Dogs rarely get constipated unless it’s associated with another condition, such as arthritis, liver or gallbladder issues, parasites, or a side effect of medication. The same goes for the majority of herbivorous animals, such as horses. Cats, however, can develop a condition called Megacolon that results in severe constipation (obstipation). Some pet fish are also prone to constipation, such as laterally compressed species.
“Normal” constipation is usually treated with an enema, but surgery and/or medication may be necessary for chronic obstipation. There are natural treatments for constipation in pets, which can be used alone or in conjunction with clinical treatments. Like most natural pet remedies, these treatments have not been widely studied and should only be administered under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Pet Food & Water – Poor quality pet food usually contains poor quality (or too little) protein and/or too much fat, which can cause constipation in any pet. Research your pet’s optimum diet to ensure your pet food contains the appropriate ingredients and nutritional balance. Water is very important for all body functions, including digestion.
Probiotics – Often all it takes to treat constipation is a bit of plain, active yogurt, three times per day. It can be mixed into food or fed directly if your pet will eat it.
Fibrous vegetables – Dogs will usually eat at least some fibrous vegetables without too much coaxing. Cats aren’t big fans of vegetables and normally they don’t require them. However, vegetables that are low(ish) in carbohydrates, yet rich in fiber, can be highly beneficial for constipated cats and dogs. Pumpkin and seaweed are often recommended as low-carb vegetable sources of fiber. Brown and red seaweeds are especially effective in the treatment of constipation through the regulation of normal bowl function and gentle cleansing of the gastrointestinal tract with its mucilaginous substances (it even treats Irritable Bowl Syndrome). Seaweed is also a natural source of Taurine.
Other Roughage – Roughage doesn’t have to come from vegetable fiber. Rehydrated freeze-dried Krill offers both roughage and optimum nutrition without straying from the carnivorous diet. It’s easily mixed into your pet’s regular food and they love the taste. Pureed Sardines (unseasoned, packed in water or fresh) are another option.
The most effective way to get herbs into pets is by making a tea. Cats or small dogs can have 1/4-1/2 tsp of strong tea per 15 pounds of weight. Larger dogs can be given 1 tsp of herbal tea per 30 pounds of weight. The tea can be administered 2-3 times per day. These dosage recommendations are included in the book, Herbs for Pets, by Gregory Tilford and Mary Wulff.
Professionals often reach for Chickweed first when dealing with constipation in a wide variety of animals, including dogs, cats, birds, fish, horses, llamas, goats, etc. It’s gentle, effective, and it soothes the digestive system.
The majority of herbs recommended for constipation actually focus on bile production and transport, such as Oregon Grape, Dandelion Root and Yellow Dock (also a laxative). If constipation is attributed to a liver problem, a holistic veterinarian may recommend the short-term use of Milk Thistle, Licorice, or Turmeric. Essential fatty acids can also be added to the diet to support liver function.
Colonic lubricating herbs for pets include Marshmallow Root, Flaxseed, Psyllium Husks and Chickweed.
Fennel can be used to relieve gas or griping associated with constipation. Simply add a bit to your herbal tea mixture.
Laxative herbs (Anthraquinones) can cause a great deal of discomfort in the bowl because they stimulate peristalsis (muscle contractions). We strongly recommend a trip to the Vet if constipation is so severe you are considering natural laxatives. Having used a natural laxative for myself, I can attest to the pain they can cause. They should only be used when absolutely necessary and should not be used on pregnant pets. Natural laxatives include Yellow Dock, Aloe, Cascara, Sagrada, and Senna. Yellow Dock is recommended as the most gentle of the herbs containing Anthraquinones.
Note: When using dried herbs for constipation, either make a herbal tea or rehydrate the herbs before feeding. It’s important to use only fresh or gently dehydrated herbs for optimum effectiveness. We rely on Starwest Botanicals for premium, human-grade herbs, essential oils and nutraceuticals. If you prefer a manufactured treatment, Natural Moves for Pets (available at Pet Alive) is a popular choice.
Have you ever successfully treated constipation using natural pet remedies? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Tilford, Gregory. Wulff, Mary. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. 2009.
Messonnier, Shawn DVM. Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats: Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements. 2001.
Cooksley, Valerie Gennari. Seaweed: Nature’s Secret to Balancing Your Metabolism, Fighting Disease, and Revitalizing Body and Soul. 2007.
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