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Puppy Constipation

Puppy constipation can be caused by various reasons such as insufficient fiber and water intake. However sometimes constipation can be caused by more serious problems such as an intestinal blockage. Read on and learn more about some common causes of puppy constipation and how to use home remedies to relieve mild constipation in puppies.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppy
Puppies usually have bowel movements 2 to 3 times a day, a short while after eating. Constipation refers to infrequent, absent, or difficult defecation.

Constipation in puppies is not particularly common but, when it happens, the constipated puppy will feel bloated and uncomfortable. It can also be worrisome for dog parents if their puppies cannot relieve themselves for over a day or more. When the constipated puppy does go to the toilet, he will straining to defecate and may even look painful. He may only be able to pass a small amount of stool which may be very hard and dry. In severe cases, the constipated puppy may become listless.

There are quite a few possible causes for puppy constipation, some can result in serious health problems if untreated. It is therefore advisable to learn more about some common causes of constipation in puppies and how to prevent constipation in dogs and puppies.

Common Causes of Puppy Constipation

Some common causes of constipation in puppies include:
  • Diet: A puppy may become constipated if he does not have enough water or fiber in his diet. Try to encourage your puppy to drink more water. Generally, a puppy should be provided one ounce of water for each pound of body weight. More water is needed if the weather is hot and/or dry, or if the puppy exercises a lot.

    Also, try to include more fiber in his diet by adding, for example, 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of plain canned pumpkin to his food. You can also give him fresh vegetables such as carrots and apples as snacks instead of dog biscuits.
  • Sudden Change in Puppy's Diet: If you have recently switched your puppy's food to another brand or another type (e.g. from canned to dry food), your puppy may develop constipation (or diarrhea) if the switch over has been sudden instead of gradual. If you want to change your puppy's food, be sure to make the switch gradually over a period of at least one week. To start the switch, add 10% of the new food to 90% of the old food the first day. Slowly, over the next few days, increase the new food to 25% while decreasing the old food, and so on. Making the switch slowly and gradually eases the burden on the puppy's digestive system and any GI problems such as constipation or diarrhea will be prevented.
  • Insufficient Exercise: If your puppy is a couch potato, he is more likely to have constipation due to a lack of exercise. Be sure to give your puppy regular exercise every day.
  • Poor Grooming: Sometimes for some long-haired puppies, poor or insufficient grooming results in great amount of hair blocking the anus, making it difficult for the puppy to defecate resulting in constipation. As well, sometimes blocked anal sacs can make a puppy reluctant to have a bowel movement. To prevent constipation, it is therefore important to groom your puppy frequently, including having his anal sacs checked and expressed regularly.
  • Ingestion of Indigestible items: Sometimes puppy constipation is the result of an intestinal obstruction caused by the puppy eating something indigestible, such as small plastic toys, socks or household items.

    An intestinal obstruction can be partial or complete. Partial obstructions cause intermittent vomiting and/or diarrhea. Complete obstructions produce sudden abdominal pain, continued vomiting, and constipation. Understandably, intestinal obstructions can lead to fatal consequences. If you suspect your puppy's constipation is the result of an intestinal blockage, get him to the vet immediately for treatment.
  • Medications: Many drugs cause constipation in puppies and dogs as a side effect. Some of these drugs include antacids, antihistamines, iron supplements, and diuretics.

When to See a Vet

Take your puppy to the vet in any of the following situations:
  • The puppy does not have a bowel movement for over two days.
  • The puppy is straining hard to defecate.
  • The puppy shows pain (e.g. crying out) during defecation.
  • The puppy's belly is bloated.
  • Constipation is accompanied by vomiting.
  • There is blood or mucus in the stools.
  • You have reason to believe that your puppy has ingested something indigestible.

Treatment of Puppy Constipation

Since constipation is in itself a symptom brought on by an underlying root cause, treatment of puppy constipation involves the identification, and elimination or control of the underlying cause, while at the same time, relieving the symptoms.

To relieve constipation in puppies, we may use:
  • Bulking Agents: For mild cases of constipation, bulking agents such as methylcellulose, bran, or pumpkin can be added to the puppy's diet.
  • Frequent Exercise and Water Intake: Regular exercise and sufficient intake of water can promote regular bowel movements.
  • Use of Laxatives: Products that contain lactulose may be prescribed by your vet and are safest to use on dogs. Milk is sometimes added to diets to give a mild osmotic laxative effect. Milk of magnesia is also used as a mild laxative. Stronger stimulant laxatives (e.g. Dulcolax) are effective in treating constipation but should only be used under veterinary supervision and as a last resort, since repeated use can interfere with colon function. NEVER use OTC laxatives for people on your constipated puppy.
  • Tummy Massage: If you have a young puppy who is constipated, you can give him a tummy massage. Use a warm, moist wash cloth and gently apply a little pressure on his tummy while stroking downward toward the anus. This action mimics a mother dog using her tongue to provide stimulation to produce a bowel movement after nursing.

There are also quite a few home remedies and natural products that can be used to relieve mild constipation in puppies, please visit our page on Dog Constipation Remedies for more information.

For more serious cases of constipation, enemas may be given at a veterinary clinic.
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