The color and firmness of your dog’s stool can tell you a lot about their health and may be a sign that something is wrong. There are many reasons why your dog may experience hard stools, but the below six reasons are the most common.

Typically, hard stool in dogs can be a sign that your pet needs more water, has too much or too little fiber in their diet, there is a blockage in their intestines, they are reacting to a new medication, they are ill, or they are injured. Once you know more about the cause of your dog’s hard poop, you will be able to determine what to do to help them.

Dehydration in the dog
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1. Dehydration

If your dog does not drink enough water then they may become dehydrated. When there's a lack of water in a dog's body, the dog's stool will become hard. With a more severe case of dehydration, this can also lead to constipation and a number of other health problems.

The easiest remedy to helping your dog with hard poop when it's related to dehydration is to make sure they have access to plenty of fresh, cool and clean drinking water. However, some dogs may not be “strong drinkers” and often forget or even refuse to drink as much water as they need to.

There are several things you can do to encourage your pet to drink more water. Some dogs also may prefer running water over still water in a regular bowl, so if that's the case, switch to water fountains instead of pet water bowls. You can also make bone broth which is generally more enticing to dogs and makes them want to drink it.

2. New Medication

One of the side effects of some pet medications is that they increase the hardness of a dog’s stool and often cause constipation. Depending on the medication, other than stopping the medication, there may be several other safe solutions to this problem.

If your dog has recently started a new medication, check the list of potential side effects and talk to your veterinarian about your concerns. Your vet may suggest adding canned pumpkin to their diet to help them adjust to the new medication, increase water intake, change diet to soften poop, or possibly switch to a different brand of medication.

Lack of fiber in a dog's diet

3. Fiber in the Diet

The right balance of dietary fiber will have many positive effects for a dog's digestion. The amount of fiber in a dog’s diet can have an impact on that dog’s stools. If there is either too much or too little fiber in dog food, your pet's poop will become hard.

If your dog does not have enough fiber in the diet, you can switch to high fiber dog foods or try other alternatives. Also, instead of switching food brands, you can add a little more fiber by feeding them a few tablespoons of canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber and will help soften a dog's pool and aid in digestion. However, it's not a good fit for every pet or every case.

Other whole foods that are high in fiber and will make hard poop softer and that most dogs enjoy to eat include: green vegetables, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes and peaches. Before giving your dog any of these high fiber snacks, make sure they are clean and free of pits, seeds, or stems.

In the rare case that your dog has hard poop because they have too much fiber in their diet, the only option is to switch to a different dog food brand with less fiber, limit natural or whole food treats that often contain fiber, increase water intake, or talk to your veterinarian about other ways to decrease their fiber intake.

Blockage in the dog

4. Blockage

A dog may form hard stool or have difficulty defecating if there is a blockage in their stomach or intestinal tract, which is a common problem in small animals. There are many things that can get caught in a dog’s intestinal tract that cause obstruction, including stones, plants, hard treats or bones, dirt, pieces of toys, or even their own hair.

To prevent a blockage from happening, supervise your dog if they are prone to eating plants, grass, dirt, sticks or stones. These items collect in a dog's stomach or intestines, and cannot be digested by the dog. When you give your dog hard treats, bones and toys, there are ways to prevent ingestion that would otherwise lead to a blockage.

Make sure that the dog does not swallow small hard treats or bones that have been broken or split into smaller pieces. Discard of these and any toys that have become damaged. If a toy is damaged, the dog may ingest small pieces that break off.

Excessive grooming by your dog can cause a buildup of their hair in their stomach, too. If too much hair gets into a dog's intestines, it can create a blockage and cause the dog to have hard poo.

To remedy this, watch for intense licking, cleaning, or grooming by your pet. Help limit the dog’s hair intake by brushing and grooming their coat. Do not let your dog eat clumps of matted hair, and discourage them from over self-grooming. If a blockage does not pass on its own, your vet may suggest surgery to remove the blockage.

5. Illness

Hard stools may be the result of a variety of illnesses. Tumors, enlarged prostate glands, neurological disorders, and orthopedic problems are all types of illnesses that can cause hard stools in dogs. The treatments vary depending on the exact diagnosis.

If you believe your dog has hard poop due to illness, take them to the veterinarian for an examination and diagnosis. Your vet may be able to prescribe a medication, perform surgery, or offer other suggestions of how to help soften your dog’s stools.

Injury to dog's pelvis

6. Injury in the Dog

If your dog sustains an injury to area around their pelvis like a pelvic fracture, then they may have hardened stools. Once the injury has been diagnosed by a veterinarian, and your dog has had time to heal, then their stools should return to a normal consistency.

If you see that your dog has hard poop and to properly diagnose an injury, your vet will perform a physical examination and may request x-rays to be done. Treatments vary based on the injury itself, but the most common treatment to repair an injured pelvis is surgery. The most common form of pelvic damage is due to an accident, but other forms of pelvic injuries in dogs include hip dislocation, muscle tears, or hip dysplasia.

In Summary

If your dog has hard poop, it's a sign there's something wrong. The best way to help prevent your pet from forming hard stools is to provide fresh, clean water (preferably running water to entice them to drink more), proper diet with enough (and not too much) fiber, and discard treats and toys when they get damaged or broken.

If you suspect that your dog has a blockage, illness, or pelvic injury, take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment; do not attempt to fix this issue on your own. Your dog should also be taken to a veterinarian if hard stool is accompanied by pain or prolonged difficulty defecating, lethargy, lack of appetite, or vomiting.

Medication, the addition of fiber, or a change in diet may help a dog to form soft stools again. A pet-safe dog poop softener, enema, or surgery may be required in some cases, but these treatments should only be administered under the direction of a veterinarian.

READ NEXT: 11 Stomach Problems in Dogs – How to Prevent and Treat Them

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What to Do When Dog Has Hard Poop

Rachael is a writer living in Los Angeles and an alum of UNC Chapel Hill. She has been a pet owner since the age of three and began dog-walking in 2015. Her nine-year-old Pug and best pal, Ellie, is the queen of sassy faces, marathon naps, and begging.