Dog Diarrhea Ken Caryl, Colorado
How Long Should I Wait to Call the Vet if My Dog Has Diarrhea?
You should call your veterinarian for advice on how to handle the diarrhea if your dog:
Is very young or very old
Has a preexisting health condition
These pets can become severely debilitated , even when suffering from relatively mild diarrhea. Also call your veterinarian if your dog’s diarrhea :
Is frequent and/or very watery
Contains more than just a streak of blood
Is dark and tarry
OR if your dog is:
In pain These can be signs of potentially serious health conditions.
If your dog is an otherwise healthy adult, then it is reasonable to try some at-home treatments.
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 .
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Do I Need to Take My Dog to the Vet?
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.
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.
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.