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Passing hard and dry stools (or constipation) is a problem that your pup is likely to face at some point in time. It not only causes discomfort to your dog but can also lead to more serious health conditions given that stool doesn’t move in the system smoothly, impacting the colon. For instance, ongoing constipation may result in weight loss, loss of appetite, and inflamed bowel linings among other issues. However, there are several remedies that you can give your dog to get things flowing again—and one that many dog parents ask a lot of questions about is the use of stool softeners. Which dog stool softeners can you give a dog that struggles to defecate? We’ll find out shortly but before then, let’s learn a few basics…
What Causes Hard Stools in Dogs?
The main causes of hard stools in pets include:
- Insufficient water intake: If your dog is not drinking enough water, he can become dehydrated. His body will absorb as much water as it can from the bowels, causing harder, drier stools. Besides giving your dog a healthy diet, ensure that he has access to plenty of fresh, clean water. Some dog breeds prefer running water, so offering them a fountain type water source can go a long way in boosting their water intake.
- Ingesting foreign matter: Ingesting foreign materials like rocks, bones, gravel, etc, can make your dog experience elimination difficulties. While there are instances when the foreign materials may be eliminated within a short time, some may take longer, causing constipation and other health issues. We recommend that you see a vet if you notice your dog manifesting signs of pain during defecation.
- Obstruction from physical disorders: A narrowed pelvic canal as a result of tumors, injury, anal gland disorders, hernias, or prostatic enlargements can cause constipation.
- Discomfort from lower back pain or hip arthritis may also make it a bit difficult for a dog to have normal bowel movements. Medication for joint health may be beneficial.
- Motility disorders: If the colon muscles don’t contract normally, the stool won’t move, so your dog’s colon has to stretch beyond its natural limits, making it even harder for the colon to function.
- Medications: Certain medications may affect stool consistency and make it hard. To be sure that it is medication that’s causing your dog to eliminate hard stools, consult your vet to help you rule out other underlying health conditions.
What Are Dog Stool Softeners?
Dog stool softeners are medications that are given to dogs with bowel problems or dogs that have not defecated for a couple of days. They work by drawing water and fat from the food that a dog has ingested into the fecal matter, thereby softening the waste material.
While hardened stools in dogs are caused by several factors, the following are some of the tried and tested stool softeners for dogs that will help overcome the problem.
Pumpkin is rich in fiber, which adds bulk to your dog’s poop by absorbing water. Fiber fermentation in your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract also produces beneficial fatty acid, which stimulates intestinal sodium and water absorption as well as lowers your dog’s colon pH. All these factors aid digestion and help soften your dog’s stool.
You can feed canned pumpkin to your dog on its own or you can mix it with his meals. About 1 tablespoon to ½ cup of pumpkin will suffice though you can feed more if you have a large dog breed. We recommend plain canned pumpkin because it boasts higher amounts of fiber and nutrients than fresh pumpkin.
Avoid giving your dog canned pumpkins with spices, sugar, salt, and other additives as they can irritate your dog’s stomach, giving him more problems and counteracting the beneficial impacts of the pumpkin.
This stool softener from NaturVet is formulated with fiber and proprietary enzyme, all of which help to soften your dog’s stool and maintain smoother or regular bowel movements. The chews taste like a real treat, so even dogs with reduced appetite will find them irresistible. It is wheat-free, made in the US, and is cGMP and NASC-compliant. It is not recommended for puppies below the age of 12 weeks. Ensure that you give your dog plenty of water when using this stool softener because of increased fiber in his diet.
Smooth BM Gold is formulated to support your dog’s digestive health and aid normal GI functions, allowing for soft, quality stools. It is free from bulking materials that can irritate your dog’s large intestine and cause purging. It is prepared using organically grown herbs sourced from trusted growers, so you can rest easy knowing that it will be safe for your pup.
Express Ease is formulated with pumpkin fiber to support quality stool consistency and improved anal gland health. It is flavored with real duck to cater to dogs with decreased appetites. Each stick also includes larch tree extract and malt dextrin, which play a critical role in supporting fecal quality. Like other VetriScience Laboratories products, it is manufactured in the US and is backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
One of the main causes of constipation in dogs is the lack of fluids. Giving your dog plenty of water throughout the day will help keep his body hydrated and prevent the resorption of fluids from his feces, which often leads to the hardening of stools. If your dog refuses to increase his level of water intake, switching to wet dog foods like Cesar Gourmet Wet Dog Food might be a good idea.
Sold under other brand names like Metamucil, Psyllium seed husks are rich in fiber, which absorbs water in the intestine and bulks it into a stool softening gel. Give ½ tablespoon for smaller dog breeds and 2 tablespoons for larger breeds twice a day. Ensure that you combine it with plenty of water or broth so that it passes smoothly through your dog’s stomach without congealing. It may take up to 3 days for significant laxative action to occur.
Milk has lactose, which is known to absorb moisture into your dog’s large intestine and help enhance smooth bowel movements, which promotes soft, quality stools. Feed your pup about 2-3 oz. of milk twice a day to eliminate his constipation problem and soften his stool. Continue for a few days until your pup defecates soft stools or has a smooth bowel movement.
Oat bran is another excellent source of fiber that can prevent constipation just like Psyllium seed husks or canned pumpkin. Add about one tablespoon to your dog’s food and slowly increase the quantity to two tablespoons until your dog begins to eliminate soft stool or until he has bowel movements without straining.
9. Ginger and Beef/Chicken Broth
Ginger is a potent remedy for upset stomach, so combining it with chicken or beef broth fat will soften your dog’s stool and get things moving along. This is, therefore, a perfect stool softener for dogs that can be formulated with supplies that are already in your kitchen. Mix about ¼ tablespoon of ginger with approximately ½ cup of beef or chicken broth. You can either prepare your own broth or opt for store-bought options. Here are the best brands if you opt for the latter option:
Adding some olive oil to your dog food will soften your dog’s stool and allow him to eliminate without straining. However, use it in moderation as adding any kind of oil to your dog food could potentially cause diarrhea. You are already troubled with your dog’s stool problem and you don’t want to deal with another digestive problem. If you cannot access olive oil, mineral oil will also work.
For the best results, mix a little amount of Olive or mineral oil into your dog’s food instead of syringing directly into his mouth. Oils have odd slippery consistency and your pup may end up inhaling it into the lungs instead of swallowing.
11. Prescription Stool Softeners
Like most of the stool softeners we have highlighted so far, prescription stool softeners for dogs are designed to help draw water into your dog’s intestines, softening his stool and enhancing smooth bowel movements.
Marketed under several other brand names, including Colace and Surfak, this FDA-approved tablet works by permitting fat and water to penetrate your dog’s GI tract, loosening his fecal material. The recommended dosage is ¼ to 1 tablet of the 100 mg tablets depending on the size of your dog. Avoid giving it to a dehydrated dog and only use it as directed by your vet as improper use may cause other health issues, including diarrhea and cramping.
Contains natural fiber capsules that are formulated without the use of artificial additives, preservatives, salt, or sugar. It provides effective relief for constipation in dogs and improves stool quality.
This is another excellent stool softener that can help your dog defecate with ease. It works by stimulating your dog’s pelvic nerves, boosting the motility of the colon. This kind of nerve stimulation should be done in moderation and that’s why consulting a vet is critical.
Also sold under other brand names like Enulose, Chronulac and Cephulac, this syrup gets broken by bacteria in your dog’s large intestine to release different acids that attract moisture to the bowel.
This emollient laxative works like olive or mineral oil by providing lubrication to speed up and make your dog’s bowel movement smoother. It is also formulated with essential vitamins, iron, and fatty acids to boost your dog’s overall health. It is recommended for a wide range of digestive issues in dogs, including hairballs and constipation.
The hard and dry stool is a real problem in dogs. However, with the dog stool softeners we have highlighted on this post and a basic understanding of the potential causes, it should be easy to help your dog defecate with ease. But remember that giving your dog a stool softener is a first step in caring for your dog, so if you don’t see improvements with 24-48 hours, consult your vet for more professional input.
Besides, other than water, the above-highlighted stool softeners for dogs should only be administered when a dog is constipated or when recommended by a vet. Human laxatives and stool softeners should be avoided as they are too strong and can create more complications.
Whatever stool softener you decide to use, follow a vet’s recommendations and monitor your vet’s activities and appetite until he has a normal bowel movement. Remember that if your dog struggles to defecate for long, his colon could become packed, causing even more internal damage. So, always take hard and dry stool (or constipation) problems seriously!