My Dog is Constipated - Laxative Treatment Options

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. October 14, 2019
My Dog is Constipated - Laxative Treatment Options

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When a dog has trouble defecating, it can affect their both their mood and behavior. It is not comfortable for anyone, but it is important to realize that constipation is a symptom, not a disease in itself. Understanding the reason for their constipation is the first step in treatment. If we see other symptoms or constipation has been prolonged, it is advisable to take the dog to a veterinarian. They can perform diagnostic tests and prescribe the correct course of treatment. Laxatives may only be part of their treatment plan.

In this AnimalWised article on why my dog is constipated, we focus on which laxatives can be used to help gastrointestinal transit. We look at types of medication, dosage and other factors. Before we do, we need to stress the importance of not using human laxatives on dogs as this can be potentially dangerous.

Constipation in dogs

Constipation is, essentially, the inability to make a bowel movement or passing feces with great difficulty. Dogs can suffer constipation for many reasons. These include a dietary imbalance, genetic predisposition or an underlying pathology. Causes of chronic constipation in dogs can generally be categorized under the following groups:

  • Intraluminal: this is when the constipation is caused by partial or complete obstruction of the digestive tract. This is the most common reason your dog is constipated, often resulting from firm matter preventing intestinal transit. This could be due to eating something solid or not getting enough nutrients, but other blockages can occur. For example, a tumor may grow in the colon and inhibit movement.
  • Extraluminal: extraluminal constipation occurs when something outside of the digestive tract causes the blockage. For example, trauma can lead to a fractured pelvis, putting pressure on the colon. Neoplasms (abnormal tissue growth) can also cause blockages from an external source, or at least slow movement.
  • Intrinsic: if there is an underlying neuromuscular pathology or other disorder such as hyperglycemia or hypothyroidism, constipation could be a byproduct.

The acuteness of these causes of constipation can vary. The symptoms are seen in the fact the dog has not defecated in a while. However, if the dog has small, hard and darkened stools, this can also indicate constipation. Any dog can be affected by constipation, but it is most common in elderly dogs. This is due to the physiological changes caused by aging as well as a reduction in daily physical activity.

For less acute cases of constipation, the problem may be a lack of exercise or a deficiency in diet. In many cases, the problem will resolve itself naturally once these deficiencies are addressed. If the dog continues to fail to defecate or can only do so with intense effort, then you will need to take the dog to the veterinarian for diagnosis.

If a dog shows signs of constipation and their stool is white, it is possible they have an infestation of internal parasites. For more information, you can look at our article on white feces in dogs and its meanings.

Treatment will be based on the underlying cause. By treating the condition or pathology, the symptom of constipation should resolve itself. This may be medical, but lifestyle changes such as incorporating more exercise into the dog's routine or changing their diet may be required. The dog's constipation itself may be treated with laxatives.

Symptoms of constipation in dogs

As we said, a lack of defecation is the most common sign of constipation in dogs. However, it is possible you do not see all of your dog's activities during a given day. This means you cannot necessarily be sure whether your dog has defecated. This is why looking at other symptoms of constipation in dogs is necessary. These signs include:

  • Lack of bowel movement
  • Small, dark and hard stool
  • Stool with the presence of mucus or blood
  • Dog remains in a defecation posture but is unable to carry through
  • Signs of pain during defecation
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Loss of apetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

These symptoms are warning signs which signal you will need to take the dog to a veterinarian. Also, other symptoms of the underlying cause may be concurrent. These symptoms will depend on the individual case.

My Dog is Constipated - Laxative Treatment Options - Symptoms of constipation in dogs

Types of laxatives for dogs

Laxatives are drugs prescribed to treat constipation when a change in diet does not do so. There are several types of laxatives for dogs, but your veterinarian will know which ones to choose to solve the specific problem for your dog. Although laxatives can be bought over the counter from any pharmacy, we should not give them to our dog without being prescribed by the vet. Giving human medication to dogs is very dangerous as the dosage and interactions can pose many health risks.

The types of laxatives which can be used in dogs include:

  • Osmotic laxatives: these laxatives concentrate water in the intestine. In doing so, they hydrate the dog's feces. They are a mild laxative which are considered generally safe and effective. Milk of magnesia (active ingredient magnesium hydroxide) and similar products work in this way.
  • Stimulant laxatives: work by increasing bowel movements. They are very effective but should not be used frequently as they eventually interfere with normal intestinal function. Compounds used in stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl.
  • Bulk-forming laxatives: as their name suggests, these canine laxatives work by increasing the bulk of the dog's feces. They do so by helping to increase the amount of fiber in the dog's diet. They are added to their food and its effect is to soften stool and stimulate its deposition and frequency. Metamucil is a type of laxative which uses psyllium to help increase roughage. They can be used indefinitely with little adverse reaction.
  • Emollient laxatives: these are used when the feces is hard and dry, unless the dog shows signs of dehydration. An active substance of this laxative type is docusate sodium. There are several brands on sale. Its function is to help feces to absorb more water, so that stools soften. They can be used daily.
  • Lubricant laxatives: the most common example in this group is mineral oil for constipation. They help feces pass through the anal canal. An issue with this laxative type is that oil interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. It is not recommended for prolonged use. Additionally, it should not be combined with emollient laxatives. It can be added once or twice a week to the dog's food.

Laxatives for dogs safety

As we can see above, we have shown you what laxatives for dogs are safe to use. However, this will depend on dosage. The administration of laxatives will be prescribed by the veterinarian. Dosage will depend on type. For example:

  • Bisacodyl: is recommended in doses of 5 to 20 mg per day.
  • Metamucil: one to five tablespoons per day.
  • Emollient laxatives: emollient laxatives are administered daily at about 50-240 mg, depending on the brand prescribed by the veterinarian.
  • Mineral oil: mineral oil is recommended as added to food once or twice a week in doses of 10 to 50 ml, depending on what the dog's weight.
My Dog is Constipated - Laxative Treatment Options - Laxatives for dogs safety

Enemas for dogs

When the dog's digestive system is blocked, it is called a fecal impaction. To remove these hardened masses from the dog's colon and rectum, a hot water enema can be used. These enemas are applied anally.

An enema can be made with water by administering a rubber tube to a syringe or bag. You can purchase ready made enemas from pet stores and veterinary clinics. They also contain a nozzle for appropriate application. This procedure should be done by a veterinarian or after we have been shown how to do it by a veterinarian. Not only will this ensure the dog's safety, but it will also help with hygiene.

Some canine enemas contain ammonium phosphate, an active ingredient that is not recommended for smaller dogs or those with kidney failure. Before purchasing an enema for your dog, ensure you have spoken first to your veterinarian.

My Dog is Constipated - Laxative Treatment Options - Enemas for dogs

Natural laxatives for dogs

Before considering the use of pharmacological treatment, the veterinarian may indicate natural laxatives for dogs. These come in the form of different food stuffs which may help solve constipation issues. They are the following:

  • Milk: the quantity will be indicated by the veterinarian depending on the clinical picture of our dog. Milk in dogs has a mild laxative effect at the time when the digestive enzyme lactase fails to break down the lactose in milk. Lactose attracts fluid to the intestine, so that bowel movement is stimulated. Not to be given to the dog if they are not constipated.
  • Whole wheat bran: this has an intestinal bolus forming effect. It can be added to food at the rate of one to five tablespoons a day. It can be offered daily to prevent chronic constipation.
  • Olive oil: administering a tablespoon directly or in the food, it can help the resolution of mild constipation.
  • Beet, carrot or psyllium pulp: these are foods that can be included in the dog's diet. Their benefits derive from additional fiber.
  • Warm water: hot water can be used as an enema, repeating its administration, without problem, several times a day. Of course, the water cannot be too hot otherwise it will scald.
  • Water to drink: since proper hydration is essential for stool consistency and intestinal motility, it is important that the dog drinks a lot of water. We can add water to their food if they are struggling to drink enough.
  • Lots of fiber: high fiber diets are essential for good intestinal transit.

If you want to know some more general information about your dog's food intake, you can look at this article on the best diet for your dog.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog is Constipated - Laxative Treatment Options, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

  • Baciero, Gemma. Constipation in the dog . Veterinary Center No. 39. Magazine of the Madrid Association of Pet Veterinarians.
  • Carlson and Giffin. 2002. Practical canine veterinary manual . Madrid. Editorial el Drac.

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