Laxatives can help constipation to help relieve bowel obstructions in constipated cats and dogs.

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  1. What is Constipation?
  2. What Causes Constipation?
  3. Diagnosing Constipation
  4. Help for Constipation
  5. More Information on Constipation

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What is Constipation?

Constipation is a common problem of the digestive system. All animals can suffer from it, but older cats and dogs are most prone to the condition. Symptoms can include less frequent bowel movements than normal, more difficult passage of stools or a combination of both. Being constipated can make your pet feel uncomfortable, bloated, heavy and sluggish.

In any animal’s body, regular elimination of waste products is vital to maintaining health. The colon is the organ in the animal body that contains and gets rid of waste, toxins and bacteria. If waste is not removed, an animal’s system becomes polluted and at risk.

When waste materials become clogged inside the colon, serious health complications can occur. The walls of an animal’s colon are thin, so clogged fecal matter that stays in the lower digestive tract too long can result in harmful toxins and bacteria leaking through the colon wall and into the body.

If the colon is not in regular use due to impacted fecal matter built up in the lower intestines, it can become weak. This makes it difficult to move or pass waste through the body.

The signs of constipation in cats and dogs include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hard, compacted stools that are difficult or painful to pass
  • Straining to defecate
  • No bowel movement or the urge to move bowels
  • Loss of appetite
  • Crying while trying to pass a stool

Related symptoms include:

  • Flatulence with the inability to pass a stool
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Coated tongue
  • Nausea and appetite loss
  • Diarrhea

What Causes Pets to be Constipated?

Common causes include:

  • A diet low in fiber (lacking whole grains, bran, fresh fruit and vegetables)
  • Not drinking enough water
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Stress
  • Medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), spinal injury, kidney failure, colon or rectal cancer, too much calcium in the blood, tumors and lesions of the bowel can all result in constipation
  • Changes in the environment
  • Poorly healed pelvic injuries
  • Medications given to your pet for other ailments, such as antibiotics
  • Parasite infestations
  • Bowel blockages caused by ingested or undigested, grass or bones.

Diagnosing Constipation in Cats and Dogs

Older pets are most prone to bowel troubles, although any pet can be affected. It’s important to monitor the bowel movements of pets. It’s critical to catch signs of constipation early and deal with it quickly.

Indoor cats are easiest to monitor, since pet owners can just check the litter box. If your cat is straining in the litter box, call your veterinarian. Pet owners of outdoor cats, dogs and other animals may have to work a little harder to observe their pet’s waste. Look for any changes in stool color or consistency.

Ongoing trouble passing stools can lead to a serious medication condition called megacolon. With megacolon, the colon becomes stretched and flaccid, and is no longer able to contract as it should.

If you notice any changes in your pet’s bowel movements, take your animal to your vet for a check-up. If your vet suspects a blockage, they may need to take x-rays.

Treatment for Constipated Pets

Various treatments can ease the symptoms of constipation in cats and dogs. Conventional medication, complementary therapy and natural remedies—together with a high-fiber diet and regular exercise—will keep your pet’s digestive system regular.

Conventional laxatives are often prescribed for pets. If your vet advises, give your pet a mild laxative or stool softener. Keep in mind that smaller cats and dogs are likely to require smaller amounts, so make sure you give the correct dosage.

Enemas are another treatment option. The procedure for an enema is not pleasant and may be stressful for your pet. Pet owners should never try this at home, unless properly trained by a veterinarian.

In rare cases, if the animal doesn’t respond to other forms of treatment, a vet may anesthetize it and remove impacted feces from the colon.

If an animal has become dehydrated, a vet may give the dog or cat intravenous fluid therapy to rehydrate.

More Information on Pet Constipation

There are various ways pet owners can prevent this condition in dogs and cats:

  • Diet - Add high fiber foods such a whole grain oats, wheat bran, rice and fresh vegetables to your pet’s diet. Limit foods that contain flour, excess sugar and dairy.
  • Hydration - Encourage your pet to drink plenty of fresh water, because water intake helps to stimulate the bowels. You can also add small amounts of water to pet food.
  • Exercise - Regular exercise such as walking your pet everyday can help to both prevent and relieve constipation
  • Routine - Encourage regular bowel movements for your pet by walking them outside an hour after meals.
  • Safety - Make sure your dog or cat doesn’t have access to objects that could block the colon or bowels, such as coins, buttons, keys and bones.
  • Pumpkin - Adding canned pumpkin to your dog’s meal might produce a successful bowel movement. Ask your vet about this solution.
  • Try a natural remedy, such as Natural Moves for Pets™ for Bowel Regularity or Digestive Support™ for Cat & Dog Digestion.


  1. “Constipation.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Accessed October 5, 2019.
  2. “8 Ways to Help Your Constipated Cat.” PetMD. Accessed October 5, 2019.
  3. Paul, Mike. “I Have a Constipated Dog, What Should I Do?” Pet Health Network Accessed October 5, 2019.
  4. Bovsun, Maria. “Dog Constipation: Causes, Diagnoses and Treatment.” American Kennel Club. Accessed October 5, 2019.
  5. “Dog Constipation and How to Treat It.” PetMD. Accessed October 5, 2019.
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