Your puppy probably poops a lot, and you might wish they didn't go so frequently. However, if your little one does stop producing feces, it's definitely a cause for concern. Constipation in puppies isn't very common, and when it happens, you'll see the signs. A constipated puppy will usually strain to defecate, cry while posturing, have an uncomfortable belly, and appear restless. Depending on the root cause of your puppy's constipation, a home remedy might help, or your vet might recommend more aggressive treatment.
What Causes Puppy Constipation?
Puppies can become constipated for many of the same reasons grown dogs experience this condition. However, because of a puppy's small size and tendency to eat things they shouldn't, some causes are more common than others. Also, adult dogs may experience constipation because of underlying health conditions that are less likely to affect puppies. A few of the most frequent reasons puppies get constipated include:
- Worms: Most puppies are born with worms or pick them up from their mother, or by eating contaminated feces early in life. If your puppy isn't routinely dewormed, these nasty parasites can grow and clog your pet's intestines, leading to constipation.
- Intestinal blockage: Puppies try to put everything in their mouth, and sometimes they swallow an object that can pass down their esophagus, but is too large to fit through their intestines. Things like toys, rocks, corn cobs, cat litter, or bones can all create blockages in their intestines, resulting in constipation and many other life-threatening complications.
- Dehydration: If your puppy doesn't have enough fluids in their system, they can develop constipation. Puppies can become dehydrated due to illness, overheating, exposure to toxins, or lack of access to drinking water.
- Poor diet: A diet that's too low in moisture or has inadequate fiber can lead to hard, dry stools, which can be hard to pass.
- Stress: Leaving their mother and moving to a new environment can be a lot for a puppy. They might feel too stressed to eat, drink water, or poop, which can snowball into constipation.
Constipation in Newborn Puppies
You're probably aware that puppies are born with their eyes and ears closed, but did you know newborn puppies can't poop on their own? Puppies under the age of 2 to 3 weeks old rely on their mothers to stimulate their bowels and genitals to relieve themselves. Orphaned puppies need their caretaker to do this by gently massaging their bottom and genitals using a warm, wet cloth or cotton ball. If you have a newborn puppy who won't poop despite you or their mother stimulating them, see your vet for guidance.
Puppy Constipation Symptoms
How can you tell if your puppy is constipated? Unfortunately, the signs of puppy constipation can be easily mistaken for diarrhea, urinary problems, or other illnesses. In general, constipated puppies may show the following symptoms:
- Unable to produce feces
- Producing very small, hard, or dry stools
- Straining to defecate
- Crying while defecating
- Uncomfortable belly
- Low energy
- Decreased appetite
When to Contact Your Veterinarian
Puppies can decline in a matter of hours, depending on the root cause of their constipation. It's always wise to have your veterinarian examine your pup to make sure they're not in danger. See your vet right away if your puppy shows any of the following signs:
- Hasn't produced any poop in 24 hours
- Swallowed an object like a rawhide, toy, etc.
- No appetite
- Low energy
- Vomiting or regurgitating
- Painful abdomen
- Bloated belly
- Crying excessively
What to Give a Puppy for Constipation
If your puppy is otherwise acting fine (eating well, urinating normally, playing like usual, not vomiting, etc.), and it hasn't been longer than 24 hours since they've pooped, there are a few home remedies you can try to relieve your pup's mild constipation. Of course, do not give puppies any of these remedies if they aren't weaned yet. Only try these options for puppies who are eating solid food, and always consult with your veterinarian before adding anything new, even natural solutions, to your puppy's diet.
- Plain pumpkin puree: Pumpkin is high in fiber, which can help get things moving along. You'll want to choose plain pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling or any kind of pumpkin with sugar or spices added. Add ½ to 1 tablespoon to each meal, depending on your puppy's size.
- Psyllium husk powder: Veterinarians commonly use psyllium as a natural laxative. It absorbs water to help the stool move more easily through the colon. Mix about ½ to 1 teaspoon of powder in with your puppy's wet food per meal, and make sure they're drinking plenty of water.
- Wheat bran: Bran is another source of insoluble fiber that can help with constipation. Wheat bran, oat bran, and rice bran are all equally effective. Feed ¼ to ½ teaspoon per meal.
- Water: Water is an important part of treating a puppy's constipation. If you're adding any type of fiber to their diet, you'll need to promote drinking so they don't get even more constipated. Increase their water intake by adding warm - not hot - water to their wet food, placing a few ice cubes in their water dish, or getting a dog water fountain.
- Movement: Is your puppy getting enough exercise? Make sure they're moving around enough to stimulate their bowels and get their stool moving, too.
Puppy Constipation Home Remedies to Avoid
The last thing you want to do is cause more harm than good when trying to make your puppy feel better. Avoid these constipation home remedies unless your personal vet explicitly recommends them.
- Never give mineral oil: Mineral oil is sometimes used as a laxative in pets, but when administered the wrong way, it can be very dangerous. If your puppy accidentally inhales the oil, it can cause serious pneumonia. If your vet wants you to give a laxative to your puppy, elect for a small amount of coconut oil or a dog-specific laxative product, and follow your veterinarian's recommendations.
- Never give an enema: Enemas are not safe to perform at home. If the enema is inserted too far or in the wrong direction, you can damage or even tear your puppy's colonic wall. Many types of human enemas can cause life-threatening electrolyte imbalances in pets.
Treating Puppy Constipation with Care
It's possible that added fiber, movement, or more water could help treat your puppy's constipation at home. However, constipation doesn't just happen; there's always a root cause behind it. If your puppy hasn't had a bowel movement in 24 hours, even with the above home remedies, or develops any other signs of illness, see your veterinarian immediately. They may need to run diagnostics or perform an enema to help your puppy.