Dog Diarrhea Brookline, Massachusetts
Is Dog Diarrhea Bad?
Diarrhea is a common problem in dogs, often because they will put almost anything in their mouth. But it can also be caused by more serious health problems. Some of these issues require close attention, especially if the diarrhea is severe or occurs frequently. Loose stools are, of course, the main indicator of diarrhea. Diarrhea may also be accompanied by vomiting , loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, lethargy and other symptoms of disease. Acute diarrhea (appears suddenly) in an otherwise healthy dog is often due to dietary indiscretion (scavenging or eating food outside their diet like food scraps ); stress; a sudden change in diet (switching their food without a transition period); or viral, bacterial or parasitic infections.
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.
Will a Dog Get Diarrhea?
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 .
Many things can disrupt this well-balanced system, causing diarrhea or, less frequently, constipation. Some things, like eating too much grass , are not serious at all. Others can be a sign of a life-threatening problem, such as an indigestible object (like a rock) lodged in the stomach, or a disease like cancer. There are many reasons why a dog may develop loose stools, but most cases may be attributed to one of these 12 triggers:
Dietary indiscretion: Eating too much, eating garbage, or spoiled food. There’s actually a name for it in veterinary circles—“garbage toxicosis” or “garbage gut.”
Change in diet: It may take a few days for a dog’s digestive system to adapt to new proteins. That’s why many dog-food manufacturers recommend that you go slow when you switch from one brand of food to another.
Allergies Parasites : Most of these will cause illness in puppies or in adults with weak immune systems: Roundworms Hookworms Whipworms Coccidia Giardia Poisonous substances or plants
Swallowing an indigestible foreign body , like a toy or a dozen or more socks
Infections with common viruses such as: Parvovirus Distemper Coronavirus
Bacterial infections , such as salmonella
Illnesses , such as kidney and liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease , and cancer
Antibiotics and other medications
Stress or emotional upset
How serious is diarrhea in dogs? The seriousness of diarrhea depends on how long the diarrhea has persisted and how many other signs accompany the diarrhea. If your dog has severe bloody diarrhea, or is showing more generalized signs of illness such as weakness, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, or loss of appetite, or if dehydration accompanies the diarrhea, the cause may be more serious. For example, diarrhea is one of the first signs seen in parvovirus, a viral infection that can cause life-threatening illness in susceptible dogs.
Recent Diet Changes
In dogs, dietary indiscretion (eating garbage or other offensive or irritating materials), or a change in diet is a common cause of acute (sudden) diarrhea. Stress, especially following travel, boarding, or other changes in environment, can also cause acute diarrhea. However, diarrhea can also be a sign of a more serious underlying disorder such as allergies, bacterial or viral infections, inflammatory intestinal disease, organ dysfunction, or other systemic illness.
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.
Many dogs with food intolerance struggle with diarrhea and gas on a consistent basis. All dog breeds can have hypersensitivities to food that are rich in gluten, fat, and dairy. However, some specific dog breeds are more prone to these hypersensitivities. For instance, some Wheaten Terriers and Irish Setters are known to have gluten intolerances. On the other hand, some Schnauzers are known to be hypersensitive to diets that have a high fat content. Knowing specific characteristics that are tied to your dog’s breed can help determine underlying health conditions before they develop. Unfortunately, it can be rather difficult to figure out exactly what your dog is unable to tolerate. However, once it is determined, it should be consistently avoided.
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.
Here is where things get a bit scary. While diarrhea can be the result of something relatively minor, it can also be an underlying sign of more serious conditions. Intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, giardia, and coccidia can lead to severe stomach problems. Typically, dogs contract parasites by drinking contaminated water, or otherwise ingesting contaminated soil or stool. Puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems are also at a higher risk. In many cases, parasitic infestation can be difficult to detect. If for any reason you believe that your dog may have intestinal parasites, take them to the vet for a fecal exam and proper diagnosis. Only then can an effective treatment plan be implemented.
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
If you have not changed your dog’s food or dietary habits, unexplainable changes in your dog’s poop are typically the first symptoms of poisoning. Shortly after your dog has consumed a toxic substance, stomach pain and diarrhea may ensue. Ingesting poisonous substances is extremely dangerous and can cause severe conditions if left untreated. A detoxification process will need to be conducted ASAP. If for any reason you feel that your dog has ingested a toxic substance, such as lead-based products or poisonous plants, or even some household products, it is important to get them to the veterinarian straight away. Toxic substances also include things such as chocolate, mushrooms, human medications, laundry detergents, charcoal, as well as various types of plants.
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
Additionally, many illnesses and diseases may cause diarrhea. These diseases include but are not limited to:
Cancer of the liver and kidneys
Tumors in the intestinal tract
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome
As you can see, a proper veterinary diagnosis is extremely important if the loose stool persists for an extended period of time (more than one or two bowel movements with a loose, watery consistency). Furthermore, bloody diarrhea is typically a symptom of a disease that is directly associated with the digestive tract and surrounding organs.
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
Probiotics —living bacterial cultures intended to assist the body’s naturally occurring gut flora in reestablishing themselves—may also help speed recovery. These live microorganisms are found in yogurt, for example, and are also available from your health food store or your veterinarian as high-potency powdered acidophilus cultures, which are more effective than yogurt for diarrhea.
What Stools Can Tell You About Your Dog’s Health
It’s not a topic anyone likes to discuss, but if you own a dog, chances are you have found yourself cleaning up a stinking brown puddle (or, politely put, doggie runs) more than you’d care to think about. Diarrhea is a common canine affliction and it varies in frequency, duration, and intensity from dog to dog. You may not be able to totally prevent diarrhea, but knowing as much as possible about it might help limit the number times your dog has one of these unpleasant episodes and reduce the duration when the runs do come.
Time for a Vet Visit
What is diarrhea? Diarrhea is unformed or loose stools, usually occurring in larger amounts and/or more often. Diarrhea is not a disease but rather a sign of many different diseases. Diarrhea associated with minor conditions can often be resolved quickly with simple treatments. “Diarrhea may be the result of serious or life-threatening illnesses.” However, diarrhea may be the result of serious or life-threatening illnesses such as organ system failure or cancer. Even diarrhea caused by mild illnesses may become serious if treatment is not begun early enough to prevent severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
At one point or another, every dog could experience a bout of diarrhea. In most cases, it isn’t a cause for total panic. If you have recently changed Fido’s diet, or if your dog has been getting extra treats from the dinner table, these factors might be clues to the culprit. However, there are certain things that you, as a pet parent, need to be aware of and keep an eye on. A great many cases are mild and, with your vet’s advice, may be treated without a trip to the office. There are many at-home remedies including rice water and pumpkin. You may need to consult a vet if your dog exhibits other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea does not stop, the dog is on a new medication, or 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.
Dog diarrhea that is accompanied by vomiting, blood, or mucus can be early signs of much more critical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease , liver disease , or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Your vet would need to do specific tests to diagnose these conditions. These conditions should not be overlooked or ignored. If they are left untreated, they can lead to dehydration and a slew of health problems further down the road. Let’s talk about why you might not want to go to the vet right away.
If you take your dog to a conventional vet for diarrhea, they’ll usually give you antibiotics … like Metronidazole (Flagyl). It will stop your dog’s symptoms in a few doses.
The trouble is … that’s all it does. It stops symptoms without fixing the underlying issue. So the diarrhea comes back. Antibiotics are not the best solution. In fact they can do more harm to your dog’s gut. And that harm can be permanent … so your dog’s gut never recovers.
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.
There are many at-home remedies including rice water and pumpkin. You may need to consult a vet if your dog exhibits other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea does not stop, the dog is on a new medication, or 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.
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
There are some probiotics and supplements that can be very helpful for dogs experiencing diarrhea. As the quality and effectiveness of probiotics and supplements are not always known, it is always recommended to ask your veterinarian before giving your dog anything of this nature.
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.
Some manufacturers offer foods that can soothe stomach problems. You may need to obtain these from your vet. Over-the-counter medications for humans may also be effective for doggie diarrhea, but should be given with caution and you should talk to your vet before using them. Methods that work for one dog may not help another, so you might need to do a little experimentation to find the right formula. It might also be helpful to write down what works and what doesn’t so you’ll know what to do the next time you find yourself mopping up a mess. Once you find a recovery diet that agree with your dog, and doesn’t cause a relapse, you can slowly increase the portions over a period of days, and then start to add small quantities of your dog’s regular food, until things are back to normal.
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.