Dog Diarrhea: Top Causes and Treatments

21 September 2020

Worried about diarrhea in your dog? Find out what to do to best help your furry friend with this troubling yet common condition.

Sad dog lying next to dog bed - dog diarrhea

Concerned about your dog’s recent diarrhea? Dog diarrhea can be especially worrying for those of us with new puppies or old dogs, and can indicate both minor and major health conditions that may need to be treated as soon as possible. Read on to learn more about diarrhea in dogs, and how you can best care for your poor buddy.

What is dog diarrhea?

Like any good dog parent, you’re probably used to picking up your dog’s poo daily. So chances are, you know what a normal bowel movement for them looks like. Firm, brown, and in the shape of a log – this is what normal or healthy dog poo looks like.

Dog diarrhea is when there’s an unusual increase in the amount of fluid in their poo. It is characterized by excessively loose, watery and frequent stools.

This can be extremely frustrating and worrying for any dog parent. Not only does it mean a mess to clean up, it also is a sign your dog is likely sick, suffering from a belly ache or maybe something more serious.

While nearly all dogs get diarrhea at some point in their lives, most cases are mild and short-lived.

If your dog has diarrhea, it’s important to know why this can happen and how you can best help your furry friend.

dog laying in dog bed looking sad - dog diarrhea

What are the causes of dog diarrhea?

There are many potential causes for dog diarrhea. Commons reasons why dogs get diarrhea include eating trash, spoiled or toxic food, and changes to their diet. However, dog diarrhea can also be caused by any of the following:

  • Change in diet
  • Overeating
  • Food intolerance
  • Eating garbage or food gone bad
  • Accidentally eating poisonous substances, toxic plants, rocks, bones, fabric, carpet, and other indigestible materials
  • Allergic reaction t0 certain types of food (e.g. milk, wheat gluten, soy, corn, beef)
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Internal parasites
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cancer or other tumors of the digestive tract
  • Certain medications
  • Stress or emotional disturbances
  • Poor quality diet

If possible, try to identify what may have caused your dog’s diarrhea. This can help you to treat them appropriately and take the necessary steps to keep your pup free from diarrhea in the future.

What should you do if your dog gets diarrhea?

In most cases, dog diarrhea is mild and may be treated with basic home treatments – and without a trip to the vet’s office. Below are some basic tips for dealing with dog diarrhea:

1) Deal with the mess.

If your dog has diarrhea, chances are they won’t be able to make it outside in time, and you may now be dealing with a pretty stinky mess. Try to clean up the poo as soon as possible, and disinfect the area.

While doing so, check the feces for blood, mucus, and consistency. This is really useful information in case you need to consult your vet. You should get rid of the poo as soon as possible, but it might be a good idea to collect a sample for your vet. This way, they can examine your dog’s stools for more information on what has caused their doggy diarrhea.

2) Observe your dog’s behavior.

After your dog has had diarrhea, it’s important to see if you can spot any changes in their behavior that might indicate signs of serious illness. If your pup looks sick, stops eating, or otherwise acts abnormally – this is a sign to call your vet!

If your dog is behaving as usual, not showing any signs of sickness and the diarrhea ends not long after it started, then your pup is likely to be back to full health shortly.

3) Call your vet.

While most are not serious, some cases of dog diarrhea may indicate that your dog is suffering from a serious illness, poisoning, or injury. So if you see signs any of the following signs after the diarrhea, contact your vet immediately:

  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Blood in diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Signs that your dog may have swallowed a toxic substance or foreign object
  • Pale gums
  • Black, tarry poo
  • Longer diarrhea (lasting over 24 hours)

Especially if you have a puppy, it’s important to call the vet immediately at the first signs of diarrhea. Similarly, if you have an elderly or medically frail dog suffering from diarrhea, tell your vet right away. They can give you the best advice for your furry friend.

Diarrhea in puppies should be treated as a potential emergency, so call your vet immediately.¹.

If things just don’t seem right, remember the golden rule. When in doubt, call your vet. You know your dog, and only you know the signs that something is wrong. Trust your instincts and if you think you need veterinary guidance, pick up the phone.

How to stop diarrhea in dogs

Once you have dealt with the initial situation and contacted your vet if necessary, you can take the following steps to stop diarrhea in dogs:

1) Fast your dog.

Go into doggy-fasting mode: take away all food from your dog for the next 12-24 hours. Withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, while providing access to fresh, clean water will give your dog’s stomach time to empty out after diarrhea. However, before fasting, be sure that your dog is healthy enough to endure it. Puppies, and elderly dogs, for example, might need extra nutrients.

2) Ensure your dog drinks plenty of water.

During fasting, it is essential to make sure your dog drinks enough water to replenish the fluids lost during their diarrhea episode(s). Like humans, dog should be well-hydrated at all times, especially if they’ve experienced diarrhea recently.

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so it’s important to give your dog access to water at all times.

If you notice that your dog is not drinking enough water, use low-sodium broth, ice cubes, or a water fountain to encourage your dog to drink more.

3) Feed a bland diet.

After fasting, put your dog on a bland food diet: boiled white rice, boiled chicken, or boiled ground beef are all great options. It’s never a bad idea to check with your vet if you are unsure about what to feed your dog as they recover.

Do not give your dog bones, snacks, or table scraps. This may irritate their intestines during this time.

Feed bland food to them in several small meals over the course of the day. After each meal, wait 2 hours to check for vomiting. If your dog doesn’t vomit, it’s safe to feed them again.

Gradually increase the amount of food until your dog has a solid, formed poo. If this is all working, you can start bringing your pet back to their regular food over the course of a week.

4) Consider supplements and/or medication.

Finally, you may want to consider some additional measures, such as diet supplements or medications, to treat your dog’s diarrhea. Pumpkin can be used to alleviate dog diarrhea and probiotics can be useful to maintain a healthy microbial balance in your dog’s intestines. Check with your vet to see if medication might be necessary when treating your dog’s diarrhea.

Dog Diarrhea Treatment Summary

The recommended treatment for dog diarrhea will depend upon the underlying problem and cause of the diarrhea. It may involve dietary changes, or medication. Try to determine the cause of your dog’s diarrhea and speak to your vet if you suspect that your dog might have a serious illness, poisoning, or injury.

Dog diarrhea treatment typically includes the following:

  1. Remove all food from the dog for 8-12 hours.
  2. Ensure your dog drinks plenty of water after the episode of diarrhea to avoid de-hydration.
  3. Feed your dog a bland diet in the days following diarrhea.
  4. Slowly start to reintroduce your dog’s normal food into their diet again.
  5. Call your vet if the diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours, or if your dog displaying other worrying symptoms of illness, such as vomiting, blood in stool, or lethargy.
  6. Consider treating with pumpkin, probiotics, supplements or medication (as prescribed by a vet).

The outlook for dogs with diarrhea

If your dog has suffered from diarrhea recently, not to fear! In cases of simple diarrhea, most dogs will make a complete and speedy recovery. If your dog has chronic diarrhea, or an underlying health issue, this may require regular dietary treatment or medication to keep the condition under control. Speak to your vet if your dog’s diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours.

More ideas to keep your dog safe and healthy

These articles can also help you get peace of mind and take care of your furry friend:

For more information on dealing with dog diarrhea, check out this video by the American Kennel Club:

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