When your dog has diarrhea, it can be distressing for them and their caretakers. It is not only a messy inconvenience but can also be a sign of an underlying health issue.
As a dog owner, it is crucial to understand the causes, symptoms, and management strategies to help your dog with diarrhea through this uncomfortable experience.
In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of dog diarrhea, explaining in depth:
- Dog diarrhea causes and symptoms
- Dog diarrhea home remedy
- Dog diarrhea food
- Dog diarrhea treatment
- Dog diarrhea medication
- Dog diarrhea prevention
You will learn steps you can take to alleviate your dog’s discomfort and know what to do from dog diarrhea with blood, dog diarrhea with mucus, dog diarrhea and vomiting, smelly watery diarrhea in dogs, selecting the best dog food for dog with diarrhea, puppy diarrhea and more.
Whether you’re a new dog owner or a seasoned pro, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate this all-too-common challenge.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and embark on this journey to understand dog diarrhea and discover effective ways to tackle it head-on.
Diarrhea in dogs
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty details, let’s start by understanding what exactly dog diarrhea is and how it can impact your dog’s health.
Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools and increased frequency of bowel movements. It’s a common digestive issue that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds.
The severity of diarrhea in dogs can range from severe to mild depending on the underlying cause.
While an occasional bout of diarrhea may not be cause for immediate concern, persistent or severe cases can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies.
Identifying the underlying cause is important for effective treatment and prevention of future episodes..
So, let’s continue our journey by diving into the causes of dog diarrhea and uncovering the steps you can take to support your dog’s digestive health.
Common causes of diarrhea in dogs
The most common causes of diarrhea in a dog include:
Gastrointestinal infection by bacteria, intestinal parasites, or viruses is the most common cause of diarrhea in a dog.
A dog can become infected by drinking or eating contaminated food or water.
Bacterial infections include Salmonella, coccidia, or Escherichia coli (E. coli) while viral infections include parvovirus.
Parasitic infections can be from roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms.
All dogs explore their world with their nose and mouth. They will tend to eat anything that smells interesting and due to curiosity, they may chew and swallow nonedible items.
This includes toxins, garbage, plants, objects, spoiled food, or human food, which upset their stomach. A dog’s upset stomach results in diarrhea and other symptoms including nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite and discomfort.
Change in diet
A change in diet can lead to dog diarrhea. If you have changed your dog’s food, this is likely the cause of it.
This is because it takes time for your dog’s stomach to adjust to the new food and a sudden change to a new one may cause diarrhea.
A dog may also experience food intolerance meaning that they may not be able to properly digest some of the food ingredients in the new diet which also leads to diarrhea.
A stressed dog also experiences diarrhea. Dog diarrhea from stress is a common symptom in addition to other symptoms including pacing, licking, drooling, yawning, crying, barking, and avoidance.
Stress can come from a variety of sources such as a change in their environment or routine, new people or pets, loud noises, and other fear-related stressful situations.
Allergic reactions cause various symptoms in a dog including diarrhea. Allergic reactions stem from different sources including environmental triggers, skin allergies, and food allergies.
Therefore if a dog is experiencing diarrhea, allergies are also likely to be the underlying cause.
Side effects of medication
Many medications cause diarrhea. Therefore if a dog is under medication, they may have diarrhea.
Many diseases and conditions cause diarrhea as a symptom including organ dysfunction, that is, kidney or liver disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, colitis, or cancer.
What are signs of diarrhea in dogs?
Recognizing the signs of diarrhea is essential for timely intervention and ensuring your dog receives the care they need.
Keep a watchful eye on your dog’s behavior and appearance, as subtle changes can indicate the presence of diarrhea. Here are some common signs to look out for:
- Loss of appetite
- Drooling due to nausea
- Watery to soft stool
- Mucus (jelly-like) stool, green, clear liquid, bloody spotting (large bowel)
- Black or tarry stool and light brown watery stool
- Increased frequency of bowel movements or increased urgency to go outside
- Painful stomach
- Weight loss with chronic diarrhea
- Fever or hypothermia
It is important to closely monitor your dog’s overall behavior and appearance for any indications of diarrhea.
Decoding the Appearance of Your Dog's Poop and What It Means
Understanding the appearance of your dog’s poop can provide valuable insights into their digestive health.
Here’s a helpful chart that decodes different appearances of dog poop, describing their color, consistency, and what each appearance may indicate:
The appearance of your dog’s poop can vary depending on various factors, including diet, hydration, and health conditions.
Understanding and monitoring your dog’s poop appearance can help you detect potential issues early on and seek veterinary care if necessary.
Dog diarrhea can vary in consistency, color, odor, and other characteristics, which can provide important clues about the underlying issue.
Some common types of dog diarrhea include:
Dog diarrhea with mucus
Dog diarrhea with mucus may indicate inflammation or irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. It can be caused by infections, dietary issues, or underlying conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.
Dog bloody diarrhea
Bloody diarrhea refers to the presence of blood in the stool and can indicate more serious conditions such as infections, parasites, or gastrointestinal bleeding.
Dog black diarrhea
Black or tarry stool can suggest digested blood in the upper gastrointestinal tract. It may indicate bleeding from the stomach or small intestine and requires urgent veterinary care to identify and address the cause.
Dog diarrhea watery brown
When a dog has watery brown diarrhea, it typically indicates a more severe form of diarrhea and is a cause for concern.
It can be caused by severe gastrointestinal upset, dietary indiscretion or sudden changes, bacterial or viral infections, parasitic infections and underlying medical conditions.
Dog chronic diarrhea
A dog with chronic diarrhea is characterized by persistent or recurring diarrhea that lasts for an extended period, typically more than a few weeks or even months despite initial treatment.
Dog diarrhea for 2 days or more is not normal and should not be taken lightly and it is important to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Chronic dog diarrhea can be caused by various factors, including dietary sensitivities, underlying diseases, or intestinal disorders.
Dog explosive diarrhea
Explosive diarrhea in dogs refers to sudden, forceful, and uncontrollable diarrhea. It can be associated with infections, dietary changes, dietary indiscretion, or certain medical conditions.
Smelly watery diarrhea in dogs
Smelly watery diarrhea in dogs is diarrhea that is loose in consistency, has a distinct foul odor, and is more liquid-like than solid. It can be an indication of an underlying gastrointestinal issue or infection.
Understanding the different types of dog diarrhea helps veterinarians narrow down the potential causes and guide appropriate treatment. Proper diagnosis often involves a combination of physical examinations, diagnostic tests, and evaluation of the dog’s medical history.
How long does dog diarrhea last?
In general, mild cases of diarrhea in dogs lasts for a short period and resolve within a 2 days, while more severe or chronic cases may last longer. The duration of dog diarrhea can vary depending on the underlying cause, severity of symptoms, and the effectiveness of treatment.
My dog has diarrhea but is acting fine, should I worry?
It is not uncommon for dogs to have diarrhea while still appearing to be otherwise fine and behaving normally.
The reasons why your dog may have diarrhea but still act fine include:
- Mild gastrointestinal upset
- Early stage of illness
- Resilience and high pain threshold of your dog
- Sudden dietary changes or consuming something unusual can result in temporary gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
- Individual dog response to different health issues. Some dogs may show more noticeable changes in behavior with diarrhea, while others may appear unaffected.
While it may be reassuring that your dog is acting fine despite having diarrhea, it is still important to monitor their condition closely.
Keep an eye out for any changes in behavior, appetite, or other signs of discomfort. Ensure your dog stays hydrated and offer small, frequent meals of easily digestible food.
If the diarrhea persists for more than a couple of days, worsens, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, or blood in the stool, consult your veterinarian.
Home Remedies for Dog Diarrhea
When your dog is experiencing diarrhea, there are several home remedies you can try to provide relief and support their digestive health.
It is important to note that these remedies are meant for mild cases of diarrhea and should not replace veterinary advice.
If your dog’s diarrhea is severe, persists for more than a day, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is important to consult your veterinarian.
So, what do you give a dog for diarrhea?
Here are dog diarrhea home treatments that help to manage diarrhea:
This involves giving your dog’s digestive system a break by withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, which helps to calm their gut.
Ensure they have access to fresh drinking water during this period to prevent dehydration. After the fasting period, gradually reintroduce a bland diet.
A bland diet helps soothe the digestive system and firm up stools.
Boiled chicken (without seasoning or skin) and plain white rice are commonly used for this purpose.
The chicken provides easily digestible protein, while rice acts as a binding agent.
Start with a 50:50 ratio of boiled chicken and rice, and gradually transition back to their regular diet as the diarrhea subsides.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore the balance of the gut microbiome.
Specially formulated probiotic supplements for dogs or plain yogurt containing live cultures are beneficial.
The live cultures in yogurt support a healthy digestive system.
2. Pumpkin puree
Feed your dog fresh or canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) in small amounts. Pumpkin can have results pretty quickly, that is, within 24 hours.
The high fiber content of pumpkin aids in firming up stools. Start with a teaspoon for small dogs and increase gradually for larger dogs.
Pumpkin also provides additional nutrients and supports digestive health.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration quickly, so it is important to ensure that your dog stays hydrated.
Offer fresh water at all times and consider providing an electrolyte solution recommended by your veterinarian to replenish lost nutrients.
4. Rice Water
Rice water is the liquid left after boiling rice. It contains soluble starches that can help soothe a dog’s upset stomach.
Allow the rice water to cool and offer it to your dog in small amounts throughout the day.
5. Boiled potatoes without Skin
Boiled potatoes, peeled and mashed, can provide easily digestible carbohydrates.
The carbohydrates help to bind the stool and offer relief from diarrhea.
Ensure the potatoes are thoroughly cooked and mashed before serving.
6. Plain yogurt
Plain yogurt contains probiotics and can help restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
The live cultures in yogurt support digestive health. Offer a small amount of plain yogurt as a treat or mix it with your dog’s food.
7. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is low in lactose and can be easily digested. It provides protein and calcium while being gentle on the digestive system.
Feed your dog small amounts of cottage cheese as a snack or mix it with your dog’s food.
Some herbs have been traditionally used to soothe digestive issues in dogs. Examples include chamomile, ginger, and slippery elm.
However, it is important to consult your veterinarian before using any herbs, as they may have specific dosages and potential interactions with medications.
Monitor your dog’s progress and consult your veterinarian if their condition worsens or fails to improve.
The veterinarian can provide tailored advice for your dog and recommend additional treatments or interventions if necessary.
Puppy diarrhea may be mild and can resolve by itself but it can also prolong and occur with other symptoms, which is a clear sign of a serious underlying illness.
Puppy diarrhea is often serious and can be life-threatening because they quickly become dehydrated and lose critical electrolytes, which can quickly kill them.
Constant dog puppy diarrhea should also not be ignored because of the risk of rapid dehydration which is life-threatening.
Therefore, immediately seek medical attention when your puppy has persistent bouts of diarrhea within a day.
Complications of dog diarrhea
The most serious complication of diarrhea is severe dehydration which leads to multiple organ failure, unconsciousness, and death.
If not treated in time, it can be life-threatening to a dog.
Diarrhea is also a symptom of many serious conditions which can be life-threatening if left untreated. This includes infections, cancer, or organ diseases.
When should I be concerned about my dog’s diarrhea?
While mild cases of dog diarrhea can often be managed at home, there are situations when it is important to seek veterinary guidance and care.
Prompt veterinary care ensures proper diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of your dog’s condition.
Here are some signs indicating the need to consult your veterinarian:
- Persistent or severe diarrhea: If your dog’s diarrhea persists for more than a day or two, or if it becomes increasingly severe, contact your veterinarian. Diarrhea that is persistent, watery, bloody, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms requires professional attention.
- Dehydration: Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which is a serious concern. If you notice signs of dehydration in your dog, such as lethargy, sunken eyes, dry gums, or decreased skin elasticity, seek veterinary help immediately. Dehydration may require fluid therapy and further medical intervention.
- Bloody diarrhea: When dog diarrhea has blood, that is the presence of blood in your dog’s stool, it is never normal and this warrants veterinary attention. Whether it is bright red spots or tarry black stools, blood in the stool can indicate various underlying issues that require diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
- Vomiting and loss of appetite: Dog diarrhea and vomiting or a significant decrease in appetite may indicate a more severe gastrointestinal problem. If your dog refuses to eat, shows signs of abdominal pain, or vomits frequently, consult your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation.
- Underlying health conditions: Dogs with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, dog diarrhea in heat, or a pregnant dog with diarrhea, require special attention. These conditions can complicate the management and treatment of diarrhea, necessitating veterinary guidance.
Curious about other symptoms that can accompany diarrhea in dogs? We have dedicated articles that delve into common signs such as dog diarrhea and fatigue, dog diarrhea and drooling, and more. Click here to explore further.
- Puppies and senior dogs: Diarrhea can be particularly concerning for puppies and senior dogs, as they have weaker immune systems and may become dehydrated more quickly. If your puppy or senior dog experiences diarrhea, seek veterinary advice promptly to prevent complications.
- Behavioral Changes: If your dog’s behavior changes significantly alongside diarrhea, such as increased lethargy, discomfort, or unusual vocalizations, it is important to consult your veterinarian.
These behavioral changes can indicate underlying health issues that require professional attention.
Read more from our guides on behavior changes that can occur alongside dog diarrhea and what they mean. This includes dog diarrhea and crying, dog diarrhea, and panting.
Remember, as a dog owner, you know your dog best. If you have any concerns about their health, it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek veterinary advice.
Your veterinarian can provide a comprehensive evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and recommend appropriate treatment options specific to your dog’s needs.
Timely veterinary care ensures the well-being of your dog and helps prevent potential complications associated with diarrhea.
By conducting a comprehensive diagnostic process, including physical examinations, fecal tests, blood work, and imaging, the veterinarian can gather important information about the underlying cause of your dog’s diarrhea.
This information allows them to tailor the treatment plan to address the specific underlying condition or disease.
Dog diarrhea treatment
When it comes to treating a dog with diarrhea, the approach depends on the underlying cause, severity of symptoms, and overall health of your dog.
Mild cases of diarrhea can often be managed at home, however, it is important to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and guidance.
The treatment options for dog diarrhea include:
Treatment of underlying causes
Medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and address the underlying cause of the diarrhea.
This may involve targeted therapies such as antibiotics for bacterial infections, anti-parasitic medications for intestinal parasites, or anti-inflammatory drugs for conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.
One commonly used dog diarrhea treatment is metronidazole. Metronidazole is an antibiotic that targets certain types of bacteria and parasites in the digestive system, helping to reduce inflammation and restore the balance of the gut microbiome.
It is often prescribed for dogs with diarrhea caused by bacterial infections or certain protozoal infections.
Treatment of underlying causes varies depending on the specific diagnosis and may require a combination of medications and management strategies.
The veterinarian will prescribe the best diarrhea medicine for dogs based on your dog’s specific health.
Your veterinarian may recommend providing electrolyte solutions or administering subcutaneous or intravenous fluids if dehydration due to diarrhea is severe.
In severe cases of dehydration, hospitalization may be required.
Adequate hydration supports your dog’s overall health and helps restore electrolyte balance.
The veterinarian may also recommend dietary modifications to manage dog diarrhea. This can involve temporarily switching to a bland diet consisting of easily digestible foods such as boiled chicken and rice.
As your dog’s condition improves, a gradual transition back to their regular diet or a specialized therapeutic diet may be recommended.
Specialized diets are commercially made food that are made to cater for dogs with sensitive stomachs and which are best for dogs with diarrhea.
Here are recommendations for the best dog food for dogs with diarrhea:
This formula is formulated to support digestive health and skin condition in dogs with sensitivities. It contains easily digestible ingredients and is enriched with prebiotic fibers to promote a healthy gut. This diet is designed for both large and small breed dogs.
This veterinary diet is specifically designed for dogs with sensitive stomachs and gastrointestinal issues. It features a low-fat formula that is highly digestible and promotes optimal nutrient absorption. This diet is suitable for both large and small breed dogs and can only be purchased with a prescription from a veterinarian.
This dog food is made with a limited number of carefully selected ingredients to minimize the chances of triggering digestive issues. It is free from common allergens like grains, dairy, and artificial additives. The diet is also suitable for both large and small breed dogs.
This dog food is made with salmon as the primary protein source, which is gentle on the stomach and less likely to cause allergies. It contains easily digestible carbohydrates and is fortified with essential nutrients. This diet is suitable for both large and small breed dogs.
This limited-ingredient diet is ideal for dogs with food sensitivities. It features a single source of animal protein (such as turkey, duck, or salmon) and avoids common allergens like grains, dairy, and poultry by-products. This diet is suitable for both large and small breed dogs.
This limited-ingredient diet contains a unique combination of sweet potatoes and fish as the primary ingredients. It is grain-free and designed to minimize the risk of food allergies or sensitivities. This diet is suitable for both large and small breed dogs.
The veterinarian may recommend specific probiotic supplements or foods containing live cultures. Probiotics can help reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea and aid in the recovery process.
Throughout the treatment process, closely monitor your dog’s condition and track any changes in symptoms or behavior.
Keep a record of bowel movements, appetite, and overall well-being. Communicate any concerns or changes to your veterinarian, as they can adjust the treatment plan if needed.
It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and complete the full course of treatment, even if your dog’s symptoms improve.
If there is no improvement in your dog’s diarrhea within two to three days after starting treatment, contact your veterinarian to further check for potential complicating factors.
Preventive measures for dog diarrhea
Occasional bouts of diarrhea may be unavoidable, however there are preventive measures you can take to reduce the risk of your dog experiencing diarrhea.
By implementing these strategies, you can help maintain your dog’s digestive health and overall well-being.
Here are some preventive measures for dog diarrhea:
Providing your dog with a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Choose high-quality dog food that is appropriate for their age, breed, and specific dietary needs.
Avoid sudden diet changes, as they can upset the digestive system. If you need to transition to a new food, do so gradually over several days.
Regularly administer parasite preventatives recommended by your veterinarian to protect your dog from intestinal parasites, such as worms and giardia.
This helps minimize the risk of parasitic infections that can cause diarrhea.
Ensure your dog has access to clean and fresh water at all times. Proper hydration is vital for a healthy digestive tract and overall well-being.
Monitor your dog’s water intake and encourage them to drink regularly, especially during hot weather or periods of increased physical activity.
Stress can contribute to digestive upsets in dogs. Minimize stressors in your dog’s environment and provide a secure and calm living space.
Establish consistent routines, offer mental and physical stimulation through exercise and play, and create a safe retreat area where your dog can relax and feel comfortable.
Good hygiene practices
Practicing good hygiene is essential to prevent infections and gastrointestinal disturbances. Clean your dog’s food and water bowls regularly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Properly dispose feces in a sanitary manner, especially when outdoors, to reduce the risk of fecal-oral transmission of diseases.
Prevent access to harmful substances
Keep your dog away from potential toxins and harmful substances that can lead to diarrhea.
This includes household chemicals, certain human foods (such as chocolate, onions, grapes, and artificial sweeteners), plants toxic to dogs, and medications not prescribed by the veterinarian.
Be aware of the substances that are toxic to dogs and ensure they are kept out of reach.
Regular veterinary check-ups
Schedule routine veterinary check-ups to monitor your dog’s overall health and address any potential health issues before they develop into more significant problems.
Regular examinations, vaccinations, and preventive care can help identify and manage potential causes of diarrhea early on.
By implementing these preventive measures, you can reduce the likelihood of your dog experiencing diarrhea and promote their digestive health.
Some cases of diarrhea may still occur, therefore, if your dog develops diarrhea despite preventive efforts, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Dealing with dog diarrhea can be challenging and concerning. While occasional episodes of diarrhea may not be cause for immediate alarm, persistent diarrhea needs veterinary attention.
We have explored the topic of dog diarrhea, covering various aspects ranging from causes and symptoms to treatment and preventive measures. Let’s recap the key takeaways discussed:
- Mild cases of diarrhea can often be managed at home, however, it is important to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and guidance.
- Don’t delay seeking veterinary assistance if your dog’s diarrhea persists, worsens, or is accompanied by concerning symptoms such as blood in the stool, dehydration, or behavioral changes.
- Preventive measures such as nutrition, hydration, parasite prevention, stress management, hygiene practices, and regular veterinary check-ups help to reduce the risk of dog diarrhea.
Now, it’s time to take action:
If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, we strongly encourage you to schedule a veterinary visit. Only a veterinarian can provide a thorough evaluation, accurately diagnose the underlying cause, and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs.
Timely intervention can ensure your dog receives the necessary care and can help prevent complications associated with diarrhea.
Want to dive deeper into the world of dog diarrhea? Our blog offers a series of articles dedicated to exploring different aspects of this condition. Don’t miss out on valuable insights around specific topics like from dog diarrhea and shaking, dog diarrhea after glands expressed, to dog diarrhea and anxiety. Continue learning and become a well-informed dog parent.