Dog Diarrhea Crofton, Maryland
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.
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 .
Diarrhea is a common canine affliction and it varies in frequency, duration, and intensity from dog to dog. There are many reasons why a dog may develop loose stools, but most cases may be attributed to 12 triggers:
Change in diet
Poisonous substances or plants
Swallowing an indigestible foreign body
Infections with common viruses
Antibiotics and other medications
Stress or emotional upset
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
Other worrisome conditions that may lead to loose stool include bacterial and viral infections. Parvovirus, distemper, coronavirus, and bacterial infections such as salmonella are often accompanied by severe diarrhea. If your dog also has a fever, is vomiting, has muscle weakness, and is more lethargic than usual, they may have a bacterial or viral infection. In most cases, infections are highly contagious. This is troublesome in a home with other pets, because of the nature of uncontrollable, explosive diarrhea. Pet parents should make sure to quarantine the affected dog from other pets and be careful when cleaning up any bodily fluids. Some infections can be transmitted to humans as well.
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
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
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 Your Dog’s Poop Mean
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.
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.
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.
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.
In most cases, switching to a bland diet is the first step to treating the condition.
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.