Causes of Hard Stool in Dogs and Cats

A change in the consistency of your pet’s stools can be a cause for concern. Whether they have become harder or softer, there can be an underlying medical cause for this change. In fact, your dog or cat’s stools can provide important clues about your pet’s health.

Causes of hard stools in dogs and cats

  • Insufficient water intake: Your pet may not be drinking enough water, which can lead to dehydration. Make sure that your pet has access to plenty of clean, fresh water. Some pets prefer running water so providing a water fountain-type water dish can help to increase water intake.
  • Ingestion of foreign matter: If your dog or cat has ingested foreign material such as bones, gravel or rocks, your pet may experience elimination difficulties. In some cases, the foreign matter may pass within a short period of time, but we encourage you to see your veterinarian if you notice your pet showing continued signs of pain during defecation.
  • New medication: Certain medications can affect stool consistency and make them hard. Your veterinarian should be able to determine if the medication is causing your cat or dog to have hard stools as a side effect, or if there are any other underlying conditions.

Is my cat or dog constipated?

When pets are seen struggling to defecate, it is usually caused by diarrhea, rectal irritation, or constipation. While hard stools may be associated with constipation, true constipation is rare in pets, and occurs more frequently in cats than dogs.

Causes of constipation can include an underlying medical condition, a back injury, arthritis or changes in your pet’s environment (i.e., snow in the elimination area, changes in litter, dirty elimination area, etc.).

What should I do if my cat or dog continues to pass hard stools?

If hard stools continue for more than 24 hours or if your pet is showing any other signs like vomiting, lethargy, struggling to defecate, or a loss of appetite, your pet should be taken into see a veterinarian.

Although you may be a little uncomfortable inspecting your pet’s stools, recognizing changes can allow for the early detection of a problem and proper treatment. All Optimum Wellness Plans for dogs and cats come with fecal exams and unlimited office visits so that pet owners never have to second guess what their pets’ stools may be indicating about their health.

Need more information?

Browse the preventive care section of our site for helpful articles and videos about your dog or cat’s health. You can also read the selection of articles below.