If your dog suffers from constipation, your veterinarian might recommend a stool softener as a temporary measure to get your dog's bowels moving again. It's likely your vet will recommend a stool softener designed for human usage, but at a dosage appropriate for your dog. Don't give your dog a stool softener without veterinary advice. Some over-the-counter medications aren't suitable for canines, and you need professional guidance on the amount and length of administration.
Constipation in Dogs
If your dog strains to defecate and produces hard, dry feces -- or just hasn't had a bowel movement in two or more days -- he's probably constipated. It's important to find out why he's constipated, because treatment depends on the cause. For many dogs, a stool softener and a change in diet and exercise can do the trick. For other dogs, constipation is a sign of a more serious condition, such as hypothyroidism, anal sac impaction, perianal fistula, hernia or even cancer. If your dog had surgery, the operation itself along with pain medication can cause constipation for several days. Your vet can determine the cause of your dog's discomfort and treat him accordingly.
Docusate for Dogs
Your vet might recommend a human stool softener, such as docusate. While marketed under several brand names and generically, it's probably best known as Colace. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows veterinarians to prescribe it for "off-label" or "extra-label" use. Docusate works by permitting fat and water to penetrate food in your dog's gastrointestinal tract, loosening fecal material. Avoid giving the drug to dehydrated dogs. Use only as directed by your veterinarian. Improper use can result in diarrhea and cramping.
Dietary Stool Softeners
Rather than prescribing medication, your vet might recommend dietary changes containing natural stool softeners. Your vet also might recommend these changes after your dog consumes stool softeners for a short period and is "regular" again. Such changes include adding more fiber to the diet, such as a daily helping of canned pumpkin. Your vet also could prescribe a special high fiber dog food. She might recommend adding psyllium, marketed under the brand name Metamucil, to your dog's food.
Sometimes, a stool softener alone isn't adequate to address your dog's constipation issues. Your vet might give your dog an enema -- something you shouldn't try to do yourself, as the risk of harming your dog is too great. As dogs age, the large intestine could lose motility, causing fecal impaction. If that's the case, your vet can prescribe medication aiding the large intestine's contraction ability.