Dog Diarrhea: Causes, Treatments, & Tips
It's a terrible feeling to know your pup isn't feeling well. On top of that, dog diarrhea can be indicative of so many things, it's hard to know what the root cause is. Read this article to learn why dog diarrhea happens, what you can do to stop it, and how to know when to seek help from your veterinarian.
No one said that being a dog owner was going to be easy. In fact, it can prove to be quite challenging at times, particularly when Fido isn't feeling well. As much as you would love for your dogs to be able to speak to you, that just isn't the case.
For this reason, it is imperative that pet owners are hyper aware of any unusual changes in their dog's day-to-day lives.
Everything from refusing food, to increased lethargy, to (you guessed it) diarrhea are ways in which our dogs communicate that something isn't right.
Part of being a responsible dog owner is recognizing these changes and acting on them straight away.
In this article, we'll cover the topic of dog diarrhea. We will address how you can stop it and, perhaps most importantly, what Fido is trying to tell you?
What Causes Diarrhea
Several factors can ultimately lead to your dog’s diarrhea. Diarrhea itself is not an illness, but rather a sign of an underlying health issue. Most cases of diarrhea resolve within 48 hours. However, this depends on the underlying cause.
The cause of diarrhea can be something as simple as an upset digestive tract. Or, it can be a sign of a more severe condition, such as a parasitic infestation or even cancer.
For this reason, dog owners and vets must determine exactly what is causing the diarrhea to ensure that the underlying condition is treated appropriately and not masked by a quick fix.
Recent Diet Changes
One of the most common causes of diarrhea is a recent dietary change. Many pet owners may not realize that it takes several days for Fido's digestive system to adjust to a new food.
In more cases than not, if the new food isn't slowly introduced into the dog's diet, it will likely cause diarrhea. This often occurs when pet parents begin to transition their pup to an all-natural or a raw food diet.
You can imagine that a dog who has eaten dry kibble their whole life will likely experience quite a shock when making such a big change.
Experts advise to slowly introduce the new food, a little at a time, by mixing it in with the dog's current food, until the old food has been entirely transitioned out.
Bad Eating Habits
Another extremely common cause of dog diarrhea is bad dietary habits. Most dogs enjoy eating just about everything, including things that they definitely shouldn’t be putting into their mouths.
This includes garbage, spoiled food, and feces. Bad dietary habits also include overeating. All of these things can lead to an upset stomach, gas, or diarrhea.
If your dog's diet is full of processed chemicals, high sugar and salt content, and fatty foods, you’ll likely notice signs of a disruption in the balance of their digestive system. This disruption often leads to diarrhea.
Additionally, dog owners must recognize when they are contributing to their dog's bad eating habits.
We all want our dogs to be happy, and when Fido gives you those big puppy eyes, it can be hard to say no. However, feeding your dog table scraps can quickly lead to a bout of diarrhea (or worse!).
Feeding your dog table scraps can also lead to a number of behavioral issues, not to mention harmful side effects.
For these reasons, among others, we recommend withholding table scraps and keeping your dog solely on a species appropriate diet.
Furthermore, too many commercial dog treats can also lead to diarrhea. Treats should be given sparingly, not multiple times a day. They should also be of high quality (i.e. all-natural, non-GMO, and soy-free like Honest Paws products).
Many dogs with food intolerance struggle with diarrhea and gas on a consistent basis.
All dog breeds can have hypersensitivities to food that are rich in gluten, fat, and dairy. However, some specific dog breeds are more prone to these hypersensitivities.
For instance, some Wheaten Terriers and Irish Setters are known to have gluten intolerances. On the other hand, some Schnauzers are known to be hypersensitive to diets that have a high fat content.
Knowing specific characteristics that are tied to your dog’s breed can help determine underlying health conditions before they develop.
Unfortunately, it can be rather difficult to figure out exactly what your dog is unable to tolerate. However, once it is determined, it should be consistently avoided.
Chronic (or long-term) diarrhea and digestive issues can lead to further problems in the future. Therefore, pet parents should consider adding foods and supplements that will help to ease the digestive system such as increased fiber, probiotics, etc.
We will get more into that in a minute.
Food allergies are another possible cause of diarrhea in dogs, as they commonly lead to an array of symptoms. Allergic reactions may vary in severity. However, if a severe reaction occurs, veterinary intervention will be necessary.
Hopefully, the allergic reaction will simply cause an upset stomach. If that is the case, the next step is determining the exact allergen.
Again, this can be relatively tricky. Experts recommend a food elimination diet. This entails starting from scratch and slowly re-introducing foods to determine the underlying cause of the reaction.
Furthermore, certain foods tend to cause more allergic reactions than others. The most common culprits are pork, rabbit, beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, and fish.
However, all pups are unique. For example, some dogs may be allergic to poultry, but not beef. If your dog has diarrhea, a quick test may entail simply switching out the meat content.
Here is where things get a bit scary. While diarrhea can be the result of something relatively minor, it can also be an underlying sign of more serious conditions.
Intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, giardia, and coccidia can lead to severe stomach problems. Typically, dogs contract parasites by drinking contaminated water, or otherwise ingesting contaminated soil or stool.
Puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems are also at a higher risk. In many cases, parasitic infestation can be difficult to detect.
If for any reason you believe that your dog may have intestinal parasites, take them to the vet for a fecal exam and proper diagnosis. Only then can an effective treatment plan be implemented.
Consuming Foreign Objects
As we previously mentioned, dogs seem to love eating just about anything. Swallowing foreign objects such as toys, socks, grass, etc. can easily obstruct the intestinal tract and cause either constipation or loose stool.
Once the foreign object is swallowed, the digestive system must work harder in order to allow it to pass. Many times, the only treatment is to wait it out, but please check with your vet if you notice your pet is in distress.
Poisonous Substances or Toxic Plants
If you have not changed your dog's food or dietary habits, unexplainable changes in your dog's poop are typically the first symptoms of poisoning.
Shortly after your dog has consumed a toxic substance, stomach pain and diarrhea may ensue.
Ingesting poisonous substances is extremely dangerous and can cause severe conditions if left untreated. A detoxification process will need to be conducted ASAP.
If for any reason you feel that your dog has ingested a toxic substance, such as lead-based products or poisonous plants, or even some household products, it is important to get them to the veterinarian straight away.
Toxic substances also include things such as chocolate, mushrooms, human medications, laundry detergents, charcoal, as well as various types of plants.
Bacterial and Viral Infections
Other worrisome conditions that may lead to loose stool include bacterial and viral infections.
Parvovirus, distemper, coronavirus, and bacterial infections such as salmonella are often accompanied by severe diarrhea.
If your dog also has a fever, is vomiting, has muscle weakness, and is more lethargic than usual, they may have a bacterial or viral infection.
In most cases, infections are highly contagious. This is troublesome in a home with other pets, because of the nature of uncontrollable, explosive diarrhea.
Pet parents should make sure to quarantine the affected dog from other pets and be careful when cleaning up any bodily fluids. Some infections can be transmitted to humans as well.
Illnesses or Disease
Additionally, many illnesses and diseases may cause diarrhea. These diseases include but are not limited to:
Cancer of the liver and kidneys
Tumors in the intestinal tract
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome
As you can see, a proper veterinary diagnosis is extremely important if the loose stool persists for an extended period of time (more than one or two bowel movements with a loose, watery consistency).
Furthermore, bloody diarrhea is typically a symptom of a disease that is directly associated with the digestive tract and surrounding organs.
Antibiotics or Medications
While antibiotics treat infections, they’re can also lead to diarrhea in your dog. In fact, gastrointestinal (GI) issues are one of the most common side effects of many antibiotics.
Antibiotics treat infections by killing the bad bacteria in your dog's body. However, antibiotics are not able to differentiate between good bacteria and bad bacteria.
Therefore, they, unfortunately, target both. Good bacteria are necessary for a proper balance in the digestive system and GI tract.
Without good bacteria, your dog will likely experience abdominal pain and other stomach issues. If your dog has recently been put on antibiotics, their diarrhea may be linked to the new medication. Always follow the advice of your vet - many times, the medication should be given with food.
Anxiety, Stress, or Emotional Distress
We probably don’t have to tell you that dogs are highly sensitive creatures. They experience highs and lows just like humans do.
If you have ever felt so anxious that you are physically sick to your stomach then you know firsthand just how a dog with anxiety might feel.
Stress can be directly linked to irregular bowel movements that can cause either constipation or loose stools.
A good rule of thumb is that if something is stressing you out, Fido is likely picking up on it.
What Your Dog's Poop Mean
As we mentioned previously, your dog isn't exactly able to speak to you, but a lot can be learned from their poop.
This article is geared towards the causes and treatment of diarrhea. However, diarrhea isn't the only unusual type of poop that you may see as a dog owner.
For more information on what your dog's poop is trying to tell you, click here!
Time for a Vet Visit
At one point or another, every dog could experience a bout of diarrhea. In most cases, it isn't a cause for total panic.
If you have recently changed Fido's diet, or if your dog has been getting extra treats from the dinner table, these factors might be clues to the culprit. However, there are certain things that you, as a pet parent, need to be aware of and keep an eye on.
Dog diarrhea that is accompanied by vomiting, blood, or mucus can be early signs of much more critical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Your vet would need to do specific tests to diagnose these conditions.
These conditions should not be overlooked or ignored. If they are left untreated, they can lead to dehydration and a slew of health problems further down the road.
In order to prevent the development of serious conditions, familiarize yourself with the warning signs below:
Warning Signs Include:
Diarrhea that lasts for over 48 hours
Black tarry stool or bloody diarrhea
Loss of appetite
Abdominal discomfort and/or increased sensitivity in the abdominal region (often seen as whining, panting, excessive drooling, or a distended abdomen -Note well: If you notice these signs of bloat specifically, please consider this an emergency and take your dog to the vet as quickly as possible, as the condition can be potentially life-threatening.)
If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, it is time to see a vet.
How to Stop Diarrhea
Now, you're likely wondering how to stop Fido from having to use the bathroom so often.
There are two main ways to treat diarrhea. The first is to let it run its course. Dogs with acute diarrhea can safely be treated at home.
The second is to provide a supplement or medication to ease the issue.
Of course, the main thing that pet parents must figure out is the cause of the dog’s diarrhea in the first place. Only then can an effective solution be determined. In most cases, switching to a bland diet is the first step to treating the condition.
Medication for Dog Diarrhea
Many vets and pet parents rave about the results of the Vets Preferred Advanced Anti Diarrhea supplement. It aims to not only relieve diarrhea but also ease stomach cramps and abdominal pain.
This is just one of the many anti-diarrhea products on the market. It is important to discuss with your vet what will work best for your dog.
Natural Home Remedies for Diarrhea
Additionally, there are several wonderful home remedies that have proven time and time again to be effective in relieving diarrhea.
Boiled Chicken & White Rice
One of the oldest tricks in the book is feeding your dog a bland diet of boiled chicken and white rice.
It tends to work the majority of the time, when it comes to stopping diarrhea. Dog owners should make sure that there aren't any additives in either the chicken or the rice. Simplicity is key!
Canned pumpkin is great at soothing upset stomachs. Pumpkin can be absorbed slowly by the body. This slow absorption makes it a great remedy for both constipation and diarrhea.
(*We want to make sure that pet parents are aware that canned pumpkin is NOT pumpkin pie mix! Be sure you are purchasing the right product!)
Ginger is very effective in promoting and maintaining a healthy GI tract.
Additionally, ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory that can also help to fight nausea, bloat, and arthritis.
Bone broth is another great option for easing an upset stomach while simultaneously hydrating your dog.
Dehydration is commonly associated with diarrhea, and chronic dehydration will only exacerbate the issues already present. Easing your pup's stomach upset with a product that will also help with dehydration can prove to get Fido back on track ASAP.
Dog owners can purchase bone broth or make it ahead of time. The bone broth can be frozen and stored for emergency situations.
To make bone broth, simply simmer a whole chicken in a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar in a crock pot until the meat falls off the bone.
We want you to note that if you are purchasing bone broth, we recommend purchasing a brand that is specially formulated for dogs.
This way you'll be able to ensure that there are no additives and nothing included that could cause further irritation and prolong the episodes of diarrhea.
Keep Fido Hydrated!
Think about the last time you had an upset stomach. Chances are, the last thing you wanted to do was eat or even drink water.
This explains why people lose weight with food poisoning. So much is coming out and nothing is going in. Weight loss of a couple of pounds for a human typically won't have a significant effect.
However, a couple of pounds for a small dog can be absolutely devastating. Dog parents should keep a close eye on how much water and food Fido is consuming.
Severe dehydration can quickly lead to life-threatening situations that you'll obviously want to avoid at all costs.
Luckily, most dogs love the boiled chicken and rice mixture we mentioned earlier but you'll still want to make sure they are also drinking enough water.
Dog Diarrhea: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, diarrhea can be a huge mess. When you add potential health scares into the equation, diarrhea can be incredibly stressful as well. Luckily, there is hope in sight.
With that in mind, we cannot stress enough how imperative it is to get to the bottom of what is causing your dog’s diarrhea. Simply putting a "band-aid" on the external signs will often worsen the underlying problem. Make sure to take the necessary steps to prevent or alleviate diarrhea in the early stages. If it continues for more than a day or two, or your dog is in obvious distress, do not hesitate to call or visit the vet.
We sincerely hope that your four-legged friend feels better and is diarrhea-free soon!