Dogs suffer from gastrointestinal problems just as humans do. Common causes are lack of exercise and improper diet. Feeding your dog consistently with high-quality dog food; ensuring access to fresh, clean drinking water; and providing plenty of opportunities for exercise can reduce bouts of constipation and diarrhea.
Despite your best efforts, your dog's digestive system may occasionally suffer from problems. While it is not FDA approved for use in dogs, a home remedy veterinarians frequently recommend to treat diarrhea and constipation in dogs is Metamucil (a brand name for psyllium, a plant-based soluble fiber).
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What is Metamucil?
Metamucil is a bulk-forming laxative derived from psyllium husk. As it passes through the dog's small intestine and into the colon undigested, it absorbs water and expands in size. Metamucil makes the dog's stool larger, stimulating intestinal contractions and allowing a well-formed bowel movement to be more easily passed out of the digestive tract. The fiber supplement Metamucil is readily available over the counter at any pharmacy.
Signs that a dog is constipated
Dogs will normally have one or two bowel movements daily. If your dog's toileting habits change, they may be constipated. If your dog does not have a bowel movement for two days or appears to be in discomfort, you should take them to a veterinarian, as there is a risk of intestinal blockage.
Signs of constipation in dogs include:
- No productive bowel movements. A constipated dog may squat and try to poop repeatedly but will produce nothing.
- Small, hard bowel movements. Constipated dogs may have more frequent bowel movements, but they will pass small, hard, and dry stools.
- Straining when pooping. Constipated dogs often strain while trying to pass stool.
- Circling excessively before attempting to pass a bowel movement. Dogs will often repeatedly circle before they attempt to pass a stool.
- Discomfort during defecation. Constipated dogs may appear uncomfortable and hunch or crouch in an awkward position. They may also whine or cry.
- Passing mucus or watery feces. After straining to pass a bowel movement, a constipated dog may produce small amounts of liquid or mucus.
- Stomach or back pain. Dogs with severe constipation may cry or growl when touched on the abdomen or lower back.
- Vomiting and decreased appetite. In more severe cases of constipation, the dog may vomit and refuse to eat.
If you think your dog is constipated, speak to your veterinarian before giving them Metamucil. Take great care to use unflavored Metamucil, as flavored versions are sweetened, and some sweeteners, such as xylitol, are highly toxic to dogs.
Benefits of Metamucil for dogs
Because Metamucil is not formulated for veterinary use, it should only be given under veterinary supervision. There are several potential benefits of Metamucil for dogs:
- Metamucil is a natural fiber-based laxative that has few side effects.
- Metamucil can be helpful for dogs with constipation.
- Metamucil is very effective for some types of chronic diarrhea. It is normally given as an adjunct therapy along with probiotics and a special therapeutic diet.
- Metamucil can help with chronic anal gland problems, as it aids in producing a bulkier stool, helping to express them naturally.
- Along with a highly digestible diet,
Metamucil can be beneficial for inflammatory bowel disease in dogs.
Veterinarians may prescribe Metamucil for dogs with gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhea, constipation, and inflammatory bowel disease. It may be given to treat dogs with colitis, but some dogs with this condition do better on a low-fiber diet. Never add fiber to your dog's diet before discussing it with your veterinarian.
How much Metamucil is safe to give your dog?
If your veterinarian agrees that Metamucil is safe for your dog, give half a level teaspoonful once to twice a day to small dogs and two level teaspoonfuls once to twice a day to larger dogs. Use measuring spoons, not normal cutlery, to ensure a correct dosage. It can take 12 to 72 hours for the Metamucil to be effective.
How can I give my dog Metamucil?
Giving your dog Metamucil can be accomplished in three simple steps.
Purchase the unflavored powder version
Metamucil comes in powder and capsule form. The powdered form is easier for dosage measurement. It also comes in chocolate and other sweetened versions. Do not use these, as they may be dangerous for your dog.
Sprinkle it on your dog's food
Add the correct dosage to your dog's daily meal. If your dog does not like the taste, mix it with a small amount of wet food.
Provide plenty of water
Because psyllium (the natural fiber in Metamucil) swells, your dog will need to drink plenty of water to ensure there is no intestinal obstruction.
Side effects of Metamucil in dogs
Metamucil has few side effects. The most common is flatulence, which is not something to be concerned about unless your dog shows signs of discomfort. However, should your dog vomit, discontinue use immediately and contact a veterinarian. This could be a sign of intestinal blockage.
The bottom line
Metamucil is a plant-based laxative that veterinarians may recommend for a number of gastrointestinal problems in dogs. Although Metamucil is normally safe for dogs, it is not FDA approved for veterinary use, so never give it to your dog without veterinary advice. Ensure your dog has plenty to drink when giving them Metamucil to prevent intestinal obstruction. Stop using Metamucil if your dog vomits and contact your veterinarian immediately.