The short answer here is, yes. Abruptly changing your dog’s diet can cause constipation issues.
If you’re contemplating switching your dog’s food or recently made a change and noticed your dog experienced constipation shortly after the change, this post is for you.
Let’s explore the potential link between changing dog food and constipation and discuss how to prevent this common issue.
Understanding Constipation in Dogs
Before delving into the relationship between dog food and constipation, let's start by understanding what exactly constipation is in dogs.
Constipation occurs when your dog has difficulty passing stools on a regular schedule (1-2 times per day), resulting in infrequent, hard, or painful bowel movements.
Constipation in dogs looks much the same as in humans. According to the American Kennel Club, common signs of constipation include:
- Straining or discomfort while pottying
- Dry, hard stools
- Extended periods without pooping
Constipation can be caused by various factors, including dehydration, lack of exercise, stress, underlying medical conditions, and yes, even dietary changes.
What to Consider When Changing Dog Food
There are plenty of good reasons to change your dog’s food — from nutrients and health needs to cost or availability. If you’re making the switch, here are a few things to consider and some tips to avoid digestive issues like constipation.
Much like humans, pets need time to adjust to new foods. Most experts recommend gradually transitioning your pet to a new food to allow for that adjustment period.
The American Kennel Club notes that you want to transition your dog’s food over the course of 1-2 weeks. They recommend starting on day one with 25% new food and 75% old food. Every day, you add a little more of the new food until you eventually fully transition and give your dog all the new food.
You’ll want to keep a close eye on your pup during this time. How are they responding to the food? Monitor and note any changes in behavior, appetite, and bowel movements.
Differences Between Old And New Food
As you’re choosing a new food, be sure you check out the ingredient list. If it’s a significant shift from your original food, you may be more likely to see gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and need a more extended transitional period.
Three significant factors impacting your pet’s gut are the primary protein source, fiber, and fat levels.
- Protein: Sudden changes in protein sources can be hard on the digestive system. Common sources of protein for dogs include chicken, turkey, rabbit, lamb, and beef.
- Fiber: Fiber plays a vital role in maintaining healthy digestion for your dog. It promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation. However, abrupt changes in fiber content can lead to constipation and other gastrointestinal disturbances.
- Fat: Check the fat percentage in both the old and new foods. A significant increase in fat can lead to loose stools, while a decrease can cause constipation. Ensure that the new food provides a balance of healthy fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Allergies & Sensitivities
Like humans, dogs can develop allergies and sensitivities to specific proteins or ingredients in their food. Again, monitoring your dog is going to be critical here.
Look for any increases in itching and scratching during the transitional period. This could be a sign of some sort of allergic response.
In addition to leading to infection and other dermatological issues, consistent itchiness can increase feelings of anxiety and stress in your dog. That increased stress can result in digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, or lack of appetite.
Be aware of any allergies or food sensitivities your dog may have.
Preventing and Managing Constipation in Dogs
If you’re transitioning your dog’s food or recently switched, let’s look at some natural ways to prevent constipation and other digestive issues.
Increase Water Intake
Water is crucial to overall health, and drinking water is an "important factor in shaping the human gut microbiome.” If you’re transitioning food or your dog has been experiencing symptoms of constipation, ensure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times.
If your dog is picky, consider changing their water dish or trying a pet fountain to encourage them to drink more. You can also add some water to their food to increase moisture intake.
Exercise and physical activity
Exercise is generally recommended as a way to prevent or reduce constipation issues. It helps keep things moving through your pet’s body, stimulates bowel movements, and builds up the muscles needed to defecate properly.
Be sure to incorporate plenty of walks and playtime into your dog’s daily routine. If you’re busy with work or other obligations, consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to help you out.
As the temperatures get cooler, going up and down stairs or setting up obstacle courses indoors can be an excellent way for your pup to exercise.
Minimize Other Changes
When switching your dog’s food or dealing with constipation, avoiding any other significant changes to routine or diet is best. Treats, different facilities, and a lack of routine can make it harder to spot issues while your dog adjusts to a new food.
It’s best to stick to a potty routine where you’re letting your dog out at about the same time throughout the day.
As tempting as it is, keep treats, bones, and people food to a minimum. These extra goodies can impact your dog’s digestion, making it harder to transition foods or notice potential complications. If you want to give your dog a special treat, give it in small quantities and ensure it’s something they’ve had before and are used to.
If possible, avoid taking your pups to a boarding kennel or doggy daycare during this time as well. These places often have their own treat supply, and there’s a higher likelihood of mix-ups or your dog getting into another dog’s food.
If you do have to find extra care for them, be sure you communicate with the facility that you’ve recently changed foods or are transitioning. That way, they know to pay extra attention and follow the feeding schedule as closely as possible.
Boost Gut Health with Maya Pet
Pet probiotics, also known as "good" bacteria, are often used to maintain a healthy balance of microflora in your dog's gut, which helps regulate bowel movements and improves the motility of the digestive tract.
However, many pet probiotics on the market today contain additives that can make digestive issues worse. Or they support the digestive system but don’t actually do anything to regulate it.
That’s where Maya Pet comes in.
Maya Pet goes beyond a probiotic. It’s the world’s first anthrobiotic, with 10 Smart StrainsTM of good bacteria that boost digestion, protect your pet from environmental pathogens, and improve communication between the brain and gut.
Learn more and give it a try today.