Dogs

How to manage dog constipation after surgery

I know how tough it is to watch your furry buddy struggle post-surgery. You’re there, ready to do anything and everything to ease their discomfort and speed up their recovery. And suddenly your dog is dealing with constipation on top of everything else.

Since you landed on my page, I’m guessing that you want to help but have no idea how. And you’re probably feeling confused and a bit lost, am I right?

Ok, take a deep breath and let’s talk it trough so you have all the information you need to know what to do next 🤗


While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.



This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.


Shi tzu lying down and looking at the camera

Signs of constipation in dogs

First thigs first. How can you even tell if your dog is constipated? 

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty or straining while trying to poop
  • Unproductive straining
  • Less frequent bowel movements
  • Hard, dry stools

In general, constipation means your dog has difficulty passing stool. 

What causes constipation in dogs after surgery?

Once you get home from the vet clinic, it’s essential to watch your dog’s bowel movements. Surgical procedures and general anesthesia often have an impact on digestive tract, which, if left untreated, are not just very uncomfortable but can lead to serious medical complications. 

Your pup should have his first bowel movement pos-surgery within 1-2 days, depending on his medical history and the procedure. It’s always a good idea to ask your vet when should your dog defecate after the surgery. 

There are several causes of constipation and understanding

Anesthesia: 

Just like in humans, anesthesia can slow down a dog’s digestive system. This slowdown often leads to temporary constipation as their body gets back to normal.

Reduced physical activity: 

After surgery, dogs are usually less active. This lack of exercise and general decrease in movement can reduce the natural stimulation of the intestinal tract, making it harder for them to have regular bowel movements.

Medications: 

Pain relief and other medications prescribed post-surgery can have side effects, one of which is constipation. These meds might mess with your dog’s usual bathroom habits.

Stress: 

Surgery can be a stressful experience for your furry friend. Stress impacts the body in many ways, including the digestive system, leading to constipation.

Pain: 

If your dog is experiencing discomfort, they may resist the urge to defecate, leading to constipation. This is particularly common if the surgery involved your dog’s abdomen, back, hindquarters, or near the anus. 

The pain in these areas can make it difficult for your pup to squat comfortably to do their business. Faced with the choice between pain and the need to relieve themselves, your dog might try to hold it in for as long as possible. Unfortunately, delaying bowel movements can result in the stool becoming hard and difficult to pass later on.

Always adhere to your vet’s guidance regarding post-surgery pain medications. These medications are essential for your dog’s comfort. Pain, while a part of life, should not be a part of your dog’s recovery process. It’s crucial to manage their discomfort effectively and compassionately.

Dehydration: 

During and after surgery, dogs can become dehydrated. While it’s not a problem while they’re in the gentle care of your vet, once they get home, it’s up to pet owners to make sure they are drinking plenty of water. Proper hydration is crucial for normal bowel movements, so lack of enough fluids can lead to constipation.

Fasting before or after the procedure: 

Fasting is often required before surgery, and your dog’s eating schedule might also be disrupted after the procedure. This irregular intake of food can temporarily upset their digestive rhythm, resulting in constipation. Also, there is a difference between constipation and not enough food in your dog’s digestive tract after fasting. 

Infographic: The most common causes of dog constipation after surgery

Home care tips for dog constipation after surgery

Now that you understand why is your pup constipated, let’s get to the main point of this article – how to make them feel better 🙂 

Here are a few tips you can try at home if your dog is suffering from a mild constipation and has no other symptoms. But please be advised that the best thing you can do is to call your vet. 

And always consult with your veterinarian before trying home remedies, changing your dog’s diet, or starting new exercise routines, especially post-surgery. 

What works for one dog may not be suitable for another, particularly if they’re still recovering from an operation.

Make sure your dog is drinking enough water

The first thing you should do if your dog has hard stools is to ensure that they’re hydrated enough.

Post-surgery, dogs may drink less due to discomfort, stress, nausea or pain. Some medications can also alter their thirst mechanism. 

If a dog’s normal routine is disrupted, they might forget or be less inclined to drink water (especially senior dogs).

However, proper hydration is essential for softening stool and promoting healthy bowel movements. 

How to check if your dog is hydrated:

  • Perform the ‘Skin Tent Test’: Gently lift the skin on the back of your dog’s neck between their shoulder blades. If it doesn’t spring back quickly (within 2-3 seconds), they could be dehydrated.
  • Check their gums: They should be slick and wet. If they feel dry or sticky, it’s a sign of dehydration.

Do whatever you have to to encourage your dog to drink water. Here are a few tips you can try:

  • Ensure your dog has constant access to fresh, clean water. 
  • Keep fresh water available at all times, and consider multiple water stations around the house. 
  • Try using water fountain if necessary.
  • You can add flavor to the water with small amount of low-sodium chicken or bone broth.
  • Implement a routine for offering water, especially if your dog tends to be forgetful or less motivated to drink.
  • Add warm water to your dog’s dry food
  • Add or switch to wet food

Make dietary adjustments

A balanced diet is crucial for regular bowel movements. Post-surgery, your dog’s dietary needs may change due to reduced activity and altered digestion. Please consult any dietary changes with your vet! Too much fibre can cause flatulance (gas) or diarrhea. 

It’s important to introduce any diet change slowly and gradually. Sudden change in your dog’s diet can result in gastrointestinal discomfort.

Add dietary fiber to your dog’s food to help stimulate bowel movements. 

High-fiber diet helps to retain moisture in the stool, which softens it and can aid in alleviating your dog’s constipation.

You can use plain canned pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling!) or cooked carrots.

Some dogs benefit from a temporary shift to a bland diet (like boiled chicken and overcooked rice).

Feed your pup small amounts and more frequently. 

Incorporate gentle exercise in your daily routine

First of all, if your dog is recovering from a surgical procedure, it’s extremely important that you talk to your vet before implementing any exercise routines. 

Regular exercise helps increase intestinal motility and can also do wonders for your pup’s mental state. 

Start with short, leisurely walks, gradually increasing duration and intensity based on your dog’s recovery and your vet’s recommendations. 

Try using home remedies

Some foods act as stool softeners and natural laxatives. However, please talk to your vet before you use any of them. 

Stool softeners increase the moisture content in the intestines, leading to smoother bowel movements. 

Laxatives, on the other hand, function either by stimulating the colon or by lubricating the stool,

Psyllium husk:

Warning – while psyllium is great at helping constipated dogs, it can interact with your pet’s medication and is contraindicated in several health issues. It needs to be mixed with a lot of water and your pup should be drinking enough on his own. 

Psylium acts as a bulk-forming laxative, absorbing water in the intestines and making bowel movements easier. Start by mixing a 1/4 tsp of psyllium seeds with 1 cup of water, let it set for a while and then mix that with your pet’s food. 

Olive oil:

A small amount can lubricate your dog’s digestive system. Again, be cautious with the quantity to avoid diarrhea or vomiting.

Give your dog a gentle abdominal massage

Colicky babies usually love gentle belly massage and your pup might enjoy it too! ☺️

Do not massage your pet if the surgical site is in the abdominal region.

The key word here is ‘gentle’. Use a soft touch to massage in a circular, clockwise motion around your dog’s belly. This can help stimulate the intestines. If you’re unsure about the technique, ask your veterinarian for guidance.

Look for any signs of discomfort or pain and stop immediately if you feel like your pup isn’t enjoying the belly rub.

Each dog’s needs and tolerance levels are different, especially after surgery. Always consult with your vet before implementing any new health regimen to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your dog’s specific condition. 

And if nothing works, take your pet to a vet.

And one more important note:

Do not use over-the-counter products

Using over-the-counter human medications to treat your dog’s constipation is risky and potentially harmful. Human medicines are specifically formulated for human physiology and do not account for the unique metabolic and digestive systems of dogs. On top of that, the dosages suitable for humans are not appropriate for dogs. 

Many human laxatives induce peristaltic waves, potentially leading to your dog passing an uncomfortably large amount of feces or experiencing painful abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

However, your vet might prescribe you human laxatives or stool softeners, but we know what we are doing so it’s ok as long as you follow the recommended dosage 🙂

When to seek veterinary care for post-surgery constipation in dogs

While mild constipation can often be managed at home with careful monitoring, there are certain situations where it’s crucial that you seek professional help.

In severe cases the dry fecal matter can cause a dangerous bowel obstruction. Intestinal blockage is a medical emergency that requires rapid intervention. 

Also if the constipation began following a surgical procedure, it’s important to ensure that it’s not a complication of the surgery itself.

Signs to look out for:

  • Prolonged constipation: If your dog hasn’t had a bowel movement for more than 48 hours, it’s a clear sign that something is not right and a veterinary intervention is necessary
  • Visible discomfort or pain during defecation: Watch for signs of pain or distress like whining, pacing, or crying out when your dog attempts to defecate.
  • Bloated or painful abdomen: A bloated, unusually hard or painful abdomen can be a symptom of a more serious condition like an intestinal blockage, which can be life-threatening without prompt treatment
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Presence of blood in stool
  • Very dark stool: Very dark brown or black(ish) stool might indicate presence of blood
  • If you feel like the surgical site is not healing properly: This one is not really constipation-related, but I just had to put it here since it happens often, the same goes for fever and lethargy
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • If you’ve tried home remedies for a 1 or 2 days and your dog’s condition hasn’t improved
  • – If you feel like something is not right. You know your pet, trust your instincts and reach out to your vet if you feel like you’re pup is not doing ok ☺️

Even mild constipation can lead to serious health issues, so it’s better to talk to a vet even when your pup is otherwise doing ok. 

If you cannot take your dog to a vet (for whatever reason), you can still talk to a licensed veterinarian online 😊 👇

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In more severe cases, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination, which may include abdominal palpation, rectal examination, and possibly diagnostic tests like X-rays or blood tests. 

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause but may include medication (such as stool softeners or laxatives), enemas, manual removal of stool, fluid therapy, pain management or, in severe cases, emergency care and surgery.

While dog constipation after surgery is relatively common, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should always keep an eye on your dog’s bowel habits, but it’s especially important after a surgery. Keep your vet informed about your dog’s post-surgical recovery process, including their bowel movements. 

Regular check-ups and following your vet’s post-surgery care instructions can help prevent constipation and other complications.

And never hesitate to reach out to your vet with concerns – we are here to help! 🤗

PS: If you are as crazy about animals as I am and want to get more pet health tips, subscribe to my newsletter! Today you will get a free pet planner as a bonus 🤗

One Comment

  • Janet

    Humans have a similar problem after surgery – but I have never even thought that my sweet puppy might experience the same thing. Thanks for the great info and tips. I will be bookmarking them for later use.

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