Dog Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment
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If your dog has ever had diarrhea, you know how stressful it can be as a pet parent. Diarrhea can make your dog uncomfortable, dehydrated, and vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies.
If you're wondering how to treat diarrhea in dogs, or if you're asking yourself, "Why does my dog have diarrhea again?" we’re here to answer your questions. This article will guide you through the causes and symptoms of dog diarrhea and provide practical treatment recommendations.
- Diarrhea in dogs is characterized by frequent defecation and loose, watery stool.
- The duration of dog diarrhea depends on the cause and the dog's overall health, with mild cases resolving within a day.
- If dog diarrhea persists or worsens, veterinary attention is necessary for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
What Is Diarrhea in Dogs?
Diarrhea in dogs can mean defecating more frequently than usual as well as abnormal stool consistency (loose and watery). In either case, you’ll notice your dog’s poop lacks its normal firmness. The stool color often appears darker or lighter than usual, and the odor is stronger and more unpleasant.
When a dog has diarrhea, their loose stool can be uncontrolled, coming out in a large volume or in liquid squirts. Acute diarrhea can last anywhere from one to 14 days, while chronic diarrhea lasts more than 14 days.
Signs & Symptoms of Dog Diarrhea
Aside from frequent defecating, monitor for these symptoms:
Causes of Dog Diarrhea
Here are some common causes of diarrhea in dogs:
Sudden changes in diet
Your dog’s stomach and intestinal tract may become reactive when consuming an unfamiliar food item or ingredient for the first time. This sudden change can lead to diarrhea.
Eating rotten food and garbage
Bacteria grows on spoiled food and can cause adverse reactions in a dog’s stomach. Garbage also contains foreign materials that can cause diarrhea if eaten. These causes of diarrhea are often referred to as “dietary indiscretion” within the veterinary community.
Food intolerance or allergies
Food intolerance means your dog can’t process certain food items, and food allergy means your dog’s immune system is sensitive to certain ingredients. Both can irritate your dog's intestinal tract and result in diarrhea.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammation of the intestinal tract due to parasites, toxic materials produced by normal gut bacteria or bacteria themselves, and/or digested food proteins impairs nutrient movement and absorption, which can lead to diarrhea. Inflammatory bowel disease is often a “diagnosis of exclusion,” meaning other causes of diarrhea have first been ruled out.
Bacterial or viral infections
Bacterial or viral infections can disrupt dogs’ normal gut flora (normal, healthy bacteria) and result in diarrhea. Some common infections are due to salmonella, Campylobacter, and parvovirus.
Gastrointestinal parasites, such as roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms, can cause diarrhea. Giardia can also cause profuse diarrhea in dogs.
Non-gastrointestinal conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease, pancreatitis, and Addison’s disease can be associated with diarrhea. Blood and urine testing allow for these possibilities to be investigated.
Certain medications, such as antibiotics, can cause diarrhea as a side effect.
When Is Dog Diarrhea Serious?
Keep an eye on the following symptoms that may indicate your pet needs urgent veterinary care:
When it is chronic
Persistent, chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration and nutritional deficiencies. As these can be life-threatening, it’s important to get veterinary care for your dog as soon as possible.
Blood in the stool
If you notice bloody stool, it can signify a more serious underlying condition. This warrants immediate attention from a veterinarian.
Loss of appetite
How Long Does Dog Diarrhea Last?
The duration of diarrhea in dogs depends on the cause and the dog's overall health. In mild cases, diarrhea can be self-limiting and resolve within a day. However, if the pup's diarrhea persists for over two days or becomes more severe, you should take them to the nearest animal hospital or call a veterinarian for a home visit.
My Dog Has Diarrhea But is Acting Fine: What Do I Do?
If you're wondering, "What home remedy can I give my dog for diarrhea?" here are some guidelines:
- Allow your dog's digestive system to rest by fasting them (not allowing them to have food) for 12 to 24 hours, but provide water to prevent dehydration. This is only suitable for adult dogs, as you should not fast puppies without veterinary advice. If your adult dog has any concurrent medical conditions or is taking medication(s), please consult with your veterinarian before fasting.
- Introduce a bland diet such as boiled chicken, plain cooked white rice, or specially formulated dog foods.
Veterinary Diagnosis & Examination
Veterinarians use various methods to diagnose the underlying cause of diarrhea in dogs. They start by conducting a thorough physical examination and carefully checking for abnormal signs, such as sticky gums, which can occur with dehydration. They may also inquire about changes in the pet's behavior and inquire about any other concurrent symptoms. They may also request the pet parents to collect a sample of the dog's stool for analysis.
Blood work can also be done to assess the dog's overall health and identify any underlying or concurrent conditions for a dog experiencing diarrhea. Sometimes, imaging modalities (X-rays and/or ultrasound) are used to examine the gastrointestinal tract closely.
Canine Diarrhea Treatment Options
Treatment options for dogs with diarrhea include antidiarrheals and probiotics to restore gut balance. Dietary changes can involve a bland diet of boiled chicken or other lean meat with rice or a prescription diet formulated for gastrointestinal issues. Your veterinarian may recommend fiber supplements, and easy, consistent access to fresh water is essential. Consult an online veterinarian for a treatment plan tailored to your pet's needs.
Prevention of Diarrhea in Dogs
To prevent diarrhea in dogs and keep their digestion system healthy, follow these tips:
- Make diet changes slowly and avoid sudden shifts.
- Keep your dog away from ingredients and foods that are toxic to them.
- Provide consistent access to clean water for hydration.
- Follow your veterinarian’s advice on deworming your dog based on the prevalence of parasites in your area.
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There are many potential reasons for dog diarrhea, and the correct treatment depends on the underlying cause. Withholding food for a short period can be a helpful approach to managing mild diarrhea in dogs, as can offering a bland diet consisting of boiled chicken and white rice.
If your dog's diarrhea persists or worsens, veterinary attention is key for diagnosis and treatment. Prioritize your dog's gut health and seek veterinary attention for their diarrhea when needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you do if your dog has diarrhea but is acting fine?
Fasting your dog (water only) for 12-24 hours and introducing a bland diet. Fasting is not appropriate for puppies and for some adult dogs that are taking medications and/or experiencing other health issues.
What to feed a dog with diarrhea?
You can give your dog plain boiled chicken and plain cooked white rice
When is dog diarrhea an emergency?
Diarrhea in dogs becomes an emergency if there is blood in the stools, signs of pain, and/or dehydration. Dehydration signs include lethargy, reduced urination, and tacky (dry, sticky) gums. To check for dehydration, evaluate your dog’s gums and lift the skin at the scruff to see if it stays tented instead of snapping back. A sunken appearance to the eyes can also indicate dehydration.
Does pumpkin help dog diarrhea?
Canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) may help firm up your dog's stool due to its high fiber content.
Can I give my dog Imodium for diarrhea?
No. Imodium can be toxic and should only be given to dogs under veterinary guidance.
Can I give my dog Pepto Bismol for diarrhea?
No. Giving your dog human medications like Pepto Bismol is not recommended unless your veterinarian has specifically advised it for your dog.