Dog Diarrhea Dartmouth, Massachusetts
How Long Should I Wait to Call the Vet if My Dog Has Diarrhea?
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 With Vomiting in Dogs
For dogs with diarrhea who have vomited only once or twice: Remove all food for 8-12 hours. To avoid dehydration, offer your dog small amounts of water frequently throughout the day. If needed, you can also offer some dilute, low-sodium chicken or beef broth or Pedialyte in addition to water. When your dog has not vomited for at least 8-12 hours, offer a small amount of boiled, white- meat chicken (no bones, skin or spices) and white rice. Wait two hours. If your dog has not vomited during this period, then you can offer another small meal of cooked chicken and rice. Continue this bland diet for 1-3 days, gradually increasing the amount of food offered at each meal and lengthening the time between meals until the stool consistency returns to normal.
You will need to do a gradual transition back to your dog’s typical diet in order to avoid another gastrointestinal upset. 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.
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
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
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
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
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
Now, you’re likely wondering how to stop Fido from having to use the bathroom so often. There are two main ways to treat diarrhea. The first is to let it run its course. Dogs with acute diarrhea can safely be treated at home. The second is to provide a supplement or medication to ease the issue. Of course, the main thing that pet parents must figure out is the cause of the dog’s diarrhea in the first place. Only then can an effective solution be determined.
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
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.
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.