Many pet parents look for natural treatments when their dog is constipated. One remedy they may turn to is olive oil. When used properly, olive oil may relieve mild constipation in a healthy dog. However, it may not be the best option. In this article, we will review the key benefits of olive oil, when and how to administer it to your dog, and whether you should use it at all.
Key benefits of olive oil in relieving constipation in dogs
For mild constipation without any other signs, some dog owners choose olive oil to give their dog constipation relief. It may lubricate the digestive tract which would ease the passage of stool. And since we use it regularly in cooking food for ourselves, the natural assumption is that it must be safe for dogs too, right? Before giving your dog olive oil for constipation, consult your veterinarian as there are a few stipulations in its use.
Related post: 6 Most Effective Home Remedies for Dog Constipation
Factors to consider before using olive oil to help a constipated dog
Before you decide to go the olive oil route for your suspected case of constipation, consider a few things:
1) Dog’s weight and size: Appropriate doses may vary based on your dog’s weight, and while giving too little won’t necessarily cause any harm, giving too much can cause significant health issues that are worse than a little constipation.
2) Dog’s age: Puppies and senior dogs might be more sensitive to the negative effects of a high-fat dose of olive oil, so extreme caution should be used before administering. Consult your vet.
3) Severity of constipation: Mild cases might respond well to a dose of olive oil, but severe constipation requires prompt veterinary attention. Olive oil isn’t going to help in severe cases and might actually make your pet worse!
4) Concurrent health conditions: Any health condition that responds negatively to ingestion of excessive fat will react badly with a big dose of olive oil. Do not use olive oil or any other fatty substances as a home remedy for suspected constipation if your dog has any of the following conditions:
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- other gastro-intestinal conditions (especially lymphangiectasia)
- a history of pancreatitis
- liver disease
- gallbladder disease
- cardiac disease
- high blood pressure
- disorders of lipid metabolism (hyperlipidemia, high cholesterol/ triglycerides, etc)
If your dog has a health condition that is not listed above, please contact your veterinarian before trying to use olive oil for your dog’s constipation.
Proper ways to use olive oil to help your constipated dog:
If your dog is otherwise healthy, and the signs of constipation are mild and not accompanied by vomiting, lethargy, or diarrhea, you can consider mixing olive oil with dog food. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon for small dogs, up to 1 tablespoon for larger ones) over their regular food. Chances are your dog will like this tasty and fragrant addition to the food bowl. If your dog refuses to eat the food laced with olive oil, do not force your dog to eat and instead, give them a clean bowl of fresh food without added oil.
If this doesn’t work, olive oil may not be the remedy for your dog. What you don’t want to do it put the olive oil directly in their mouth. This is discouraged as most dogs will react negatively to being force-fed. It is likely to create a mess, and it increases the chance of your dog accidentally breathing in the olive oil liquid (leading to aspiration pneumonia).
Are there other home remedies that are more effective than olive oil?
In an otherwise healthy dog, there are some alternatives that might be safer or more suitable than olive oil:
- Increasing fiber intake: Adding fiber-rich foods to your dog’s diet can promote regular bowel movements. Because of its digestibility and palatability, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) is often recommended for minor bowel issues.
- Hydration: Ensure your dog has access to fresh water at all times to prevent dehydration, which can exacerbate constipation. You may entice drinking by adding a little low-sodium chicken broth to their water bowl.
- Gentle exercise: Regular physical activity supports healthy digestion, and taking your dog for a few short walks (per their tolerance) may help “move things along”.
When should I seek veterinary care for my dog’s constipation?
Any time you suspect your dog is constipated, reaching out to their veterinarian should be your first step. If you’ve been monitoring for a little while though, and notice any of these signs, you should contact the veterinarian immediately:
- Persistent constipation for more than 24 hours.
- Straining without producing stool for an extended period of time
- Lethargy, loss of appetite, or vomiting.
- “Constipation” associated with an episode of diarrhea
- If you suspect your pet has eaten a foreign object within the last few days, weeks, or months
- If you notice any signs of rectal prolapse, see any blood around their rear or on their bowel movements
- If your dog’s urinary habits are affected (decreased urination, straining to urinate, lack of urination, blood in urine)
Are there other health conditions that could be mistaken for constipation?
You might assume constipation is easy to recognize, but there are a number of health conditions that can mimic the signs of constipation:
- Intestinal obstruction: while you may technically see constipation as a side effect, the presence of an intestinal obstruction is much more severe, and urgent. This occurs when your dog has eaten something they can’t digest and it gets stuck in the intestines. Straining may occur, along with vomiting, and discomfort. Your dog likely needs surgery to relieve the blockage.
- GI inflammation: If the intestines are irritated by something, whether a foreign substance, an imbalance of gut bacteria, or they’re having an immune reaction or sensitivity reaction, if their intestines are inflamed, it may cause localized swelling and discomfort that lead to straining and poor digestion.
- Diarrhea: This goes against your normal ideas, but diarrhea can actually produce straining that looks like constipation. That’s because diarrhea can make a dog feel like they need to go even when the colon is empty. Pay close attention to any feces that is passed to rule this one out.
- Urinary issues: While the urinary tract and intestinal tracts are two separate body systems, dogs that are straining to urinate look remarkably similar to dogs who are straining to defecate. Pay close attention to which body systems are functioning normally and which are not.
- Anal gland issues: Some people mistake the “scoot” associated with an anal gland issue with a constipation issue. Sometimes anal glands get full of material and have to be manually expressed (usually by your dog’s veterinary care team) and dogs are reluctant to pass a bowel movement because of it. It’s also possible for an infection in the anal gland to lead to an abscess that makes defecation painful, and will lead to your dog “holding it in” instead of passing bowel movements like they should.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can olive oil be used as a long-term solution for constipation in dogs?
Long-term use of olive oil is not recommended because supplementing with olive oil means giving your dog a higher than normal amount of fat every day. The pancreas and other body systems can be very sensitive to this and long term over-administration can cause other health issues.
There are also some health conditions where olive oil administration is contraindicated, and so long term administration could exacerabate these issues.
- Pancreatitis: High-fat content in olive oil can aggravate this condition.
- GI disorders: Some gastrointestinal diseases may worsen with the introduction of fats like olive oil.
How quickly should olive oil relieve constipation in dogs?
Results can vary, but you might notice improvement within 6 to 12 hours as the olive oil makes its way through the intestinal tract. However, if at any point in the hours after you notice constipation, you observe a change in your dog’s status (lethargy, severe straining, blood, etc) don’t wait for the olive oil to work. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
What are some signs that olive oil is not working for my constipated dog?
If your dog’s signs are mild but do not resolve within 12 hours, seek veterinary care. Mild signs of constipation include:
- A lack of bowel movement at normal times of day
- Gentle attempts to pass a bowel movement without success
- Slight straining
If your dog’s signs are moderate and do not resolve within a couple of hours, seek veterinary care. Moderate signs of constipation are:
- A lack of bowel movement for a day or more
- Frequent straining with some effort coming from the belly
- Slight decrease in appetite
If your dog’s signs are severe, seek veterinary care right away. Severe signs of constipation will be:
- Lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting
- Frequent or constant straining
- Grunting or crying when trying to pass the bowel movement
- Signs of pain
- Presence of blood anywhere near the anus