium fiber, such as Metamucil, works well; ask your vet for the right dose.
- Don’t give your dog animal bones, which contain no fiber and may cause serious complications.
- Add daily walks and other forms of exercise.
- Provide frequent chances for your dog to have a bowel movement.
- Ask your vet about laxatives (never give human laxatives to dogs without first consulting your vet, as complications can occur).
- Add one to two tablespoons of mineral oil to your dog’s food — but only once or twice a week. Daily or frequent use of mineral oil can interfere with the absorption of vitamins.
How to prevent constipation
Many of the treatments for common constipation are also good ways to prevent its occurrence. Fresh water, exercise, and a bit of fiber in the diet are all important to your dog’s digestive health and can help fend off ordinary bouts of constipation.