Dog Diarrhea Concord, Massachusetts
Is Dog Diarrhea Bad?
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.
There’s a pretty good chance your dog has experienced diarrhea at one time or another. Diarrhea is characterized by the passing of watery or very soft stool and is one of the most common signs of illness reported by dog owners. It’s important for dog owners to understand why dogs have diarrhea and also know how to respond to it. Flatulence often occurs with diarrhea, which may or may not accompany vomiting , loss of appetite, and lethargy.
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
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
With small intestinal diarrhea , you’re likely to see large amounts of stool that range from very watery to semi-formed. Defecation frequency is often normal, but could be slightly increased. Stool that is extremely dark or black suggests bleeding may be occurring in the stomach or the first part of the small intestine. Flatulence (gas), stomach or intestinal noises, or vomiting may occur at the same time.
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
While antibiotics treat infections, they’re can also lead to diarrhea in your dog. In fact, gastrointestinal (GI) issues are one of the most common side effects of many antibiotics. Antibiotics treat infections by killing the bad bacteria in your dog’s body. However, antibiotics are not able to differentiate between good bacteria and bad bacteria. Therefore, they, unfortunately, target both. Good bacteria are necessary for a proper balance in the digestive system and GI tract. Without good bacteria, your dog will likely experience abdominal pain and other stomach issues. If your dog has recently been put on antibiotics, their diarrhea may be linked to the new medication. Always follow the advice of your vet – many times, the medication should be given with food.
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 Your Dog’s Poop Mean
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
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.
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. 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
Additionally, there are several wonderful home remedies that have proven time and time again to be effective in relieving diarrhea.
Boiled Chicken & White Rice
One of the oldest tricks in the book is feeding your dog a bland diet of boiled chicken and white rice. It tends to work the majority of the time, when it comes to stopping diarrhea. Dog owners should make sure that there aren’t any additives in either the chicken or the rice. Simplicity is key!
Canned pumpkin is great at soothing upset stomachs. Pumpkin can be absorbed slowly by the body. This slow absorption makes it a great remedy for both constipation and diarrhea. (*We want to make sure that pet parents are aware that canned pumpkin is NOT pumpkin pie mix! Be sure you are purchasing the right product!)
Ginger is very effective in promoting and maintaining a healthy GI tract. Additionally, ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory that can also help to fight nausea, bloat, and arthritis.
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.