There many reasons why dogs can struggle to poop. Constipation and other issues related to waste removal can be caused by malnutrition, dehydration, metabolic diseases, or in some cases, even intestinal obstruction.
How Can We Help?
To help you understand why your dog could be struggling to poop, we have provided this straightforward guide on constipation-related issues in dogs. We will explain some of the common causes of constipation, so you can help your struggling dog feel its best.
Before we get started, it is worth mentioning that you should always schedule an appointment with a veterinarian right away if you notice your dog is regularly struggling to poop. One of the easiest ways to speak with a professional is to book a virtual vet appointment with Hello Ralphie. Our online vets can speak with you from the comfort of your own home. During a consultation, our virtual vets can help you narrow down the potential cause of your dog’s constipation, as well as provide you with some tips and tricks you can use to avoid constipation issues in the future!
The Most Common Causes of Constipation in Dogs
1. Lack of Dietary Fiber:
The most common cause of constipation in dogs is a lack of fiber in the dog’s diet. Dietary fibers contain substances that are resistant to the digestive enzymes that help break food down so it can be absorbed. Just as with humans, dietary fiber is necessary for digestion and waste removal, as it helps with the formation of healthy, solid stool.
Without enough fiber in the diet, the dog’s digestive system will struggle to form solid waste, which means its poop will either be runny, too small, or it will struggle to poop altogether and become blocked up. Dietary fiber helps keep food in the digestive system longer, which means when a diet lacks enough fiber, the food the dog ingests will spend less transit time in the intestines. Not only can this result in less absorption of nutrients from the food the dog consumes, but the resulting stool can also be unhealthy and ill-formed, which often means constipation.
Diets that are too high in certain minerals, such as calcium, can also be low in dietary fiber. This is why many dogs that have diets high in bone meal and bone shards struggle with constipation.
What Can You Do?
An easy and inexpensive way to help with your dog’s diet-related constipation is to simply add a high-quality source of soluble dietary fiber to its current food. Great sources of soluble fiber include canned pumpkin, dog-specific fiber supplements, as well as fiber supplements that are marketed for humans, like Metamucil.
A Hello Ralphie virtual veterinarian can explain how much fiber your specific breed requires, as well as recommend some healthy fiber sources that can help your dog. In more ongoing and long-term situations, you may want to consider changing your dog’s food altogether by choosing a brand that has a much higher fiber content. Again, one of our virtual veterinarians can provide a nutrition consultation and fiber analysis on your dog’s food. From there, they will be able to recommend some diets that are proven to be beneficial for dogs that are more prone to constipation issues.
In addition to feeding your dog a diet with appropriate fiber content, it is also very important that your dog stays hydrated! Adequate water intake and proper hydration is absolutely essential when it comes to forming healthy stool, as well as maintaining a normal bowel movement schedule.
Dehydrated stool is small, hard, and very difficult to pass. Not only is the stool difficult to get rid of, but it will also move through the gastrointestinal tract correctly. This predisposes dogs to constipation and can cause a backup of stool inside the colon. These issues can result in discomfort while pooping and if the issue is bad enough, your dog will actually be in a significant amount of pain.
What Can You Do?
Make sure your dog always has access to clean drinking water. You can also provide other sources of moisture if you think it is not drinking water enough, like giving your dog ice cubes to chew.
Canned wet foods also have a higher moisture content than dry kibbles and can be a great way to add water to the dog’s diet. Speak with one of our Hello Ralphie online vets for more information about how to increase the amount of water your dog is taking in each day.
3. Obstruction Issues:
If your dog has not pooped in 48 hours, they could potentially be suffering from some sort of blockage or obstruction inside their digestive tract. These issues are considered serious medical emergencies. If you suspect this could be the case with your dog, it is highly recommended that you schedule an appointment with one of our online vets immediately.
Our virtual veterinarians will be able to help you determine if there is a risk of gastrointestinal obstruction. Your dog may have an obstruction if they have a history of eating non-food items, like swallowing parts of their toys, swallowing sticks and other objects, or licking and chewing their own fur (over-grooming). Clinical signs of obstruction can include lethargy, vomiting, inappetence, and more. In some cases that involve gastrointestinal obstruction, the only way to relieve the obstruction is through surgery. Speak with one of our Hello Ralphie online veterinarians for advice on what to do if you suspect that your dog has an obstruction.
4. Various Medical Issues:
Other causes of constipation in dogs can be related to certain medical conditions, like hormonal and metabolic diseases. Metabolic diseases, such as hypothyroidism, can be a common cause of constipation. Dogs with hypothyroid conditions tend to gain weight, experience chronic lethargy, and are usually exercise intolerant. All of these issues can contribute to constipation. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed via blood tests and treated with lifelong medication.
Other medical conditions that can predispose dogs to constipation include various forms of kidney disease. The kidneys are responsible for many functions in the body, but one of their most important functions is the regulation of water balance. Animals with kidney disease are not able to absorb water as efficiently as they should, which makes them far more prone to dehydration. As discussed above, dehydration is one of the main causes of constipation.
Kidney disease can also be diagnosed via bloodwork and managed with fluid therapy and other treatments. Speak with one of our Hello Ralphie online vets today if you have questions or concerns about metabolic disease and constipation!
If you have tried the remedies mentioned above and your dog is still constipated, it is highly recommended that you schedule a consultation with one of our Hello Ralphie online vets.
They can help determine if your dog is suffering from a serious condition, as well as recommend treatment options that can be used to alleviate your dog’s constipation and discomfort. Some of the other treatment options out there include enemas and laxatives.
For more information, consider reading through our pet food guide – Solving the Pet Food Puzzle.