Dogs and people have a lot in common. Both eat, sleep, play, and love. Both reproduce, age, and feel emotion. Both can be timid and both can be brave. Both crave companionship. Although dogs and humans are physically different species, they both fall under the category of “mammal” – meaning that dogs and humans share biological traits, including growing hair or fur, producing milk to feed young, and having different sized teeth, among others.
Dogs and humans also share similar bodily functions, like the digestive system. Many of the health issues people experience are also experienced by dogs – including constipation.
Constipation is defined as the inability to have regular bowel movements. Constipation can cause an uncomfortable feeling of fullness and bloating. It can be extremely frustrating for dogs – and for owners. The causes of constipation in dogs are similar to the causes of constipation in humans. Fiber imbalance is the leading cause, followed by dehydration, lack of exercise, enlarged prostate and other more serious health conditions like canine kidney disease.
Determining if a dog is constipated can be difficult. Your dog, obviously, will not tell you he is constipated. And if he has free reign of a fenced yard, you may not notice changes in his habits. You should, however, pay attention to your dog’s bowel movements. They can tell you a lot about your dog’s health – including the presence of constipation – that your dog cannot tell you himself.
If your dog is not having regular bowel movements – at least once per day – he may be constipated. If you notice that your dog misses a bowel movement, make sure he drinks plenty of water and continue to monitor him. If he fails to have a bowel movement for more than two days in a row, there is a good chance he is suffering from constipation.
What to give a constipated dog prior to going to the vet can vary depending on the time the constipation lasts. If constipation lasts beyond 2-3 days, consult a veterinarian, as chronic constipation can lead to more serious health conditions. There are plenty of home remedies for constipation in dogs, which you can try if your dog is having trouble going.
Lack of fiber in the diet is the number one driver of constipation in both humans and dogs. If your dog is constipated, check out the ingredients in his food to make sure there is a source of fiber. If his food lacks fiber, speak to your vet about changing to a more fiber-rich brand. You may also want to give your dog fiber supplement pills. Often, increasing the amount of fiber in your dog’s diet will help eliminate instances of constipation.
Pumpkins aren’t just for Jack-o-Lanterns and pie. Giving your dog a little bit of pumpkin with his food can help cure constipation. Pumpkins contain a significant amount of water, and are a great source of fiber as well. If you don’t have a pumpkin laying around the house – which you probably do not – you can purchase canned pumpkin at your local grocery store.
Both humans and dogs benefit from bran (wheat and oats) in their diets. Adding bran to your dog’s diet, in the form or bread or a muffin, can work as a preventative measure against constipation.
Available in supermarkets and pharmacies, powdered psyllium husk works just like a fiber supplement, softening stools and promoting healthy bowel movements. A couple of servings in your dog’s food may be enough to end his constipation.
Strenuous exercise tends to “shake things loose” – for lack of a better term – in your dog’s body. Exercise helps kick start internal organs, and gets blood flowing through the colon, which helps to soften and move stools. Exercise your dog regularly until he is tired. If your dog is older, a walk around the block may do the trick. If he is younger, get him out running and playing fetch for 30-60 minutes a few times per week.
Laxatives are a powerful counterpunch to constipation. But you must be careful when giving a laxative to your dog. Too much laxative can lead to severe dehydration. Always consult a vet before you give your dog a laxative. They may prescribe a very minimal dose if the constipation doesn’t go away with exercise, water, and increased fiber.
Constipation can cause your dog discomfort, but it generally lasts only a short period of time. If your dog does become constipated, monitor his progress and contact a veterinarian if it doesn’t clear up after a few days. In most cases, constipation is not a serious health issue, just an annoyance and a reality of life for both humans and dogs.