July 21, 2020
It’s always makes me feel so helpless to see my pups not feeling well. It doesn’t help that pets can’t communicate the cause of their dog diarrhea — they can’t tell us why it started, how they feel, or the right way to fix it. When they have an upset stomach, we may be uncertain of the cause and how to treat it. Is it something they ate? An allergic reaction? A parasite? Or is something really bad going on?
It’s sometimes hard to tell at first. “Diarrhea is a symptom that can be associated with many different health problems in dogs, including dietary indiscretion, intestinal parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal infections, organ dysfunction (diseases of the pancreas, kidneys, or liver, for example), food allergies or intolerances, toxin exposure, and cancer to name just a few,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today.
If your dog has had just a few bouts of diarrhea but otherwise seems to feel fine, home treatment is often appropriate. However, if your dog is very young or old or has other health problems, play it safe and talk to a veterinarian immediately.
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Always make sure your dog is on a monthly heartworm and flea prevention. “Some parasites causing loose stool can come from fleas. In addition to that, most heartworm and flea prevention have parasite control for some intestinal parasites,” says Janelle Marrone, veterinary technician & manager of the care of shelter animals at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch.
Stick to your dog’s diet, do not make drastic sudden changes. “If you must switch their food, it is important that you switch dog food gradually from his/her current dog food to avoid digestive upset or tummy trouble,” says Marrone. To transition, mix your dog’s current food with his new food. “Over seven days, gradually decrease the amount of the current dog food while increasing the amount of new dog food,” says Marrone.
Dr. Justine Lee, DVM and Veterinary Expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance says while cause can widely vary, diarrhea is typically due to an acute inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, called gastroenteritis.
But there’s a lot of things it can be, so it’s important to look into all the factors if diarrhea becomes chronic.
“It’s best practice to mix the new food with the old and gradually increase the new and lower the old, until your dog is eating nothing but the new food you’re wanting to use,” explains Wesley Oaks, founder of Oddly Cute Pets.
“Eating rotten food from the garbage will cause diarrhea,” says Oaks, but he cautions these instances are usually mild and will pass. Unless of course, you can tell your dog has ingested toxic food, then speak to a vet or call a poison control hotline.
This often happens from drinking water from puddles, ponds, or stagnant water. “Your dog’s diarrhea would look frothy, greasy, contain mucus, and have a more severe odor than normal,” says Oaks.
“If your dog has consumed a foreign object they may have diarrhea and other signs would include: vomiting, abdominal tenderness, or lack of appetite,” says Oaks. This is a very serious issue but your veterinarian can quickly determine if this is the cause.
This can be a wide variety of things. “Certain plants, things around the house, silica gel, vitamin D, etc… and most of the time diarrhea will pass naturally,” says Oaks.
If your dog’s diarrhea is a part of an allergic reaction his body is trying to flush out the problem. “Signs that would accompany this would be runny eyes, sneezing, constant licking of the paws, chewing on paws, increased scratching, and moist or scabbed skin,” says Oaks.
Certain medications will cause diarrhea. Discuss this with your veterinarian if you notice a link, as a change in medication may be helpful.
“If you’ve seen weight loss combined with diarrhea then IBD (irritable bowel disease) may be what you are facing,” says Oaks. A vet can diagnose the condition and discuss treatment plants to get your dog back to excellent health.
This is where it can become scary for pet owners since a bacterial infection can turn life-threatening. “This often happens from eating improperly cooked meals, decaying vegetables, or raw meat left sitting out,” says Oaks, who explains the easiest way to check this at home is if your dog’s stool has a shiny mucus on the surface and fresh blood. If so, talk with a vet ASAP.
Don’t jump to the worst conclusions, but if it’s chronic you can look for indications this may be the case: “Diarrhea with hunched over posture, not wanting to move, weight loss, vomiting, blood in urine, lack of appetite, and an increase or decrease in urine could be a sign of kidney or liver disease,” explains Oaks. Ultimately, your veterinarian will need to make this determination but it’s important to get it diagnosed quickly.
Since diarrhea can cause dehydration, treatment focuses primarily on the hydration of the patient. “The more watery or loose the diarrhea, and the more bloody it is, the more the risk for dehydration,” says Dr. Lee. “A vet will determine the specific treatment based on how severe the clinical signs are, or how sick your dog may be, but some solutions they may recommend include: subcutaneous fluids (SQ), or intravenous fluids (IV); anti-vomiting medication; antacids to coat the stomach; medication to stimulate movement of the intestines; dewormers in case parasites are present; a low fat, high fiber bland diet such as home cooked boiled chicken with white rice; or they may recommend some home remedies for coating the stomach or increasing fiber, like adding more pumpkin or Metamucil into the food,” says Dr. Lee.
You do not need to withhold food from a dog with diarrhea. “Offer several small bland meals throughout the day. Boiled white meat chicken mixed with cooked white rice is a good option,” says Coates.
Dehydration is dangerous in its own right, so no matter what, make sure your dog drinks water. “Anti-diarrheal medications with the active ingredients kaolin and pectin and probiotic supplements that are designed for dogs are available through many pet retailers,” says Coates. Both can help speed your dog’s recovery. Follow the directions on the label.
The most important thing of all is to monitor your pup and see if the situation improves. If necessary, be ready to make an appointment with a veterinarian if your pup is not starting to feel better in a day or two or other symptoms start to appear.