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Dog Keeps Trying To Poop But Nothing Comes Out: Causes & Solutions

Veterinary reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM.

If your dog is trying to poop but nothing comes out, they’re probably experiencing constipation.

Causes for constipation are plentiful but the fact of the matter is that your furry companion may need help.

Let’s examine the most common causes, how you can differentiate the types, and what you can do to alleviate your pooch’s issue.

Also, it matters whether your dog is straining or whining as well as how long he’s trying to poop with nothing coming out.

A single stray incident might not be worrisome, but if your dog tries to poop and can’t repeatedly, you will definitely have to look into it.

My Dog Keeps Trying To Poop But Nothing Comes Out

Dogs often try to poop but nothing comes out due to swallowing indigestible objects, a lack of fiber or exercise, blocked anal glands, or suffering issues with organs such as the prostate or kidney.

Keep in mind that what you might perceive as your dog trying hard to poop but nothing coming out can actually be completely harmless.

Depending on your dog’s poop schedule, holding it in for a full day is not uncommon.

White Poodle pooping outside on grassy field covered with red leaves.
Photo by Baronb on Shutterstock

That’s especially true if you recently changed your dog’s diet, exercise regimen, or environment (moving, losing a family member, change in routine, etc.).

Once you hit 48 hours or your dog is repeatedly straining really hard to poop but nothing comes out, you should probably consult a vet.

I’ve actually created an article just for that – how long dogs can go without pooping before it becomes a serious health risk.

Dog Keeps Trying To Poop After Pooping

It’s not uncommon for dogs to try to poop right after pooping, but there’s cause for concern if your dog can’t manage to poop a second time despite frantically straining to do so.

Whenever I’m traveling with my Rottweiler and change her diet slightly, it results in pretty soft stool for the first time doing her business and she then tries to poop a second time.

The second time, there’s not much left and what’s there is extremely soft and still takes some time to get out of the way.

However, there’s a thin line between taking their time and straining to poop despite nothing coming out.

This is where constipation comes into play.

I’ve just recently witnessed my Rottweiler not being able to poop a second time just to see her bottom was full of grass strands.

Rottweiler in botanical garden.
Photo by Pawleaks

Yep, she swallowed so much grass the previous day that it created a blockage.

Luckily, she stayed calm and let me pull it out and all was fine, but that’s an experience you don’t want to replicate.

Plus, if your dog has swallowed a more bulky indigestible object, a trip to the emergency vet might be required.

I’ve actually written an article on how to prevent your dog from eating non-food items such as stones.

While some constipation cases might not require an emergency vet (i.e. your dog has just defecated), it can still develop into a case that does.

Keep an eye on the amount your dog has pooped and the texture.

This will give you an idea of whether or not a vet visit is required.

In general, if you have changed your dog’s diet, meal times, or other external factors, you may spot your dog as he keeps trying to poop after pooping already.

Female Dog Straining To Poop But Not Constipated

If your dog is straining to poop but you don’t suspect constipation, your vet may have to examine the intestines and potentially affected organs.

Nevertheless, to rule out constipation as the cause of your dog’s straining you can add more fiber, exercise, and perhaps follow your vet’s advice to use a laxative.

Evaluate whether or not you’re giving your dog ample opportunity to go pooping and if the feeding times are appropriately spaced.

Dog Tries To Poop But Liquid Comes Out

If your dog tries to poop but only watery feces come out, you may have to look into diarrhea and consult your vet due to dehydration risks as well as the risk of underlying conditions.

Diarrhea happens mostly due to mental stress, dietary changes, or lack of exercise.

Mild cases go away with the right diet, water, and rest.

However, serious cases may require a vet visit.

If your dog not only has diarrhea but the output is mainly pure liquid and you feel like your dog tries to poop, then you may need to consult a vet quickly.

Dehydration is always a serious risk and blockage is a real concern too if your dog only poops liquid but nothing firm at all for a prolonged period.

How To Massage A Dog To Poop

You can massage your dog to poop with a backstroke from the head down the spine or alternatively, you can rub, stroke, or massage the belly as well as the thighs or glutes.

While there’s no proven massage technique that gets your dog to poop immediately, it can definitely help with loosening your dog up.

Poodle lies on a rolled-up towel and is massaged by a human.
Photo by Rasulov on Shutterstock

A proper massage to get your dog to poop not only gets the inner workings going but also relaxes your dog

Bonus: it’ll also warm them up if you only have time for a quick pooping session.

Sometimes, if the dog couldn’t do his business, he might be uncomfortable or tense around the hind legs and back region.

However, only apply a couple of pounds of pressure when massaging, especially around the belly where you’re closer to the intestines.

Small dogs shouldn’t have to stomach a pounding or thorough kneading while a large dog can often withstand more pressure.

As always, stop if your dog is uncomfortable (tugging away, whining, growling, tail between legs, etc.).

To achieve the best possible result, you can make massaging your dog a regular habit and he might just be more inclined to go pooping.

How To Make My Dog Poop Now

To get your dog to poop now, your vet may prescribe medication and laxatives, you can feed natural laxatives, or you just massage your dog and in the long run, you can introduce a pooping command.

The only thing you can do right now besides that is to let your dog go off-leash in search of the desired spot.

Don’t rush the process.

I don’t know about your dog but once my dog senses the slightest bit of dissatisfaction, she won’t do her business anymore.

At all. What can I say, she aims to please.

If you do have some time, you can feed pumpkin or coconut oil (or anything rich in fiber, really).

Be patient and try to entice your dog to go and be prepared in the future.

How To Get Your Dog To Poop Outside Faster

Resolve any potential constipation issues, introduce a healthy and fiber-rich diet, condition a poop command, and massage your dog before calmly showing them a spot they like.

Sometimes, you just need to take your time though.

There’s not much you can do if your dog’s pooping habit absolutely doesn’t fit into your tight schedule.

Some dogs need lots of exercise and movement and are quite picky about their spot and that’ll just take time.

Is it just about the rainy or particularly stressful days?

Play a bit with your dog inside, massage the back, feed a fiber-rich diet, and use your command and you should be good to go.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.

Dave Berube

Monday 21st of August 2023

Hi Danielle -

I have a 9 year old 15 pound chihuahua/jack russel mix. She continuously squats to poop but rarely has anything come out. Occasionally, a "normal" size poop will come out and sometimes it's watery. She does not drink much water so we supplement fluid intake with unsalted chicken broth which she likes and have added a periodic teaspoon of olive oil to her food to lubricate anything "stuck" in there. She has a decreased appetite, now only eating once per day and has lost at least 3 pounds which is a lot for a 15 pound dog and has become lethargic. Up until 3 weeks ago, she would go on 3 mile walks with me, pulling me along - now she can barely go a quarter mile without stopping and once collapsed on a walk and a kind police officer saw what happened and gave us a ride home. I know this sounds stupid but have not taken her to a vet yet - the vet stresses her so much that I didn't want to make things worse. Several years ago, she was diagnosed with a heart murmur and congestive heart failure so I understand the walk may be too much but the lack of pooping, decreased appetite and inability to walk any distance all struck at once and very suddenly. I know a vet visit is likely in the near future but still trying for a home diagnosis/remedy to save her from a very stressful vet visit. Thank you for your consideration


Tuesday 22nd of August 2023

Hey Dave, while home remedies can be great for minor known issues or a supporting measures, I'd personally say that your case 100% warrants a vet visit. As soon as possible.

The fact she refuses to drink, seems lethargic, and can't walk anymore are alarming signs. I understand the visit may be stressful but that's usually nothing compared to what can happen if a serious issue is left untreated. Explain the situation and try to keep the visit positive but if running diagnostics and treatment is necessary then it should be done.


Tuesday 1st of November 2022

We lost a dog about 10:00 am this morning under weird circumstances. When I took him outside, he was happy, bouncing around, he went arond the edge of the yard, peed on a tree, then took a dump. Then he walked a few steps and took another one, but he laid down in the middle of it for a couple minuters and then it finally pooped out. He didn't want to get back up. We finally got him to the backyard, but then he laid down again. We gave him water but he only drank a little bit. He got up and walked a few paces and laid down again. Then he was crying and straining to poop, but nothing came out except water, then he started screaming in pain, then he went catatonic, and then he just stopped breathing and died. I've never heard a dog scream like that before. This all happend in the matter of about half an hour or less, and he was gone. We had the emergency vet on the phone while he was dying. It was that fast. I spent the last couple hours digging a hole and burying him. No idea what happened. He never goes out by himself, so nobody could've poisoned him. We think maybe he ate a plastic lid or something, but an autopsy costs way too much, so now he's in the backyard cemetary. But it was just so fast. From happy dog to crying dog to dead dog faster than you can call the vet. I don't know what he ate. He was never one to eat foreign objects. He was Beagle/Staffie mix. We miss him.


Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

Hi Rick, I'm incredibly sorry for your loss. It's so difficult to deal with such a sudden loss. If you have other dogs, you might want to do the autopsy, not only for peace of mind but to rule out diseases, poison, objects that could affect your other dogs too. Please also note that burying your dog in the backyard might not be the optimal solution, but if local law allows it, then it's up to every dog owner.

Looking out for signs of distress and having the emergency vet on speed dial is all you can do in these situations besides preventing dogs from accessing stuff they shouldn't have.


Sunday 30th of October 2022

Can I use warm water and introduce a water enema?


Monday 31st of October 2022

Hi Erik, if your dog is experiencing issues pooping, I would not try to do it yourself. You can try some dietary changes but interfering in any way can cause injuries, especially if it introduces bacteria or whatnot. Please do consult your vet for that and have your dog checked.