As a dog parent, you’re attuned to your pet’s habits, including the not-so-glamorous bowel movements. So, when your dog hasn’t pooped in two days, it’s understandable to be concerned, even if your dog acts normal and shows no signs of illness. As a veterinarian, I have dealt with these issues countless times. In this article, I will answer frequently asked questions when your dog doesn’t poop: Is my dog in trouble? should I worry? is there any home remedy that can help?
Should I worry if my dog has not pooped for 2 days or more? (but acts normal)
Firstly, let’s understand what generally constitutes a healthy bowel movement for a dog:
- Frequency: Typically, dogs defecate at least one to three times per day.
- Consistency: Stool should be firm but not hard. See this fecal scoring chart for more details.
- Color: A chocolate-brown color is generally a good sign; however, color may vary.
- Size and Shape: This may vary depending on the size of the dog and its diet but should be consistent over time.
Dogs differ in their bathroom habits due to age, diet, and activity levels. While some dogs might go every day like clockwork, others might have a more varied schedule. It’s most important to know what’s regular for your dog, so that you can keep an eye out for any changes.
If your dog hasn’t pooped in two days but is otherwise behaving normally—eating well, active, and not showing any signs of discomfort—it may not be an immediate cause for alarm; however, it may also be that your dog is constipated. If a bowel movement has not occurred by day three, then it is recommended to see your vet even if your dog is still acting normal.
Best home remedies to help a dog with mild constipation & no other signs of illness
If you suspect your dog is experiencing mild constipation, there are several steps you can take at home to help alleviate the issue. However, if the constipation persists or if you notice other symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, or lethargy, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. Here are some at-home remedies to try:
- Monitoring: Make a note of when your dog last had a bowel movement, what it looked like, and any other symptoms. This can be valuable information for your veterinarian if you need to seek professional help. It’s also important to distinguish between constipation, diarrhea, and difficulty urinating – not being able to urinate is a medical emergency. Lastly, if they allow it, check your dog’s anus for any signs of redness, irritation, swelling, or matted fur.
- Hydration: Make sure that fresh water is always available. You can try to encourage drinking by adding a small amount of low-sodium chicken broth to the water. You can also consider adding canned food to increase water intake.
- Diet adjustments: Increase fiber intake by adding 1-4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling) to your dog’s meals. Canned pumpkin is a great source of fiber and most dogs really like it. Learn How Much Pumpkin to Give a Dog (this can work for both constipation and diarrhea).
- Physical activity: Exercise helps stimulate natural bowel movements. A good walk or play session can sometimes be enough to get things moving.
- Over-the-counter solutions: Metamucil, Miralax, and other options may sometimes be helpful, however you should first consult your veterinarian for safety and dosage information.
See our article on home remedies for constipation for more helpful tips.
Keep an eye out for these other signs
You should call your veterinarian if your dog has not pooped in 2 days and present other signs of illness, including any of the following signs:
- Abdominal Distension or Pain
- Decreased appetite
Top reasons causing a dog not to poop for several days
Understanding the root cause of constipation is essential for proper treatment. Here are common reasons why dogs may experience constipation while still behaving normally:
- Dietary Issues: Lack of fiber, sudden changes in diet, dietary indiscretion, or decreased food intake due to another medical condition
- Dehydration: Insufficient water intake or secondary to another medical conditon
- Lack of Exercise: Physical activity helps stimulate bowel movements.
- Stress: From change in routine or other factors
- Medications: Certain drugs can cause constipation as a side effect. On a similar note, if your dog has just had surgery, it can be normal to not have a bowel movement for several days.
- Blockages: Foreign objects, tumors, or strictures can obstruct the bowel.
- Metabolic Disorders: Conditions like hypothyroidism can affect bowel movements.
- Neurological Issues: Problems with nerves controlling bowel function
- Pain: Arthritis, back pain, anal gland issues, or other types of pain can prevent a dog from wanting to posture to defecate.
- Matted fur, blocking the anus
What is going to happen if I don’t help my dog?
Failure to address constipation or irregular bowel movements in your dog can lead to a range of complications, some of which may become serious or life-threatening. First, your dog may continue to experience symptoms such as discomfort, pain, and loss of appetite.
If constipation becomes severe, the stool can become so hard and impacted that your dog will not be able to pass it, a condition known as obstipation. This can be an emergent condition. In extreme cases, this can then lead to megacolon, in which the muscles of the colon lose their ability to contract properly, leading to a dilated colon that cannot effectively move stool. This is often irreversible and challenging to manage, and can affect your dog’s quality of life.
Additionally, constipation can also be a symptom of other underlying health conditions, such as kidney disease or hypothyroidism. Failure to address the constipation may mean missing these other diagnoses.
When does a dog need to see a veterinarian about constipation?
If your dog has not had a bowel movement for 48-72 hours OR if you notice signs of discomfort or other signs of illness (such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy), it is time to see your veterinarian.
Your visit at the vet
When you visit the vet with a concern that your dog has not been defecating normally, they will start by asking about your dog’s medical history, diet, and symptoms. You may be asked to describe the color, consistency, and frequency of your dog’s stools, as well as any other noticeable symptoms like straining, lethargy, or appetite loss. Prior to your visit, it is a good idea to see if your vet would like you to bring in a fresh fecal sample. The vet will then perform a thorough nose-to-tail physical exam, including a rectal exam.
- X-rays or Ultrasounds ($100-500): Imaging tests may be done to look for blockages, foreign objects, or other underlying issues.
- Blood Tests ($100-300): These can include a complete blood count (CBC), a serum chemistry panel to rule out systemic illnesses and evaluate major organ function, and more specific tests to check for thyroid hormone levels or other conditions.
- Fecal Tests ($30-75): To look for parasites or bacteria that might be contributing to the issue.
- In more complex cases, a colonoscopy or MRI could be indicated.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause but may include:
- Dietary Changes: Adding fiber to your dog’s diet can sometimes relieve constipation. This could be through a supplements such as canned pumpkin or Metamucil, or a prescription high-fiber diet.
- Medications ($20-100): Laxatives, stool softeners, or prokinetic medications that promote movement in the digestive tract may be prescribed.
- Fluid Therapy: For severe constipation or signs of dehydration, intravenous or subcutaneous fluids may be administered.
- Enemas: Your vet may perform an enema to help your dog empty their bowels.
- Surgery ($1000-3000+): In very severe cases where the stool is impacted and causing a blockage, surgical intervention may be necessary.
What is constipation?
Constipation is characterized by infrequent or difficult bowel movements. The dog may strain while trying to defecate, and the stools may be hard and dry when they are eventually passed. Symptoms may include:
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Straining to defecate: You may observe your dog assuming the defecation posture and straining without producing any stool. However, it is important to note that a similar behavior may be noted in a dog straining to pass diarrhea or urine.
- Small, hard, dry Stools
- Presence of mucus or blood on stool
- Restlessness or anxiety
- Licking the anal area
Prognosis and Follow-up
Most cases of constipation resolve with appropriate intervention, such as an enema at your vet’s, but the prognosis may vary based on any underlying conditions diagnosed. Follow-up appointments may be needed to ensure your dog has recovered and to adjust any long-term treatments.