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What treatment can I give my constipated dog?

Tony Buckwell advises a reader whose dog 'can't go'.

black labrador


Helping a constipated dog

Q: My labrador seems to get constipated; she gets into position to relieve herself but 
with no success, despite straining for several minutes. It’s distressing to see and I’d like to solve the issue.What can be 
done to relieve a constipated dog?

A: Constipation in dogs is a relatively common digestive disorder. Most dogs will suffer from it at some point in their lives.

A high protein diet that lacks fibre is the usual cause of dietary-induced constipation. Some dogs are also inclined to eat poorly digestible substances, typically wood, plastics, fabrics and bones, which cause constipation or more serious intestinal blockages.

If your dog doesn’t take in more fluid than she loses, through not drinking enough or excessive loss — through exertion or metabolic disease — her body will absorb as much as it can from the bowels, resulting in drier, firmer stools that are harder to pass. Discomfort from hip arthritis or lower back pain can also make it difficult or uncomfortable for a dog to adopt the normal position for a bowel movement.

constipated dog Italian Lagatto

Most dogs will have constipation but it is usually easy to treat


Talk to your vet about the reasons your dog might be constipated. It’s usually an easily treated complaint once the cause is discovered. You can help things along by making sure your dog drinks plenty of water (always make sure a clean water source is available). You might like to change the dog’s food to one which contains more fibre.

spaniel drinking water

Make sure there is always plenty of clean water available for your dog to drink

Provide enough exercise and, in most cases, constipation can be relieved within one or two days. If this doesn’t relieve the symptoms then your vet may need to examine the dog and prescribe more specific treatments.

Dog eating grass

Dogs self-medicate by eating grass

Why does my dog eat grass?

A: Dogs that eat grass – and often herbivore dung as well – are self-medicating. Don’t stop your dog but allow him to graze.

Dogs need a small amount of vegetable matter in their diets, so you may well find that if you supply this in the form of fresh green vegetables, either lightly cooked or liquidised and mixed in with his food, a dog may not feel the need to graze when he is out.

Fruit and vegetables are good for chewing. However, beware. Greedy dogs may get into trouble trying to swallow apples whole, so if yours is like this, cut the apples up and supervise the feeding until you know he is safe.

Sometimes grass eating means there is some discomfort in the gut, either resulting in the vomiting of bile or the greenery passing through and bringing mucus with it. Therefore keep your worming regime up to date, and consider feeding twice daily instead of once. (Read how often should I feed my dog?)

This article was originally published in 2018 and is kept updated.