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Can you give a dog a laxative?

May 28, 2022


Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from constipation due to certain causes. If you have noticed that your dog poops infrequently, in small amounts or you notice that it makes unsuccessful efforts to expel stool, it is probably constipated. 


The dog should defecate once or twice a day, however, do not be alarmed if your dog has not pooped for a day or two, as long as after these two days the stools are consistent and of a normal size, not too small . The problem comes when the feces are retained in the colon for more than two days and it takes a lot of effort to expel them.


Laxatives are useful for solving a specific problem, but we should never give our dog a laxative without talking to a pet expert or a vet prescription. In addition, the solution to constipation in dogs involves identifying its cause and implementing the corresponding corrective measures.


Causes of constipation in dogs


There are several reasons why a dog can have constipation. In addition, special attention must be paid to the symptoms it produces, since it could be indicating a more serious problem in the dog. Among the main causes of constipation in dogs we can find:


  • The most common cause, especially in middle-aged or elderly dogs, is lack of water. Not drinking enough water dehydrates stool, making it too dry and hard to pass through the colon.

  • Ingesting foreign materials such as sticks, grass, hair, cloth, paper, bone chips... is also a cause of constipation in the dog because they are indigestible materials and cause the stool to harden too much.

  • There are several drugs that have constipation as a side effect.

  • A pelvic injury is another cause when we talk about the appearance of constipation, either due to pain or narrowing.

  • Conditions such as hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia, and lumbar nerve injury can also cause constipation.

  • Stress can cause constipation, for example when you change houses or routines.

  • The dog may be holding back the urge to defecate. A frequent situation that occurs in these cases is when the dog is taught not to relieve itself inside the house and it spends a lot of time locked up. For the same reason, when the dog is hospitalized, it is also normal for it not to defecate due to stress and an unknown location. This situation can also occur during a trip.


Symptoms of constipation in dogs


If a dog is constipated, these are some of the possible symptoms:


  • Lack of defecation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of weight and appetite.
  • Small, hard, dark stools.
  • Unsuccessful efforts to defecate.
  • Swollen abdomen.
  • Signs of pain while trying to pass stool.
  • Stools with blood or mucus.


Types of laxatives for dogs


Laxatives are used when the dog cannot defecate or does so with effort. It is usual to first try a change in diet, discard the bones, increase physical activity, reduce weight in case of obesity and increase water intake. But, to resolve a situation of specific constipation that is causing discomfort to the dog or as a preventive in those dogs with a tendency to constipation, laxatives can be the solution. The types of laxatives that we can highlight, according to their characteristics, are the following:


  • Osmotic laxatives. What these laxatives do is concentrate water in the intestine. In this way, they hydrate the feces of our dog. They have a mild effect and are safe and effective. This is how lactulose and milk of magnesia or magnesium hydroxide work, but the latter should not be given to dogs with kidney disease.

  • Stimulant laxatives. They work by increasing bowel movements. They are very effective but should not be used frequently because they would end up interfering with normal bowel function. 

  • Bulk-forming laxatives. They can be used daily in order to increase the amount of fiber in the dog's diet. They are added to food and their effect is aimed at softening the stool and stimulating its deposition, increasing the frequency. They can be used indefinitely without adverse side effects.

  • Emollient laxatives. These are used when the stool is hard and dry, unless the dog is dehydrated, in which case they would be contraindicated. Its function is to get the stool to absorb more water, so that the stools soften. They can be used daily.

  • Lubricant laxatives. The most common example in this group is mineral oil. They help stool pass through the anal canal. The problem is that this oil interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Therefore it is not recommended for continuous use. Also, it should not be combined with emollient laxatives. It can be added once or twice a week to the dog's food.


Natural laxatives for dogs


Before considering the use of laxatives, we can try the use of some laxative foods for dogs. Sometimes, only with them it is possible to solve constipation. These are some laxative food for dogs:


  • A considerable quantity of milk. Milk in dogs has a mild laxative effect when the digestive enzyme lactase fails to break down the lactose in milk. Lactose draws fluid into the intestine, so that bowel movement is stimulated.

  • Whole wheat bran. This has a formative effect on the intestinal bolus. It can be added to food at the rate of one to five tablespoons per day. May be offered daily to prevent constipation.

  • Olive oil. Administering a tablespoon directly or with food, can help resolve mild constipation.

  • Beet, carrot or psyllium pulp. These are foods that can be included in the dog's diet. Its benefits derive from its contribution of fibers.

  • Hot water. Hot water can be used as an enema, repeating its administration, without problem, several times a day.

  • Water. Since proper hydration is essential for stool consistency and intestinal motility, it is important for the dog to drink plenty of water. If our dog drinks little, we can opt for a wet diet or, at least offer it soaked.

  • Lots of fiber. Diets with a high fiber content are essential for good intestinal transit.

For more information, talk to one of our Pet Experts and get customized advice by submitting a request in our Mavyn app or Mavyn Pet page.