The Most Common Cause of Constipation in Dogs is Incorrect Diet…

Constipation can happen to the best of us and dogs are no exception. Every one is different. A few things can cause constipation, such as poor digestion or medication – particularly morphine based pain killers. By far though the most common cause of constipation in dogs is incorrect diet. In raw fed dogs this often means a diet too high in bone matter in which case their poos will often be white, hard and dry, hitting the patio with a ping. Or they may be eating too much of a very digestible diet with little to no fibre.

The dog will be visibly straining to go the toilet but nothing will be coming out. They might get a little distressed, licking at their bums, maybe doing some bottom scooting. If a dog does not poo for two days they need to see a vet. For anything else, read on!

The Ideal Dog Poo…

a trophy of three nuggets of golden poo on marbel with the words "golden poo award", constipation in dogsAs our article on anal glands in dogs highlights, the ideal dog poo is not one long, stinking, ice-cream type log typical of a dry fed dog. Instead it should look something like a collection of nuggets or small pieces. It should have shape and should not stink to high heaven either. It should have enough moisture that it would leave residue on the patio, but not enough that it is soft or sloppy.

The right diet will produce the right poo in a healthy dog. However, the truth is that what is an ideal diet for one dog, might not work well for another. Dogs have different processing abilities, just like humans. Small dogs might not be able to handle what a big dog can.

Also be aware that many dogs new-to-fresh feeding can suffer a temporary digestive hiccup, leading to some constipation that needs addressing. In this case some simple tweaks may be necessary.

What to do if They are Straining to go to the Toilet

We never want a dog straining to go to the loo. Luckily, there are lots of things that can be done to relieve constipation in dogs. First off make sure they have access to lots of fresh water. Then reduce meal sizes, until the issue is
sorted. Below are the next steps to consider:
picture of Dawson from Dawsons creek with a crying face which makes him appear he's constipated

Address the Bone Content

Too much bone is the number one reason for constipation in dogs. The ideal mince for dogs has around 10% bone content in it. While many dogs can process a lot more than this some struggle.

So first off check the bone content of whatever product they are eating. If their is not 10% bone, or close to it, in their diet then it may be necessary to add some bulker (we recommend sweet potato or vegetable additions) or find a better quality product that suits your dog.

It can also be possible, that the addition of too many meaty bones in their diet, can be the cause of the high bone content. Simply think about the bones being added. For example duck necks are far bonier than chicken necks (as it’s a flying bird). Feed meat on the bone, pieces like legs rather than meat-less bones. The more meat the better the poo!

Fibre Eases Constipation in Dogs

Fibre in the diet is incredible stuff. It can be used to soften or firm up poo depending on what is required (for more on this process please see anal glands in dogs). In this case we want to add fibre, as fibre here acts like a little sponge, absorbing water into the stool, making it softer, wetter and easier to pass (think of all-bran in the human diet!).

Dogs normally get fibre from the hair, teeth and hide of the animals that they are eating. However, most manufactured fresh dog products exclude these parts (for largely aesthetics reasons) but if they were permitted to include them many would include lots, as it’s cheap. Instead of these bits most fresh-feeders include a little plant additions in the diet for the fibre they contain. So if a dog is constipated feel free to feed one of the fillers below. Keep in a big lunchbox in the fridge and add to each meal so that it makes up 20% of their daily feed:

  • Steamed and chopped green fibrous veg such as green beans (from frozen)
  • Boiled and mashed sweet potato (skin on) or simply pumpkin from a can.
  • Tablespoon of ground linseed (find in the breakfast section of Aldi)
  • Psyllium husk powder (available in health shops)

a small bowl of mashed sweet potato is great for constipation in dogs

Some Other Bits to Consider…

There are a few more things that can be tried for constipation in dogs. Adding more oils will soften the stool (coconut, olive, sunflower). Many dogs are on Dogs First as they suffer from digestive issues. If you suspect poor digestion might be at fault and not too much bone or too little fibre try a little apple cider vinegar, it’s fantastic for aiding digestion. And remember, the vet has the tools at hand to immediately relieve a dogs suffering should the issue persist.