You know how miserable a severe bout of diarrhea can make you feel. For a dog, it’s no different, especially when the symptoms continue for a number of days.
Dog diarrhea is not a disease but a symptom of potentially many different conditions. Unformed or loose stools typically present themselves in more significant amounts and more often than you’d expect when everything’s normal.
Most underlying problems that cause dog diarrhea will resolve themselves quickly, but some can become very serious. Read on to learn more about this unpleasant condition and how to control it.
What Are Some of the Most Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs?
Diarrhea occurs due to the quicker movement of fecal matter through the intestine. At the same time, there will be less water, electrolytes and nutrients absorbed. Basically, the body may want to get rid of whatever it’s ingested – and fast.
There are a broad range of potential issues that may lead to a dog suffering from diarrhea. Stress, particularly after a period of travel, boarding or other significant changes to your pet’s routine can result in a bout of acute diarrhea.
Dogs are natural scavengers and will often nibble on anything that looks edible so it should come as no surprise that some of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs are food-related.
Dogs may sift through garbage for example, looking for a tasty treat and begin eating something that’s either toxic, rotten or indigestible. They may also have developed or be prone to a particular food allergy.
This can sometimes happen if you switch to foods that contain an unfamiliar ingredient. You may find your dog can develop skin problems at the same time. Some dogs have a tendency to be allergic to the proteins found in meat, dairy products and even wheat.
Gut problems can also lead to bouts of diarrhea in dogs. Common conditions include:
- Parvovirus: a nasty & potentially deadly virus in unvaccinated puppies and dogs
- Worms: these can damage the lining of the gut leading to diarrhea and vomiting
- Giardia: tiny parasites again attack the gut lining leading to watery diarrhea
- Bacterial infections due to Salmonella or Campylobacter
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Other Likely Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs
There are lots of other less common causes of diarrhea in dogs but some of these can be potentially far more serious.
Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) for example, causes vomiting and diarrhea that contains blood. More common in smaller breeds, it’s a condition experts believe is likely caused by nasty bacteria that attack and damage the lining of the gut.
If a vet suspects a dog is suffering from HGE, they will typically want to admit the animal to a veterinary hospital for treatment.
Other conditions include:
- Colitis: inflammation of the large intestine that can cause diarrhea with blood in it
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): chronic inflammation of the intestines
- Pancreatitis: an inflammation of the pancreas
- Liver disease: can be accompanied by bouts of diarrhea and vomiting
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI): causes foul-smelling, pale, oily stools
- Distemper and intestinal cancer
Medications such as antibiotics may also cause diarrhea.
If your dog or puppy swallows something they shouldn’t have, this can cause a blockage in the gut and lead to diarrhea and vomiting along with other symptoms such as a sore abdomen.
How Serious Is Diarrhea for Dogs?
Most cases of diarrhea and vomiting in dogs are going to clear up over the course of a day or so. If your dog has had just one episode of diarrhea then the chances are there’s nothing really to worry about.
However, sometimes even the most innocent of deeds can have very serious, sometimes fatal consequences.
Chocolate, for example, is highly toxic for dogs. That doesn’t mean a dog won’t try and eat some given half the chance. This could happen by accident or by the action of a well-meaning stranger. Bones too can cause obstructions in the gut and lead to bouts of diarrhea.
Prevention and the Dangers of Dog Diarrhea
Diarrhea acts as a sign there is something going on that is not right. Serious conditions that include diarrhea as a common symptom are often preventable and treatable.
For example, vaccinations will stop Parvovirus (parvo), a potentially deadly virus, in its tracks. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for puppies to get their jabs.
Dog diarrhea that lasts for more than a day can cause dehydration, malnutrition, and electrolyte imbalance. It can also lead to shock, organ failure, sepsis and even death if left unchecked.
What Does Their Stool Say About Your Dog’s Health?
If you’re wondering how healthy your dog is, their poop is a good place to look. Watery stools can indicate intestinal problems. Small pellet-like poops could mean your dog is suffering from dehydration. More serious issues are likely when you find:
- Evidence of mucus or blood
- White bits that could signify tapeworms
- Black, coffee-like stools that could signify internal bleeding
Some shades of color can be a cause for concern:
- Orange or yellow might be a sign of liver disease
- Green could signify a gall bladder problem
- Gray or greasy might mean there’s a pancreatic issue
Perfect poop should be brown and solid in one log-like piece. It should match the quantity of food your dog has eaten.
How Do I Treat and Stop Diarrhea in Dogs?
If your dog has severe symptoms, perhaps blood in their poop, then you should always seek veterinary care. If your dog has had diarrhea for less than a day and appears to be otherwise well, you could try helping them to recover at home.
The best thing to stop dog diarrhea is to ensure that your pet has plenty of fresh water to drink and that they drink little and often. Diarrhea can cause dehydration so replacing these fluids is essential.
Without veterinary advice, never give a dog human medication as this may be toxic to them.
Helping Your Dog Recover from Diarrhea
When you begin feeding your dog again, stick to a bland and plain diet. Only offer your dog small amounts of food but you can make meals more frequent. Cooking plain white rice with boiled, de-boned chicken breast would be a good option. Vets may also be able to offer you a specialist tinned food formulated for upset stomachs.
When your dog starts passing solid poop, you can then gently reintroduce their regular food over a few days. Never give your dog rich or fatty food until they’ve made a full recovery as you may make their condition worse.
It’s vital to let your dog rest so that they can rebuild their strength so cut out any energetic activities until they’re completely better.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria for the gut. Some dogs may benefit from these. Some dieticians believe they help to top up natural, healthy gut bacteria. You should consult your vet first before feeding your dog probiotics.
If My Dog Has Diarrhea, When Should I Visit the Vet?
If your dog has been experiencing mild diarrhea for less than a day, you may want to try and calm them at home before contacting your vet. If they appear unwell or have had symptoms for more than a 24-hour period, you must contact your vet for advice.
If your dog has more than 2 bouts of diarrhea, you should keep a close eye on them as it might indicate there is a more serious problem.
If your dog is straining to pass a stool but you only see small quantities of watery diarrhea, it could mean they have a painful blockage. This could be due to ingesting a foreign object like a toy. This can be very serious and you should seek the help of a vet straight away.
Always Check With Your Vet
If your dog has many bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time it could signify a serious health issue, particularly if they are old, very young, or have a compromised immune system.
Infections like parvo are very serious, contagious, and can be life-threatening. Get your dog to the vet immediately if they have repeated episodes of diarrhea or chronic diarrhea.
If your dog has any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see a vet:
- General weakness and fatigue
- Blood in their poop
- Vomiting or unusual amounts of drooling
- Physical signs of dehydration like sunken-looking eyes or dry, sticky gums
Help at Hand
Dog diarrhea is one of those conditions that can indicate a broad spectrum of issues, some critical, some not and some that can quickly develop in seriousness. Sometimes a little reassurance or advice can go a long way.
We have a team of highly-qualified vets available to support you and your pet. Still looking for answers about your dog and diarrhea? Schedule an instant video consultation with our qualified veterinarians and get tailored advice from the comfort of your home – today.