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Dog pooping by a tree

If you’ve noticed your dog’s poops aren’t as “regular” as normal, your pup might be constipated. You shouldn’t worry too much about the occasional irregular poop. But it’s important to get familiar with your doggie’s bowel habits so you know when something’s wrong. Constipation can become serious if pet parents don’t take action — here are the signs to know and ways stool softeners can help your dog find relief.

Signs your dog may be constipated

  • Not pooping for 24-48 hours
  • Hard, dry stools that feel like pebbles when you pick them up
  • Intermittent vomiting
  • An obviously distended or bloated belly
  • A lack of energy
  • Little to no appetite
  • Circling and scooting their bottom along the floor
  • Whining or crying while squatting to poop
  • Passing mucus or a small amount of liquid after straining to defecate

🚨 Always be on the lookout for blood in the stool. This is a serious sign that something’s wrong and you should immediately contact your veterinarian.

Common causes of constipation in dogs

If your dog isn’t pooping, these could be some of the potential causes:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in their diet
  • Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
  • Dehydration
  • A side effect of medication
  • Blocked or abscessed anal glands
  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt, or bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Obstruction caused by tumors or masses in the intestines or anus
  • Trauma to pelvis
  • Abnormality in the muscles in the rectal area (also called a perineal hernia)

What are stool softeners for dogs?

Stool softeners are a type of laxative that vets may use to treat canine constipation. Stool softeners (emollient laxatives) treat constipation by wetting and softening your dog’s poop. These types of laxatives are frequently used for serious cases of constipation.

Another type of laxative commonly used by vets is bulk-forming laxatives. They increase water absorption, add bulk, and soften poop. They’re often added to a dog’s diet through supplements such as wheat bran or pumpkin. These are frequently preferred by vets because they’re usually well-tolerated by dogs.

How quickly do doggie stool softeners work?

According to our vet, Dr. Dwight Alleyne, “It depends on the underlying condition that’s causing your dog’s constipation, how long the condition has been going on for, and which laxative is used.”

“Typically you want to see a laxative produce a bowel movement within 12 hours after giving it.”

Dr. Dwight Alleyne


Over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives to help your pup poop

If the problem is new (no more than 1 or 2 days), these OTC remedies may help your dog find relief. It’s best to give your dog’s vet a call to let them know what’s going on, especially if they end up needing something else to help ease their constipation.

1. Native Pet’s Pumpkin Powder

This pumpkin dog fiber supplement from Native Pet is designed by a veterinary nutritionist to give your pup a healthy dose of fiber. It’s formulated with organic pumpkin, pumpkin seed, and apple powders to create a high-fiber supplement for all-natural digestive support and relief. Dietary fiber, like pumpkin, is preferable over other laxatives because it’s easier on doggie tummies and more effective.

2.  NaturVet Stool Ease

NaturVet Stool Ease uses ingredients like pumpkin powder, flaxseed, psyllium, and sugar beet pulp to add fiber to your pup’s diet. This formula supports a healthy GI tract and promotes regular bowel movements. It also has a National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal on the label to show pet parents how committed they are to providing the best for your furbabies.

3. Bernie’s Perfect Poop

This 4-in-1 supplement combines the best ingredients for supporting a proper digestive system. The formula is almost 50% all-natural miscanthus grass, a highly fibrous ingredient that aids in making the “perfect poop.” Along with improving stool quality, these easy-to-serve bits also reduce gas and sweeten your dog’s breath. It’s important to note that, as small as these bits are, they’re very potent — pet parents should start slow when introducing the new fiber source to their dog’s diet.

👉 It’s important for pet parents to keep their dogs hydrated while taking any of these OTC meds.

When it’s time for Fido to see the vet

If you’ve tried an OTC product and your dog still isn’t pooping, you should get them in to see the vet right away. Your veterinarian can rule out any underlying causes that could be leading to your dog’s discomfort. Depending on the severity and the cause, they may need to send your dog home with a prescription stool softener that you can’t purchase over the counter.

👉 Long-term use of laxatives should be avoided unless approved by a veterinarian. 

Ways to keep your dog “regular”

Here are some steps pet parents can take to help keep their dogs’ digestive tracts regular and prevent constipation:

Ask your vet about a probiotic for FidoProbiotics are “friendly” bacteria that help your dog’s gut health. If they’re lacking in these probiotics, your pup may have GI problems like constipation, diarrhea, or gas. Adding a probiotic supplement like Native Pet’s Probiotic to their food may help balance their gut and relieve them of those symptoms. We love this specific probiotic because it has only 4 all-natural ingredients, it comes in an easy-to-feed powder to top their food with, and it has bonus prebiotic fibers, too.

Make sure your dog stays hydrated — If your dog is dehydrated, their body may pull water from the colon, leading to dry, hard, or impacted poops. Make sure they have plenty of water available, especially if you plan to give them extra fiber. You can help get your dog to drink more, you can try a drinking fountain or add water to their meals.

Feed your pup a high-quality, balanced diet — You can feed your pup fiber-fortified dog food. Or add foods that are high in fiber to their current food (such as green beans, 100% pumpkin, carrots, etc.)

Exercise your dog regularly — Exercise helps stimulate bowel movements, so be sure to take your pup for plenty of walks.

Don’t let your dog eat foreign materials — Keep things picked up around the house and always watch your pup while they’re chewing on any bones or toys. If they ingest something they shouldn’t, it could lead to intestinal obstruction or other dangerous conditions that need immediate vet attention.

👉 Some senior dogs and animals on medications are more likely to suffer from constipation. It’s important for pet parents to keep an eye on their daily poop to notice irregularities.

Frequently asked questions

Can dogs take human stool softeners?

You should never give your dog human laxatives without consulting your vet first. Laxatives for humans can cause severe symptoms when given to dogs and potentially lead to serious or even fatal reactions.

How long do dog stool softeners take to work?

Our vet Dr. Alleyne says, “Typically you want to see a laxative produce a bowel movement within 12 hours after giving it.”

What home remedy can I give my dog for constipation?

The easiest and safest home remedy for dog constipation is feeding them fibrous food like canned pumpkin, green beans, or broccoli.

What can I do at home to help make my dog poop?

Rubbing your dog’s stomach and exercising them can help encourage them to poop quickly. Adding canned pumpkin to their food is another easy way to try and stimulate them to poop. If that doesn’t help, you can take them to the vet and see if they have other medicines or if they can perform an enema to try to loosen the GI tract up.

👉 Make sure you give your dog plain canned pumpkin that doesn’t contain sweeteners like xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.