Dogs are creatures of habit, so when we notice issues like straining to have a bowel movement, which is usually out of the norm for most dogs, it can be concerning.
Most people assume that their dog is constipated when they see them straining when going to the bathroom. This is a fair assumption some of the time, but there can be other reasons that your dog is straining while using the bathroom.
Common Causes of Straining in Dogs
One of the most common issues that pet owners mistake for constipation is actually the opposite, diarrhea.
When you see straining (as gross as this might be to some owners), take a look at what is produced by your pet. If you see small, dry or hard stools, this can mean constipation, but you might be surprised to find that your dog is actually having a bout of diarrhea.
When dogs have diarrhea, they often feel the urge to go several times while outside. This looks like straining from afar, but actually the dog is having the urge to eliminate due to the diarrhea.
If it is indeed diarrhea, you can treat more accurately and hopefully figure out what may have caused the diarrhea.
Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible if your dog’s diarrhea:
- Lasts longer than 48-72 hours
- Has blood in it
- Is accompanied by lethargy, not eating/drinking or vomiting
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) or Bladder Stones
It is also possible that your dog may be straining to urinate or urinating in small amounts. For female dogs, this can often look the same when they are squatting from afar.
If you suspect this is happening, there could be issues like a UTI or bladder stones that need immediate vet care. Like with diarrhea, unless you are close when they are straining, it can all look the same.
The best way to get a better idea of what is going on with your pup is to walk them on a leash or follow closely behind when they are outside.
If you are sure your dog is indeed suffering from constipation, there are several things you can do to help your pup.
The first thing that will help your dog is water. Low water consumption often leads to straining to defecate because there is not enough water in the intestine to help move stool along.
Always make sure fresh cool water is available for your pup. If you find your pup is not keen on water intake, try different dishes or even a fountain bowl that runs constantly as some dogs will more eagerly drink if it is flowing. You can also try a higher bowl, lower bowl or even adding ice to the water.
If all else fails, you can add a little wet food to your dog’s diet to help with moisture. This should be a last resort though as hard kibble is much better for their teeth.
For dogs who drink plenty of water, if you are using hard kibble, you might try a couple different things. If your dog is not picky with food or doesn’t have sensitivities, you can try a different kibble such as a weight management or senior food, as these have more fiber than other foods.
If you want to keep the same food, you can add a couple tablespoons of 100% pure canned pumpkin to their food. This is pure fiber, which can help to bulk up stools and help move stool along more easily.
When Should You Take Your Dog to the Vet?
If your dog is still having issues despite diet and water changes, it is time for a vet visit. Some dogs need some prescription diet help, medications, and other more specific treatments to help with constipation.
If your dog is completely unable to defecate for more than a day, it is best to have them checked out. Intestinal blockages can act like constipation because the dog cannot move anything past the blockage and can be deadly.
If you’re not sure of the best next steps for your dog, you can speak with a veterinarian to receive advice.