Understanding Constipation in Dogs

If your dog's bowel movements have become infrequent and their faeces appear dry or hard, they likely have constipation. It may not sound serious, but constipation can cause several troublesome complications such as dehydration, malnourishment and bowel obstruction as a result of faecal impaction, which can occur when your dog's rectum and large bowel gets clogged up over time. Here's what you need to know about constipation in dogs:


Constipation in dogs can occur for a number of reasons including the following:

  • Swallowing hair, bones or other foreign objects
  • Lack of exercise
  • Not taking in enough fluids
  • Too much or too little fibre in their diet
  • Intestinal muscle weakness, which can be caused by certain medications and health conditions


Symptoms of constipation in dogs can include the following:

  • Straining to complete a bowel movement
  • Blood or mucus in their bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling around the back passage


Your vet will take details of your dog's symptoms and health history and organise blood tests and a urine analysis. Blood tests can detect inflammation in your dog's body, which can indicate their symptoms are being caused by an underlying health problem such as bowel disease.

They can also show if your dog's lacking in key nutrients such as iron, which can diminish quickly if they're not eating or have been passing blood. The urinalysis is a simple way to determine if your dog is dehydrated. The vet may also want to perform and ultrasound or take X-rays of your dog's intestines to determine the severity of their constipation.


The aim of treatment is to resolve the current bout of constipation and prevent it from recurring. If your dog is dehydrated or lacking in key nutrients they will be given intravenous fluids and either intramuscular or oral vitamin supplementation. The vet will try to get your dog's bowels moving by giving them a bulk-forming fibre supplement such as psyllium or an oral or rectal laxative. Your dog may need to stay at the vet clinic for monitoring while being treated with laxatives.

If these first-line treatment options aren't working your vet may have to manually remove the impacted faeces. This is done under general anaesthetic, so your dog won't feel any discomfort.  Once your dog's bowels have been cleaned out, the vet will give you advice on managing their diet to prevent a recurrence of constipation. They may also prescribe a daily fibre supplement or mild laxative.

Constipation in dogs tends to get worse if left untreated and can cause severe discomfort. If your dog has any symptoms of constipation, schedule an appointment with a clinic like Ivanhoe Veterinary Clinic as soon as possible.