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Ask a Vet: 4 Remedies You Can Give Your Dog for Constipation

Question

Hi… What can I put in my dog’s food as a complement if she’s constipated?

–Alma M.

Answer:

Hi Alma,

Thanks for writing in with this question. Sluggish bowels aren’t as common in dogs as in cats, but certain dogs do seem prone to constipation. 

Some of the causes of constipation in dogs include 

  • Ingestion of an irritating substance (especially bone fragments!)
  • Ingestion of a large amount of dry substance like hair, livestock feed, sand or gravel
  • Arthritis or back pain that makes it hard to posture to defecate
  • Electrolyte abnormalities (calcium, potassium, sodium)
  • Tumors
  • Obesity

If you think your dog has any of these issues or has other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy or poor appetite, you should consult with your veterinarian. 

Adding moisture and/or fiber to the diet will often improve dog constipation and bowel movement consistency in otherwise healthy dogs. Moisture can be added in the form of wet food or liquid added to dry food. Fiber can come from supplements or can be in the dog food itself.

Boston Terrier waving one paw (what can I give my dog for constipation?)

4 Dog Constipation Remedies

Add Liquids & Moisture to Food

To add moisture, you have several options. You can use wet dog food as a topper for dry food or gradually change to feeding 100% wet food. 

Alternatively, add lean and bland human foods that are high in moisture. You can try vegetables like grated cucumber, cooked green beans, baby food strained carrots or peas, or plain unsweetened applesauce (no xylitol, though as it’s toxic to dogs!).

Supplements to Bulk Up Stool

Added dietary fiber will draw liquid into the stool as it passes through the colon. This has the effect of bulking up and moistening feces so they’re easier to pass. 

Unsweetened canned pumpkin is a popular food used to add fiber to a dog’s diet. Most dogs like the sweet taste and it has a respectable fiber content that should help relieve constipation. Just be careful with how much you give your dog as it could cause excessive gas or even diarrhea if fed in large amounts. I have my clients start with about a tablespoon of canned pumpkin per 10 pounds of body weight up to about ½ cup total. 

Also, watch out for the calorie content. It could cause weight gain if you give it very often. You can cut back on the dry food ration just a little to balance out the addition of pumpkin. 

Psyllium husk powder is a stronger natural fiber source for dogs with constipation. You can try plain/unsweetened/unflavored Metamucil® or a generic equivalent. I have my clients give their dogs one or two teaspoons mixed with their food. It’s a good idea to add water to dry food when giving psyllium husk, too. 

High Fiber Dog Food

There are a few different kinds of commercial dog foods that are higher in fiber than standard adult dog food. One kind you can try without needing a prescription is Blue Buffalo True Solutions Fit & Healthy Dry or Wet Dog Food. The change to the new food should be done gradually over a period of 7-10 days to avoid gastrointestinal upset.  

Probiotics Normalize Colon Microbiota

Abnormal bowel habits are often a sign of disturbances in the friendly bacteria and fungus that normally live in a dog’s gut.

I often have my clients give a full 30-day course of a good probiotic to help dogs with all sorts of bowel abnormalities. I have an entire article about probiotics for dogs, but I’ll tell you here the probiotic I prescribe most often is Proviable DC

Don’t Follow Bad Internet Advice (No Oils, Laxatives or Enemas)!

I want to caution you against following some of the dangerous advice I’ve seen on the internet. Don’t attempt a dog enema at home–save that for the professionals as you could cause severe harm. Also, don’t give any kind of oil, including olive oil, coconut oil or mineral oil as a constipation remedy for your dog. Oil often causes more harm than good!

And don’t try human laxatives unless your vet directs you to do so. Many human laxatives are very strong and could cause unpleasant side effects or illness.

Hope those ideas give you a starting place to help your four-legged buddy feel better!

Sincerely,

TB Thompson DVM 

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