Dog Diarrhea Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
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 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 .
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
When to Go to the Vet
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.
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.
In most cases, switching to a bland diet is the first step to treating the condition.
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.
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.