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Bowel Management for Incontinent and Constipated Pets

Fecal incontinence and losing the ability to control bowel movements can be distressing for the both the dog and the owner. You can learn how to express the bowel or stimulate a reflex to cause your pet to empty the bowel at a convenient place and time, minimizing your stress. Simple changes in your routine, like adjusting your pet’s diet can help produce stools that are easy to clean up. By working with your pet’s natural elimination schedule to avoid surprises.

Protective Clothing
Disposable Dog Diaper

The first step in handling your dog’s bowel incontinence is finding the proper protective clothing or diaper for your pet. Diapers help to offer for extra insurance, protecting against unwanted accidents.
Recommended Incontinence Aids:

  • Diapers
  • Male Wraps

Diapers will help protect, but your pet may need additional assistance. Many paralyzed or senior pets have a difficult time eliminating their bowel on their own and may require your assistance to help keep themselves healthy.

Incontinence in Paralyzed Pets

Dr. Justin Padgett DVM an associated veterinarian at Branchville Animal Hospital and Pet Dog Owner, “It is important to note that paralyzed animals may suffer incontinence in one of two ways: either they will have bowel movements involuntarily and the stool may just fall out unwittingly (which is true incontinence) or they will not be able to move their bowels at all and stool may build up and need to be expressed (which is more like constipation.) The majority of your article deals with the latter. It is very dangerous when bowel movements are unable to happen and stool builds up. This can lead to major discomfort and illness.”  

Dr. Padgett says that, “As the animal’s doctor, medication may come into play based on the type of incontinence present. Motility agents such as loperamide or diphenoxylate may slow down BM’s and aid animals that have overflow incontinence that simply spills out but these can lead to constipation. Amitryptiline, a behavior medication, has also been used in human medicine for idiopathic fecal incontinence. Stool softeners and laxatives can be given to constipated dogs and cats. Miralax (polyethylene glycol) can be used to encourage bowel movements. A veterinarian may also prescribe prokinetic agents such as metoclopramide or cisapride. Enemas can be performed by a veterinarian as well.” 

Expressing the Bowel

It’s quite common for paralyzed dogs to struggle to have normal bowel movement. It goes beyond constipation, and sometimes a paralyzed dog needs your help to poop. Bowel expression and making your dog poop is a much more hands on approach to helping your paralyzed dog poop. Expressing your dog’s bowel means controlling when they go and ensuring that your dog has regular, healthy bowel movements. According to Dr. Pagett, “It is important the owner provides the incontinent animal with frequent opportunities to defecate. This will avoid overflow of stool and build up of stool.” Here are a few ways you can help your dog express their bowel:

Help Your Dog to Poop on Demand

This may be a subject that makes some people squeamish. If so, do NOT read on…

There are techniques to help your constipated dog poop through manual expression of the bowel. Expressing the bowel is form of conditioning your dog’s body to evacuate itself on command in a controlled way and allow your pup to “poop on demand”. There are a few different methods to successfully express the bowel and make your dog poop. Regardless of the method you choose, always wear disposable gloves that are thrown away after each use.

Hold your dog tightly in the crook over your arm over the open lidded toilet with his backside facing the wall behind the toilet. If your pet has a long tail, make sure to move it out of the way to avoid an unwanted mess. With your gloved hand feel around the anus, if there is nothing there the skin should be soft, if you feel a solid mass it’s time to express.

Using your dominant hand, form your fingers as if picking up a penny. Grasping the anus, pull in an outward motion to stimulate the appearance of feces/aka “poop”. Within 3 -5 grasping motions, he will present feces and they plop into the toilet. Neat, clean, no messy hands, and NO more unwanted messes!

Getting your pet to poop on demand

Spray Solution

With a light spray bottle, mix chlorhexidine solution (disinfectant) with water, and spray the butt with it. For best results, the water should be cool. Your pet will begin to repeatedly pucker up the anus, and repeat. Spraying, along with some very gentle stroking of the area with a moist soft baby wipe, will encourage your pet to poop. Make sure to lay out a clean newspaper or paper towel out for easy clean up. It’s not fun, but a lot better than picking up after an accident.

Squirting Water

With this method, the stimulation technique involves squirting cool water directly on the anus, you may need to spray several times to get the poop to pop out. As the cool water sprays it will stimulate the anus to contract encouraging the bowel movement. The water in the squirt bottle should be cold (not out of the fridge, but not warmed) so it shocks the tush enough to make it pucker. Only use this technique when you know the pet is “full”.

Ice Cube

Ice Cube Method

The ice cube method is the simplest option to encourage your dog to “go”. Lift your pet’s tail up and place an ice cube directly on the sphincter and hold it there.

When the ice cube gets pushed out of the way, he’s going.

Cotton Swab

As far as the bowel movements, a bit of Vaseline on the tip of a cotton swab and inserted just a little in the anus will stimulate your dog to have a bowel movement if it is needed. Choose a time that is similar to when they would have done this like after a meal or in the morning etc., so you can partially control when it happens and start to take care of accidents.

Baby Wipe

Another way to stimulate a bowel movement is to gently rub around the anus in small circular motion with a baby wipe, which will encourage your pet to poop “on demand”. Gently rubbing their anus in a circular pattern you stimulate the bowel movement to help your dog to poop.

Lotion and Glove

Male Wrap for Dogs

A tried and true method to express the bowel is to stimulate the bowel movement by hand. Wearing a glove on your dominant hand, put lotion on your fingers to be used for lubricant. Place your dog over a paper or bring them outside and begin stimulating the anus. With your gloved hand rub around the butt hole and pull at it gently. It usually takes less than 2-3 minutes for your dog to finish eliminating. Once you’re finished. you can wrap up the poop and throw it away.

Inserting a Finger

Still unable to elicit stool through the lotion and glove method? You may want to try this technique. Apply additional lubricant to your gloved pinky finger and very gently insert it into the rectum. Even in completely paralyzed animals, this should stimulate a bowel movement.

If your baby is very impacted with stool, you may have to “dig” some if out at first, but then it will come out on its own.

Rubbing the Abdomen

Belly Rub to Express Dog Bowel

You can also encourage pooping by rubbing your dog’s abdomen.

Start by placing your dog in an upright position and rub behind the back leg. Your dog may begin to kick the rear leg, continue to rub until the tail begins to rise. Then, place your dog on their back and rub their left side vigorously for several minutes. As your rub the vent begins to open so your dog can poop. Once you see this encouraging sign, vigorously rub the abdomen in a downward motion. If your pet seems particularly constipated, move the back legs as you stimulate the belly. When done correctly, your dog should experience a healthy bowel movement.

Squeezing Method

Squeezing Method for Expressing Bowel

Use your fingertips to gently press and feel the soft tissue in a circular area around the anus. By pressing on the soft tissue, you may feel something firm inside the rectum. Spread your thumb and forefinger about 1 1/2″ apart, lay them on either side of the rectum, press inward on the soft tissue a little, and grip the stool right through the skin. Now you’ve got a good amount of skin and soft tissue pinched between your fingers and in the center of it is a piece of stool. If you pinch harder, the stool will break off within the rectum and the anus will open at the same time, and it naturally begins to come out.

The beauty of this is that usually the remaining stool moves forward into position and you can repeat the procedure. Repeat until there is nothing inside and the tissue is soft to touch. Be careful not to pinch too hard, as this could lead to damaging the mucosa lining the colon or prolapsing the rectum.

Keep a box of tissues on the expressing station, and each time a piece of stool drops, drop a tissue over it to reduce the odor. You may go through a lot of tissues this way, but it makes for a more pleasant experience.

Fecal Incontinent Kitten

Cat Diaper

Caring for incontinent cat or kitten can come with its own set of challenges. Keeping your cat hydrated and scheduled meals is important. Feeding your cat twice a day, will help you to monitor the frequency and quality of their feces. Allowing you to know when there is a problem and if further, manual, assistance is needed.

Incontinent Cat in Wheelchair

You can learn to feel the stool in the colon by feeling her lower abdomen, it takes some practice, but it works. The last piece of colon is the easiest to feel when it is full of stool. Gently press on it to help push the stool out. Repeat twice a day, trying to keep it at the same time every day. This will empty her colon and reduce the amount of landmines she leaves for you. You will likely need the assistance of another person to hold your cat still during this process. Remaining calm and talking softly to your cat through the process will help to keep your cat as relaxed as possible.

Afterwards, wipe the anal area with a moist wipe or damp cloth to keep the area clean. Giving your cat a treat as a reward afterwards may help to make your cat happy and more cooperative next time.

If your cat will allow you, a warm bath might also help move things along. Running warm water on your cat’s belly can stimulate the muscles that move the bowels. Allowing them to relieve themselves without further assistance.

Managing the Diet for Healthy Bowel Movements

Solid Poop

A healthy poop comes from a healthy diet. For a successful elimination you want to avoid poop that is too hard or too soft. Adjusting your dog’s diet may be necessary, too much fiber may lead to further constipation. Make sure your dog stays hydrated and drinks enough water. Water will help to keep your dog’s food easily move through their body.
If your pet is long haired, shaving the hair around the bottom down will help keep your dog’s rear clean and sanitary.

Kleenex Clean-up

Improving the ease of bowel movement is simple, improve the quality of the stools. You want to your dog to produce firm, well-formed, inoffensive, non-sticky, low odor stools. To improve your dog’s stool, use only high-quality foods, you may need to experiment with what works best with your dog’s digestive system and ask your Vet for suggestions. Helping you to avoid coming home to a smelly house.

Clean-up of a healthy stool is as simple as picking it up with a tissue and popping it into the trash can or picking it up with toilet paper to flushing it. Carpet cleaner not needed! A healthy, firm poop will less likely not get gummed up in their fur. Clean house, fewer baths, happy family.

dog bowel movement clean up

Working with Your Pet’s Schedule

Feed on a Schedule

Control dog bowel movements and feed on a schedule

Also, it is extremely useful to feed on a schedule. If you follow the same feeding schedule every day, and avoid switching foods, your dog should develop sort of a schedule.

You will know when he is “due” to go to the bathroom. A more “formed” bowel movement is an easier to clean up mess. A typical food schedule for most dogs is feeding twice a day with a possible snack/ lunch in between.

Timed Bowel Movements

Meal feeding and using a low residue food will help with poop control. Feeding during scheduled meal times will allow for more regular or timed bowel movements. Low residue diets produce less poop to contend with.

For greatest success, you need to keep your pet to a schedule and routine. Keep to the same area for expressing, allowing your dog to get comfortable with their environment. This will also help to condition the body to respond. Minimally you should express the bowel twice a day, one in the morning and one right before bedtime. Every dog’s “cycle” and needs are different, pay attention to your dog’s cues and ask your Veterinarian what will work best for your pet. Combining your dog’s bowel movements with exercise and rubbing your dog’s belly can encourage them to go as well.

Learn Your Dog’s Processing Time

To know how long it takes for your dog to process food, feed a few small pieces of raw carrot or kernels of frozen corn. Veggies don’t digest– after feeding the veggies watch your dog’s bowel movements. When the veggies appear, you’ll know your pup’s processing time. Typically, it takes about 12 hours for your dog’s food to process. Often you will be able to park your pup’s butt over the toilet and then flush away…. How easy is that!!

“Frequent cleaning of the pet is super important to avoid fecal scalding. Some animals may need their tail wrapped if they have long hair and others may need hair clipped or a “potty patch” for that area,” says Dr. Pagett, “There may be some surgical options for some incontinent dogs but those would most certainly be done by a Board Certified Surgeon.”

Senior or disabled pets require a little extra love and care, but it’s worth it.

Did we answer all your questions on "Incontinent Pets"?


  1. The bad behavior of my dog forced me to investigate how I could train him. I found this system online and it has given me excellent results! He no longer bites my furniture, or my shoes, no longer urinates in the room, and no longer barks like crazy!

    • The “bad behavior” is simply your dog being a dog and all dogs require training. This should be known prior to getting a dog. There are no bad dogs, only bad humans dude.

      • My dog has been to the vet almost every day this week. His legs are falling in back. He’s lethargic, doesn’t want to eat or drink much, hasn’t pooped in over 5 days. I have found it very hard to even find a veterinarian that will take this seriously. I finally found one that kept him on fluids all day yesterday and gave him steroids and a stool softener today. I am calling a specialist about a ct scan on his back, but I really wish he would poop. He is only a little over 2 years old. This has been extremely worrisome and a bit heartbreaking, not to mention expensive due to the vet visits to lazy, complacent and incompetent vets early on. I want to try a few of these methods when he wakes up. I was hoping the ice cube or cool water might work. I think i best get some doggy diapers.

        • Angel – I’m so sorry to hear about your dog, I hope that one of these tricks works to make him feel better. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 888-253-0777

  2. My senior dog can get up and walk but has a difficult time squatting. Due to her long hair most of the time it’s a mess. Do you have any suggestions on anything that would help?

    • Hi Alexandra,

      We’d be happy to help you find a solution for your dog. Is your dog struggling with balance when she squats? She may need a little more support, a simple solution may be our Up-n-Go Leah which is easy to put on and will help you to give her some light support. Please call us at 888-253-0777 so we can help you find the right solution for her.

  3. My dog has been constipated for 3 days now and we tried giving metamucil, but she won’t take it. What can I do?

    • Hi Marlene,

      I would recommend contacting your Veterinarian, if you have tried everything you can think of I would get your dog checked out to make sure there isn’t something more serious going on.

  4. I have a 120lb Lab that is incontinent. We have used the ice cube method and it seems to work but we are still having accidents. I am looking for a diaper that is big enough to fit him as a backup, but because he is so big, I’m having a difficult time. Could you reccommend a company that makes large diapers for male dogs?

    • Hi Judy,

      It can be challenging to find diapers for larger dogs, and I’m not aware of any company on the market that makes dog diapers larger than our. I would recommend using diapers for humans and cutting a hole for the tail and size up to adult diapers if necessary.

  5. Which products do you have available for fecal incontinence for male dogs? Please provide links for products. ThankS

  6. Our 15 year old Westie has been diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease. He won’t eat any dog food, so he are feeding him human foods, consisting of roasted chicken, cooked beans and carrots, sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs. When he goes poop, he really struggles to push it out. Sometimes only a small amount or none comes out. He repeats this 6 or 7 times. Can you suggest anything that we can do to help him

    • Hi Brian,

      First I would talk to you Vet about the change in diet and see if they have any suggestions or changes you should make. Some dogs do well by adding a small scoop of canned pumpkin to their food to help with digestion. In terms of encouraging him to go, I have had the best luck with the ice cube method when I need to get my dog to go.

  7. Hi, I use the ice cube method for my 13 y Labrador who has arthritis in her spine meaning she doesn’t know when she needs to poop. The method works well but she seems to now have problems with her anal glands. Can the ice cube method lead to problems with the anal glands? Thanks

    • Hi Marion – many dogs, paralyzed or not, struggle with expressing their anal glands. Many dogs will do this naturally by scooting aross the floor, but other need to have their glands expressed. It isn’t likely that the two things are connected, but I would recommend speaking to your Vet about the issue.

  8. Is it common for dogs with bowel issues to hold their tails down? My 13 year old Papillon has had to have her anal glands expressed regularly all her life, and has periodically had constipation or diarrhoea over the years due to developing allergies, but this is the first time she has held her tail down instead of up. We thought she had a tail or leg sprain at first, but there are no painful spots, despite her being defensive about her rear. We have her on arthritis meds (metacam and paracetamol) for their painkilling properties but the issue hasn’t resolved in the time we would expect a tissue injury like a sprain would. She has been to the vet once already and her patella and hips were fine, though she has a lipoma on her stomach near one hip and a papilloma on her back. She is still very mobile, but more hesitant to jump up and down from furniture. Should I have her re-checked for a secondary issue, or double down on bowel care first? I take her to the best vet in town, which means that double checking their work is often expensive and not worth it, but I expected improvement by now. Are there any texts I can do at home to differentiate a bowel issue from a muscle issue or tissue injury? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

  9. Your Papillon may have a back injury, e.g. a herniated disc that is pressing on the nerves controlling her tail and anus. While she is standing up, try taking one of her back feet and gently placing it on the floor with the top side down and the bottom side up — toes pointing back. If she lets it stay that way instead of turning it right side up, she likely lacks proprioception in her hindquarters, a sign of nerve signaling issues that can be caused by a slipped/herniated disc pressing on her spinal cord. This can make jumping difficult, often makes dogs upable to hold their tails up to defecate, and can make coordinating sphincters and muscles for a bowel movement difficult, too. The only solution, unfortunately, is either surgery (probably not recommended at her age) or pain treatment. Our 11 y.o. Vizsla is on carprofen and gabapentin for this condition. He’s too big for me to hold over a toilet, and it’s currently 0 F, -18 C here, so going outside is hard on both of us.

  10. I find the topic related to bowel management for, I read your article and this topic Squeezing Method is very useful for me and overall your article is very knowledgeable, especially for me. Thanks for sharing this article

  11. I find the topic related to bowel management, I read your article and this topic Squeezing Method is beneficial for me and overall your article is very knowledgeable, especially for me. Thanks for sharing this article

  12. I find the topic related to bowel management, I read your article and this topic Squeezing Method is beneficial for me overall your article is very knowledgeable, especially for me. Thanks for sharing this article

  13. This helped me a lot! The ice cube worked within seconds and I didn’t have to hold it there long. I even did a on off pattern so it wouldn’t hurt or feel too uncomfortable for her and that worked just as well. I can only imagine how awful it feels on the bum.

    On another note** We need home health care or hospice care centers for dogs with special needs. Because it’s so hard to find a place or people qualified for this type care. It takes a special person to properly care for our disabled fur baby.

  14. Nice! thank you so much! Thank you for sharing. Your blog posts are more interesting and informative.

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