Dog Diarrhea Branford, Connecticut
How Long Should I Wait to Call the Vet if My Dog Has Diarrhea?
Chronic diarrhea can be caused by dietary allergies or intolerances , stress, some types of parasites (e.g., Giardia , hookworms , roundworms and whipworms ), bacterial infections, pancreatic disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome , some types of cancer, and diseases outside of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., liver failure or heart disease). These types of health issues will need to be discussed with your veterinarian and can require prescription medication.
At-Home Treatment for Acute Diarrhea in Dogs
For healthy adult dogs who have mild diarrhea with no other symptoms:
Make sure your dog has access to plenty of clean water to avoid dehydration . Encourage your dog to drink. If needed, offer dilute, low-sodium chicken or beef broth or Pedialyte in addition to the water. Give your dog a small meal of boiled, white-meat chicken (no bones or skin) and white rice—you can also use sweet potato or pumpkin instead of rice. (Pumpkin and sweet potato can also be added to your dog’s regular diet to increase their fiber intake.) You can give this diet to your dog until their stool consistency returns to normal. If your dog has chicken allergies, you should replace the protein with a hypoallergenic option.
If the diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call your vet immediately.
Diagnosis for Dogs With Diarrhea
If your dog suffers from frequent liquid bowel movements, or the current attack is severe and/or associated with vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain or weight loss, make an appointment with a veterinarian. Diagnosing the cause of dog diarrhea can sometimes be as easy as running a simple fecal exam. But sometimes, it can be challenging and require different procedures such as blood work, abdominal X-rays or ultrasound, endoscopy, or exploratory surgery.
Here are several ways to reduce the occurrence of diarrhea in dogs:
Do not suddenly change your dog’s diet.
Do not give your dog bones as toys (firm, rubber chew toys are a better choice).
Do not let your dog play with small objects that could be swallowed.
Do not feed your dog table scraps.
Do not allow your dog to scavenge.
Always keep your dog up-to-date with deworming and vaccinations.
Learn how to properly use a bland diet to treat a dog with diarrhea .
What Causes Diarrhea
Several factors can ultimately lead to your dog’s diarrhea. Diarrhea itself is not an illness, but rather a sign of an underlying health issue. Most cases of diarrhea resolve within 48 hours. However, this depends on the underlying cause. The cause of diarrhea can be something as simple as an upset digestive tract. Or, it can be a sign of a more severe condition, such as a parasitic infestation or even cancer. For this reason, dog owners and vets must determine exactly what is causing the diarrhea to ensure that the underlying condition is treated appropriately and not masked by a quick fix.
What causes diarrhea? Diarrhea is the result of faster movement of fecal material through the intestine, combined with decreased absorption of water, nutrients, and electrolytes. If the main sign of illness in your dog is diarrhea, a relatively simple problem such as an intestinal infection from bacteria, viruses, coccidia, or intestinal worms may be the cause.
Recent Diet Changes
One of the most common causes of diarrhea is a recent dietary change. Many pet owners may not realize that it takes several days for a dog’s digestive system to adjust to a new food. In more cases than not, if the new food isn’t slowly introduced into the dog’s diet, it will likely cause diarrhea. This often occurs when pet parents begin to transition their pup to an all-natural or a raw food diet . You can imagine that a dog who has eaten dry kibble their whole life will likely experience quite a shock when making such a big change. Experts advise to slowly introduce the new food, a little at a time, by mixing it in with the dog’s current food, until the old food has been entirely transitioned out.
Bad Eating Habits
Another extremely common cause of dog diarrhea is bad dietary habits. Most dogs enjoy eating just about everything, including things that they definitely shouldn’t be putting into their mouths. This includes garbage, spoiled food, and feces. Bad dietary habits also include overeating. All of these things can lead to an upset stomach, gas, or diarrhea. If your dog’s diet is full of processed chemicals, high sugar and salt content, and fatty foods, you’ll likely notice signs of a disruption in the balance of their digestive system. This disruption often leads to diarrhea. Additionally, dog owners must recognize when they are contributing to their dog’s bad eating habits. We all want our dogs to be happy, and when Fido gives you those big puppy eyes, it can be hard to say no. However, feeding your dog table scraps can quickly lead to a bout of diarrhea (or worse!). Feeding your dog table scraps can also lead to a number of behavioral issues, not to mention harmful side effects. For these reasons, among others, we recommend withholding table scraps and keeping your dog solely on a species appropriate diet .
Furthermore, too many commercial dog treats can also lead to diarrhea. Treats should be given sparingly, not multiple times a day. They should also be of high quality (i.e. all-natural, non-GMO, and soy-free.
For example, when your canine companion eats something that’s not part of his or her normal diet, the normal bacteria present in the intestines may be changed, which can lead to acute diarrhea. Diarrhea can also signal health problems such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), parvovirus infection and liver disease. In these cases, inflammation and/or damage to the intestinal lining are the mechanisms behind the diarrhea.
Chronic (or long-term) diarrhea and digestive issues can lead to further problems in the future. Therefore, pet parents should consider adding foods and supplements that will help to ease the digestive system such as increased fiber, probiotics, etc.
Food allergies are another possible cause of diarrhea in dogs, as they commonly lead to an array of symptoms. Allergic reactions may vary in severity. However, if a severe reaction occurs, veterinary intervention will be necessary. Hopefully, the allergic reaction will simply cause an upset stomach. If that is the case, the next step is determining the exact allergen. Again, this can be relatively tricky. Experts recommend a food elimination diet. This entails starting from scratch and slowly re-introducing foods to determine the underlying cause of the reaction. Furthermore, certain foods tend to cause more allergic reactions than others. The most common culprits are pork, rabbit, beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, and fish. However, all pups are unique. For example, some dogs may be allergic to poultry, but not beef. If your dog has diarrhea, a quick test may entail simply switching out the meat content.
Consuming Foreign Objects
Dogs seem to love eating just about anything. Swallowing foreign objects such as toys, socks, grass, etc. can easily obstruct the intestinal tract and cause either constipation or loose stool. Once the foreign object is swallowed, the digestive system must work harder in order to allow it to pass. Many times, the only treatment is to wait it out, but please check with your vet if you notice your pet is in distress.
Poisonous Substances or Toxic Plants
Be aware that intestinal obstruction resulting from ingestion of toys or bones can be associated with intense pain, vomiting and straining to defecate but passing only small amounts of watery stool, often with blood. An obstruction is a true emergency that requires immediate attention and treatment.
When in doubt or when concerned about your furry friend’s diarrhea, give your veterinarian a quick call. Your veterinarian can determine whether the problem is urgent based on the history and description you provide. He or she can also provide the best advice on how you can manage your dog’s health.
Bacterial and Viral Infections
A single bout of diarrhea is generally not a cause for concern. In fact, many acute diarrhea cases will resolve on their own or with basic home care in one to two days. If your dog had one somewhat soft stool but is otherwise playful and eating normally, you can wait to see what the next bowel movement looks like before taking further action.
You don’t want to let diarrhea persist beyond two episodes if your dog has a preexisting health problem such as diabetes, kidney disease or Addison’s disease; is very young; is a very small or toy breed dog; or is well into his or her senior years. These dogs can quickly succumb to dehydration, so you’ll want to notify your veterinarian right away.
Illnesses or Disease
Probably the most common complaint received by veterinarians is that of diarrhea. It’s such an easy condition to identify: The smell is unmistakable, as is its chocolate-pudding appearance. Most of the time, diarrhea is caused by a dietary indiscretion or stressful circumstances, and is self-limiting. Diarrhea is not a disease; rather, it is a symptom of a dysfunction of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). When associated with bad food or food-borne pathogens, diarrhea serves to rapidly remove pathogens from the GIT before they have a chance to be absorbed and cause more damage.
Antibiotics or Medications
Immediate Care for Mild Dog Diarrhea However, when your dog has mild diarrhea and doesn’t meet any of the above criteria, the best things to start with are to put your dog on a 24-hour rice-water fast (white rice balls that contain active probiotic cultures) and the oral administration of an intestinal protectant such as kaolin clay and pectin (KaoPectate™) or a suspension containing bismuth subsalicylate (PeptoBismol™). Loperamide (Imodium™) can be given if the diarrhea doesn’t resolve easily; caution is required when using this OTC medication in Collies, and don’t use it for more than five days. (Another caveat: While dogs can tolerate PeptoBismol or KaoPectate, these medications should never be given to cats, as they contain salicylates, which are potentially toxic for felines.)
Anxiety, Stress, or Emotional Distress
We probably don’t have to tell you that dogs are highly sensitive creatures. They experience highs and lows just like humans do. If you have ever felt so anxious that you are physically sick to your stomach then you know firsthand just how a dog with anxiety might feel. Stress can be directly linked to irregular bowel movements that can cause either constipation or loose stools. A good rule of thumb is that if something is stressing you out, Fido is likely picking up on it.
What Stools Can Tell You About Your Dog’s Health
The consistency and color of diarrhea reveal a lot about the cause of the problem and what is happening in your dog. Take very careful note of the color, consistency, and anything else that might help when you describe the symptoms to a vet. In many cases, diarrhea will resolve after a few days of home treatment, but it’s a good idea to give your vet a call if it continues for a long period or has any one of several signs that may point to a serious problem.
Do I Need to Take My Dog to the Vet?
How is the cause of diarrhea determined? The nature of the diarrhea, such as its color, consistency, smell and frequency, are important in helping determine the cause. Your veterinarian will usually ask you to bring a representative sample of fresh fecal material with you to your appointment.
There are, however, benchmarks that can suggest that you should at least consult with your vet: Other physical symptoms, such as lethargy, fever, vomiting, dry, tacky or pale gums, or weakness; Diarrhea that does not stop despite home remedies that worked in the past; Dehydration; Long duration (Some say a few days, others give more time. This all depends on what is normal for your dog.); Use of medication (a dog on antibiotics, for example); Existing conditions, such as advanced age, diabetes, Cushing’s , cancer, or any medical issue, and When things just don’t seem right. You know your dog, and only you know the subtle signs that something is wrong. Respect your instincts and if you think you need veterinary guidance, pick up the phone.
If any of the following circumstances apply, contact your vet immediately: Episodes of diarrhea are frequently repeated over several hours. Your dog shows extreme lethargy or lack of responsiveness. You suspect your dog has ingested a toxin. You see excessive amounts of blood in the stool (light spotting isn’t necessarily an emergency, but call the vet if it continues). Stool is black and/or has a tarry appearance. Your dog is on medication that may cause diarrhea (stop giving the medication and call your vet). You suspect your dog ingested a foreign body, such as a toy or clothing. Your dog’s gums are pale, white, bluish, or gray in color. Your dog’s abdomen seems painful and/or distended. You see worms in the stool (not an emergency, but a dewormer will be needed). Diarrhea occurs for more than 24 hours. If you’re in doubt, just call the vet. Diarrhea means “flow-through” … from the Greek dia meaning through, and rhein meaning to flow . It’s the body’s way of getting rid of toxins.
Using drugs to suppress this natural flow-through won’t cure your dog of his diarrhea in the long term.
Now … there are times you’ll want to consult a vet to be safe. For example, if your dog is:
Has a large amount of blood in his stool
Has eaten something dangerous like rat poison
But most acute diarrhea episodes last less than a day or two.
In order to prevent the development of serious conditions, familiarize yourself with the warning signs below.
Warning Signs Include:
Diarrhea that lasts for over 48 hours
Black tarry stool or bloody diarrhea
Loss of appetite Increased lethargy Vomiting
Abdominal discomfort and/or increased sensitivity in the abdominal region (often seen as whining, panting, excessive drooling, or a distended abdomen –
Note well: If you notice these signs of bloat specifically, please consider this an emergency and take your dog to the vet as quickly as possible, as the condition can be potentially life-threatening.) If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, it is time to see a vet.
How to Stop Diarrhea
A great many cases are mild and, with your vet’s advice, may be treated without a trip to the office. They may respond to a regimen of very basic treatments, including: Fasts Withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, and providing water in small amounts frequently, can clear the cause of the upset and allow the gastrointestinal tract to settle. It’s usually the first line of attack for the runs. Before you decide on a fast, be sure that your dog is healthy enough to endure it. Puppies, and elderly dogs, for example, need nutrients. Also, a fast may not be appropriate for little dogs, who do not have the physical reserves of their larger cousins.
A home-cooked bland diet may also be recommended by your veterinarian that often contains a combination of cooked rice or pasta and boiled chicken. This may be more tempting to your dog initially, but is not generally as therapeutic as the veterinary diet. This conservative medical approach allows the body’s healing mechanisms to correct the problem. As the stools return to normal, you can gradually reintroduce your dog’s regular food by mixing it in with the special diet for several days.
Medication for Dog Diarrhea
Antidiarrheal agents, dewormers and or probiotics (bacteria that support intestinal health) may be prescribed in some cases. Metronidazole (brand name Flagyl®) and tylosin (brand name Tylan®) are commonly prescribed anti-diarrheal agents that decrease the intestinal inflammation that often leads to diarrhea. Dewormers commonly used include Panacur®, Drontal®, and Dolpac®.
Natural Home Remedies for Diarrhea
After a fast, food is usually introduced slowly and many people start with binders, which can normalize stool consistency. Some tried-and-true methods include: Rice water : Boil high-quality rice in a lot of water, remove the grains, and offer the dog the creamy white soup that’s left. A splash of broth or a bit baby food will make it more palatable. White rice Canned pumpkin (plain, not prepared pie filling) has the odd distinction of being effective for diarrhea and constipation . Yogurt , which has beneficial bacteria, can help in dogs who can tolerate milk and milk products. Probiotics , live bacteria that aid digestion (these are also found in yogurt) Boiled potatoes , without skin Cottage cheese Plain protein sources such as egg (prepared with no butter or oil) or chicken (without skin) Herbs , such as fennel, have gut-soothing properties.
Bone broth is another great option for easing an upset stomach while simultaneously hydrating your dog. Dehydration is commonly associated with diarrhea, and chronic dehydration will only exacerbate the issues already present. Easing your pup’s stomach upset with a product that will also help with dehydration can prove to get Fido back on track ASAP. Dog owners can purchase bone broth or make it ahead of time. The bone broth can be frozen and stored for emergency situations. To make bone broth, simply simmer a whole chicken in a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar in a crock pot until the meat falls off the bone. We want you to note that if you are purchasing bone broth, we recommend purchasing a brand that is specially formulated for dogs. This way you’ll be able to ensure that there are no additives and nothing included that could cause further irritation and prolong the episodes of diarrhea.
If diarrhea is the only sign, a minimum number of tests are performed to rule out certain parasites and infections. If diarrhea is severe or associated with several other clinical signs, your veterinarian will perform a series of tests in order to reach a diagnosis and to determine how sick your dog has become as a consequence of the diarrhea. These tests enable your veterinarian to treat your dog appropriately. Diagnostic tests may include microscopic fecal evaluation, X-rays with or without barium (a liquid given to dogs that shows up on X-rays and can highlight abnormalities in the intestine), blood tests, fecal cultures or DNA tests, biopsies of the intestinal tract, endoscopy, ultrasound, and exploratory abdominal surgery.