Help For A Constipated Puppy

A constipated puppy is generally one who hasn't had a bowel movement in 24 hours, or is passing tiny, hard feces and often having difficulty doing it.

Help for a constipated puppy

Most often the causes of constipation in puppies are simple ones.... such as not drinking enough water or getting too little exercise.

In this case Fido's inability to poop is likely to be the only sign of a problem.

Sometimes medication side-effects, eating something that was inedible (or should have been!), or physical problems such as long, matted hair around the anus, can cause constipation in puppies.

These types of constipation may, or may not, be serious

Occasionally being unable to poop can be caused by something much more serious such as a bowel obstruction or canine bloat.

When that happens a constipated puppy will likely show signs of feeling really unwell.

These signs can include panting, pacing, whining, drooling, restlessness, vomiting and more.

So if you notice any of these, get your pup to your veterinarian right away!

Your pup may not be constipated if....

..... you've only had him for about 24 - 48 hours.

This is because for the first day or so in a new home, a puppy is often stressed and may behave in unusual ways - including peeing less than normal and even refusing to poop!

Visit my Bringing Home A New Puppy page for more on these early days.

What Causes Constipation In Puppies?

There are several different things that can make a pup constipated, they range from the simple and obvious, to the unexpected or unusual!

All puppies can get 'backed up' now and then, for one reason or another, but if you have a very small, tiny or toy breed pup, his chances of getting constipated are higher than those of a large or giant breed puppy.

Here are some of the most common causes of constipation in puppies :

  • Hairballs
    If you thought it was just cats that got hairballs - think again. Dogs who groom/lick themselves a lot, especially if they're long haired, can swallow a lot of fur (watch out for this if you have a dog with allergies or skin problems or is an obsessive 'licker'). This hair can get 'balled up' inside your pup, and it then causes a blockage or slows down the intestinal tract. The result is a constipated puppy!

  • Eating odd 'stuff'
    Puppies will be puppies, and they tend to want to eat everything that's not nailed down - and some things that are! However, ingesting inappropriate items can result in a constipated puppy due to an internal 'slow down' or traffic jam. At worst it can cause a complete blockage (which requires urgent veterinary attention). Crunchy 'bone treats', rawhide toys/treats or even natural bones can all cause this problem.

    Not surprisingly, so can that plastic grocery sac, the contents of the bathroom trash can, or your best undies that your dog ate this morning :o) If your pup or dog eats something he shouldn't, watch carefully for it to 'come out the other end', within 24 - 36 hours. If it doesn't and your pet shows signs of constipation, pain or distress (see colored box below) get him to your vet for evaluation immediately.

  • Medications
    Some medications that your dog takes to treat other conditions can sometimes be the cause of dog constipation. Anti-histamines (used to treat allergies) can have this effect, as can over the counter medications that are used to treat diarrhea (such as Immodium or PeptoBismol). It's never a good idea to give your pup ANY kind of medication without clearing it with your veterinarian first. Adverse (or even unexpected) reactions can occur and it's always better to be safe than sorry.

  • Medical Conditions
    Although puppy constipation is rarely caused by any serious medical issues, it can happen, and in older dogs it's even more possible. Things such as kidney disease, prostate problems, tumors, a perineal hernia or even bacterial infections can sometimes cause dog constipation. Swallowing a foreign object that can't pass through his intestines, could cause a blockage.

    A serious, often life-threatening condition called Canine Bloat can also cause your puppy or dog to squat and strain, or retch and dry-heave. He may have a distended or hard belly, and pant, pace, whine or collapse. This is a veterinary emergency.

  • 'Mechanical Constipation' or 'Psuedoconstipation'
    This is caused by long hair around the dogs' anus/bottom getting tangled or matted. If it gets bad enough, the hair can prevent bowel movements, and you have a constipated puppy on your hands.

  • Surgery
    Surgery, and the accompanying anesthesia and lack of activity during the recovery period, can cause your pups' digestive system to slow down - this may result in constipation. It's something worth remembering in the days after your pup has been spayed or neutered.

If your puppy has eaten or swallowed anything he shouldn't or he's 

  • distressed
  • in pain
  • vomiting
  • retching
  • has a distended belly

Then you need to get him veterinary help immediately, it could be an emergency situation.

How To Treat A Constipated Puppy

If, in spite of your best efforts, your pup becomes constipated there are some straightforward remedies that should get his bowels moving fairly quickly.

Yorkie puppy pooping on grass

Adding certain things to their diet can often help a constipated puppy feel better.

Here are a few to try:

  • Canned Pumpkin
    A simple dog constipation remedy is to add a little canned pumpkin (NOT the pie filling variety, just good old plain pumpkin) in your pups' meals can be helpful. Add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon depending on his size. Pureed pumpkin baby food also works.

  • Bran
    Add some extra fiber in the form of Bran, Metamucil, Benefiber or similar products. About 1/2 teaspoon added to your pups meals for a few days. If your dog weighs over 50lbs you can use 1 tablespoon instead. 1 teaspoon of oat bran, or 2 teaspoons of Grape Nut flakes added to her food will work the same way.

  • Oil
    Adding some extra oil to your pups diet can help to soften the stools and help his bowels keep moving along nicely. 1/2 tsp of olive oil added to his meals works. For more difficult cases, try 1 - 2 teaspoons of Mineral Oil, but don't do this for longer than 3 or 4 days. Mineral oil removes Vitamin A from your dog's body and it can be harmful if used for longer than this.

  • 'Special' Dog Foods
    Some manufacturers sell dog food that is specifically formulated with extra fiber to help a constipated dog or puppy move their bowels regularly. Most foods contain between 2% and 4% fiber, Solid Gold dry dog food has 5%, and Hills offer two foods - I/D and W/D. These are available from most veterinary clinics.

  • Milk
    Dogs don't digest cows' milk properly, and in normal circumstances it causes diarrhea. However, if you have a constipated puppy you can add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk to their food or water, or just give it to them to drink. Do this once a day for a couple of days and it should help loosen the bowels.

  • Keeping Long Hair Trimmed
    If you have a constipated puppy due to long, tangled or matted hair around his little bottom, carefully trim it away with small scissors. Be very careful not to cut the skin. Keeping this hair short in the future should prevent a recurrence. If your pup has been constipated for a while, just trimming the hair may not be enough to get his bowels moving. You may need to also use another dog constipation remedy as well.

  • OTC Dog Constipation Remedies
    There are a few OTC treatments available for a constipated dog or pup. To prevent, and eliminate, hairballs that are causing your dog's constipation, try Laxatone . It has been specifically formulated to prevent and eliminate those pesky hairballs, and has a laxative effect to help end your dogs' constipation.

Petwellbeing Smooth BM Gold is a totally natural product that can help to relieve canine constipation and also maintain healthy bowel function, without causing your puppy any discomfort.

There's also one more natural, gentle, herbal remedy that you might want to try... Only Natural Pet Laxa-Herb Herbal Formula which is a gentle, laxative herbal formula for overnight relief.

Preventing Puppy Constipation

Here are some simple things you can do to help prevent your puppy from getting constipated in the first place....

  • Diet
    Just like in people, a diet that contains enough fiber will help the digestive system to function properly. If your pup or dog is prone to constipation, choose a dog food with a minimum of 4% fiber, 5% is even better. Solid Gold Dry Dog Food has 5% fiber, and you can also buy special 'prescription' or high-fiber foods such as Hills I/D or W/D which have significantly higher fiber content (between 8 and 16%). Hills Foods are available from your veterinarian. Giving your puppy snacks of raw carrots, celery, apples or pears can also be beneficial.

  • Fluids
    Your puppy needs access to fresh water at all times during the day. Aim for a daily minimum of about one ounce of water per pound of body weight, in hot weather, a centrally heated/dry environment or if your dog is very active he'll need more. If your pup has some issues with slow moving bowels and you can't seem to get him to drink more, you can always add some warm water to his dry food at one mealtime each day to get some more fluids into him.

  • Exercise
    Plenty of exercise is essential to keep your puppy health and happy. If you have a constipated puppy (or one who tendency towards it), increasing his exercise and activity level can help. The benefits are two-fold; firstly, the physical aspects of the exercise help to keep his digestive system and bowels 'moving along' preventing the sluggishness that can lead to constipation.

    Secondly, long walks or a vigorous game of 'fetch' or frisbee keep him outside longer and help to give him plenty of time to eliminate when he has the chance. If you're housebreaking or crate training, and your pup doesn't do his business while your out, he may try to 'hold it' for too long, and this can cause the colon to slow down and the feces to get hard and difficult to pass.

  • Trimming Long Hair
    This may sound odd, but sometimes in long haired breeds, the hair around the puppy's rear end becomes tangled or matted, and it actually physically prevents the puppy from having a bowel movement. If you have a constipated puppy who has long hair around his bottom, keeping it trimmed short will prevent this sort of 'mechanical constipation'.

The bottom line (pun totally intended!)....

If your puppy is constipated and you're worried that he may have an intestinal blockage, bloat, or be in pain/distress then you need to have him seen by a vet right away.

If he seems happy and healthy apart from the constipation, but you've tried the tips on this page but your pup still can't pass any bowel movements then you need to consult a vet for advice.

› Help For A Constipated Puppy

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