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Dog Constipation and What to Feed

This article will explain all you need to know about constipation in dogs: why it happens, how to tell if your dog is constipated, and of course, how to help your dog with constipation, including how natural raw dog food and supplements can help.

Alison Frost

Author: Alison Frost

Edited By: Anna Bain

Dog Constipation and What to Feed

Though not the most desirable topic to discuss, dog constipation is an important subject to acknowledge. We all are aware of our dog’s bowel movements, and how ‘regular’ they are, so when something is amiss when the poo bags are out, it’s important to deal with this quickly to prevent further problems. If you see your dog is struggling, straining or just uncomfortable when trying to defecate, then they will need some assistance from you.

The digestive process provides valuable insights into dogs’ health, as such, canine nutritionist with ProDog, Alison Frost, is very familiar with conversations about dogs’ toilet habits.  In this article Alison shares her knowledge on the topic of constipation in dogs.

4 signs of a constipated dog 

You might think that the main sign of constipation in dogs is the simple lack of faeces production, but raw fed dogs do generally produce a much smaller stool, as they digest raw meat easily and hence there is little waste. However, there are many other signals that dogs give us when they are constipated, so it’s worth closely monitoring these symptoms of constipation in dogs if you suspect something isn’t quite right:

Lack of Stool

The first and most obvious sign of constipation in dogs is a reduction in quantity, or even a complete lack of bowel movements for over 24 hours. This isn’t necessarily worrisome if it happens occasionally from time to time, however, if your dog hasn’t defecated for more than a couple of days (provided you’ve tried the recommendations to follow) please contact your vet immediately.

Straining

A dog with a healthy digestive tract and microbiome will rarely need to produce much effort when going to the toilet.  However, if your dog is straining, or struggling to poo, with little or nothing coming out, then this is the first symptom of constipation in dogs. All is not lost, however; you’ll find some helpful ways to resolve this later in the article.

Obvious discomfort

Another sign of constipation in dogs is their obvious discomfort when attempting to poo.  Whilst dogs are experts at hiding their pain for survival purposes, some may cry out if passing stool is exceedingly uncomfortable. They may also display more subtle signs that could easily go undetected, such as whining or trembling when attempting to toilet.

Rock hard stool

A healthy dog stool should be firm, but not rock hard. It should leave a small amount of residue on the surface you pick it up from and be easily squashed (not that you’d ever want to do this!). A stool that is rock hard and leaves no residue is likely that of a constipated dog, indicating something is amiss in their GI tract or diet. Find out more in our dog poo guide.

Why is my dog constipated? 

There are many reasons your dog may be constipated, from diet to medical conditions, to eating something they shouldn’t have and causing a blockage. However, these are other common causes of constipation in dogs:

Dehydration

Unfortunately, many dogs simply do not get enough moisture in their food, or drink enough water, and this lack of fluid leads to dry and hard stools, resulting in constipation.

Excessive/matted hair around the anus

Long-haired dogs can become matted, especially round the tail and anus area. These dense clumps of hair can actually block the pathway if not removed, contributing to the potential for constipation. Regular grooming and trimming the area should help to prevent this.

Certain medical conditions

Various medical conditions contribute to constipation in dogs, and some others mimic it quite convincingly. IBS, intestinal inflammation, damage to the spinal cord (from tumours, injuries, etc.), and prostate issues in males [1] are all examples of medical conditions that can cause constipation in dogs.

Anal gland issues

Another cause of constipation in dogs can be issues pertaining to their anal glands. These can become inflamed, blocked, or even afflicted with abscesses and tumours in some cases, which would certainly make bowel movements more difficult [2].

Age

As dogs age, and become less mobile, it’s more common for constipation to occur due to natural changes in the digestive tract. Especially those dogs that are fed a processed food diet or don’t get as much exercise as they used to. However, if your ageing canine is experiencing constipation, there are still ways you can help. See more on how to help dogs with constipation below.

Dietary imbalances

All dogs are not created equal, and that goes for their digestion, too. Even a dog who is fed a species-appropriate, raw food diet can have issues with constipation, which is likely due to their meals not being precisely balanced for their unique digestive needs. Common culprits are lack of fibre and excessive bone content, both of which could potentially cause dogs constipation.

Stress

Like humans (and most species, for that matter), stress can have a negative impact on your dog’s gut. Stress hormones prepare the body to defend itself or to escape, shutting down non-essential processes, such as digestion, making stress a potential cause of constipation in dogs.

Medications

Medications are another potential cause for constipation in dogs, as they often create imbalance in the gut and digestive tract. Often, giving medication with food will help to combat this, but not in all cases. Supplementing with a canine-specific probiotic, like ProDog’s Probiotic paste, can help dogs on medication with any acute gut issues.

Various food items

Dogs are experts at getting into the things they shouldn’t, which means they sometimes eat foods that don’t agree with them. Some of these items (e.g. stones, sticks, corn on the cob, cooked bones etc.) can upset their digestion or even cause obstructions in their intestines, resulting in vomiting, diarrhoea, and constipation.

Constipation in dogs can be helped with raw food

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How to help a constipated dog

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies to assist dogs experiencing constipation. Below, I share eight tips to help constipated dogs achieve regular bowel movements and become more comfortable.

1) Feed them raw

Processed, dried food is seriously lacking in moisture, as well as potentially, other key nutrients your dog needs to thrive. Feeding a raw, species-appropriate diet is high in moisture, enzymes and natural fats, which benefits your dog in many ways, including better stool quality.

Here’s one of our articles about the benefits of raw feeding. We offer many ranges of raw food including our complete raw dog food range, 80 10 10 raw food, raw puppy food and our economy range.

2) Increase their fluid intake

Raw fed dogs don’t tend to drink as much water, as they get plenty in their diet. As you’ll likely be unable to convince your dog to drink more water, adding more fluids to their meals is a helpful way to increase hydration levels.

Filtered water and bone broth are both good options for this. Offering bone broth to drink (which is full of natural electrolytes) will also likely go down well with your dog. Be sure to give a dog-approved bone broth without onions or excessive salt, like our Bone Broth for dogs range.

If you’re concerned about dehydration, you can perform a pinch test to ease your worries: gently pinch and pull up lightly on your dog’s scruff (the back of the neck) and observe how long it takes to fall back to its normal position. If it doesn’t happen quickly, your dog may be dehydrated.

3) Supplement with healthy oils

Good quality raw fats and certain oils are essential to a dog’s diet, and can be useful tools for resolving constipation in dogs. Ensure the oil you add to their meals is a natural, healthy one, such as extra virgin olive oil, hemp, or high quality omega 3 oil. For dogs prone to pancreatitis, coconut or MCT oil is recommended. A small amount (one teaspoon) is ideal initially, though increasing to suit your dog over time is fine. However, never add heated oils as they oxidise and are inflammatory.

4) Consider probiotics

Probiotics address any bacterial imbalances in the gut, increasing the presence of good bacteria. They also assist in digestion and assimilation of nutrients, which helps with stool quality and dog constipation. 2-4 teaspoons of goat milk or kefir (depending on the size of your dog) is safe to give daily and will provide a beneficial boost to their gut health as well as relieving constipation. You can also try one of our dog probiotics.

5) Feed more fibre

Unbeknownst to many dog lovers, our dogs actually benefit from fibre in their diets, just as humans do. Whilst they’re primarily carnivores, adding a little plant fibre to dogs’ diets works wonders for keeping them regular.

Leafy greens (cooked will be digested more easily) are a great fibre addition, as is puréed pumpkin, which aids in soothing and lubricating the digestive tract. Psyllium husk powder is also a helpful fibre supplement; ½-1 teaspoon daily for a few days will work wonders to help with constipation.

6) Apple cider vinegar

Raw, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar (including the mother) is another helpful tool for creating a healthy, balanced gut microbiome and aiding in digestion issues. It works to restore the pH in your dog’s gut to optimum levels, helping to digest bone and protein more effectively. A small amount (about ½ tsp per 10 kg of body weight) in your dog’s food or water daily will be enough for them to reap the benefits.

7) Lubricating herbs

Certain herbs, such as marshmallow root, are naturally lubricating and helpful for relieving constipation in dogs. These herbs help to increase mucus production, creating a gel-like substance called mucilage, which helps aid in dog constipation. Our Digest gut supplement is the perfect blend of dog-safe, lubricating herbs, and also includes fibre.

8) Diet adjustments

As mentioned earlier, dietary imbalances can cause constipation in dogs; even those on a raw food diet. Too much bone or not enough fibre or offal can easily upset the delicate balance in your dog’s gut. Every dog is unique and finding the perfect dietary balance can sometimes take a little experimentation by adjusting the ratios of key ingredients.

Typically, offal is lubricating whereas bone is drying, so if you’re looking to help with constipation, increasing boneless meat or offal may be the solution. Incorporating ProDog’s boneless beef and green tripe meal could be a good place to start.

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How to avoid constipation in dogs

Whilst there are many ways to help with dog constipation, the best course of action is always prevention, whenever possible. Ensuring your dog has everything they need to sustain a healthy gut starts with what they’re eating.

Of course, this starts with food that is minimally processed and as high in moisture as possible. Regular exercise, where appropriate for the age and breed of dog, also helps to keep things moving, and prevents stagnation.

Lean meat protein (such as Turkey), healthy fats and omega oils, bone, and small amounts of plant fibre are all essential for a healthy dog. Outside a raw diet, many processed foods do not include these ingredients (or have any beneficial nutrients cooked out of them). There is a marked difference in the digestion of processed and raw fed dogs; see our article on the differences between dry and raw fed dog poo for clarification.

The best food for a constipated dog

The best food for a constipated dog

The best food for a constipated dog (or any dog, for that matter), is a species-appropriate, raw food diet. As mentioned above, providing them with the foods they were designed to eat allows their bodies and digestion to normalise by providing them with the moisture content and nutrients they need to thrive.

Raw food with offal like those in our Offal Raw Dog Food range will also help to lubricate their gut, giving them some much-needed relief from their constipation symptoms. Our Beef Liver Treats are another great option for increasing your dog’s offal consumption. As mentioned earlier, other foods like cooked leafy greens, puréed pumpkin, and olive and coconut oils are helpful in relieving constipation issues as well.

Help your dog with ProDog Raw

At ProDog, we know how much you care for your canine friends. This guide has hopefully helped you feel more confident in helping your constipated dog. To get some much-needed relief for your constipated dog (or to simply treat your dog to something special), try our Bone Broth for dogs, our Raw Dog Food with Offal range, or our Boneless Beef and Green Tripe Formula.

Dog constipation FAQs

My dog’s poo is white and/or chalky. Are they constipated?

This is likely due to too much bone content for your individual dog (or possibly a lack of fibre) and can look a lot like constipation in dogs. Try adjusting their meals to contain less bone, add fluid, and keep an eye out for changes. Call your vet if you’re concerned.

How to treat constipation in dogs?

There are various natural options to help dogs with constipation. Depending on your dog’s diet, age, and overall health, you might try any one (or several) of the above mentioned options.

What are the symptoms of constipation in dogs?

Symptoms of constipation in dogs include a lack of bowel movement for over 24 hours, straining to pass stool, obvious (and sometimes, subtle) signs of discomfort when attempting to move their bowels, taking longer than usual to poo, and rock-hard stool.

What causes constipation in dogs?

There are many causes of dog constipation, including lack of fluid in their diet, stress, dietary imbalances, lack of exercise, and others. See above for a complete explanation of all the possible causes.

What is the best food for a constipated dog? 

A raw, species-appropriate diet is the best food for a constipated dog, as it restores balance to their gut and overall health. You can also try decreasing their bone consumption, increasing the offal in their food, or giving them some plant fibre such as cooked, leafy greens or puréed pumpkin.

How does raw dog food help dogs with constipation?

Raw food provides the key nutritional elements that dogs need for their optimal health, including moisture. Ultimately a  raw diet supports and maintains a healthy gut, and a dog with a healthy gut is far less likely to become constipated than a dog with a compromised gut.

Can raw dog food stop my dog from becoming constipated? 

While there are no guarantees and all dogs are different, the odds of a raw fed dog becoming constipated are definitely lesser than those of a dog that’s fed processed food. This is because raw fed dogs are being provided with a diet that’s natural for their species, which results in fewer health problems, including those of the digestive tract.

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References

  1. Lowseth L. A., Gerlach R. F., Gillet N.A., and Muggenburg B. A. 1990. Age-related Changes in the Prostate and Testes of the Beagle Dog. Veterinary Pathology.; 27:347-353 doi/pdf: 10.1177/030098589002700507
  2. Repasy A, Selmic L, Kisseberth W. Oct 2022. Canine apocrine gland anal sac adenocarcinoma: a review. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine.; 50:100682 doi.org: 10.1016/j.tcam.2022.100682 

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4 comments

Debora Melo Domingos

My dog, a 2-year-old Bull Terrier, started getting constipated since she started having raw food. She is eating the Sensitivity Support Bundle from Pro Dog. May you please advice what can we do to help our dog?

ProDog

Hi there

We have asked our specialist raw feeding expert to get in touch with you on Monday to discuss and advise you further.

Kind Regards
Team ProDog

hliam0810

hi how can i help my dog there both slightly constipated since feeding prodog what can i do to help this please ?

ProDog

Adding some fluid like bone broth, water, goats kefir and some additional quality oil can help. Feeding a few more of our boneless beef and green tripe if tolerable throughout the week also. If you would like any further guidance please email [email protected] and our nutritional advisor can guide you.

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