Diarrhea is a common problem in dogs, often because they will put almost anything in their mouth. But it can also be caused by more serious health problems, some of which require close attention, especially if the diarrhea is severe or occurs frequently.

Dog Diarrhea: What To Watch For

Loose stools are, of course, the main indicator of diarrhea. This sickness may also be accompanied by vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, lethargy, and other symptoms of disease.

Primary Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea that develops suddenly in an otherwise healthy dog is often due to scavenging behavior, stress, a sudden change in diet, or viral, bacterial or parasitic infections.

More chronic sickness can be caused by dietary allergies or intolerances, stress, some types of parasites (e.g., Giardia, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms), bacterial infections, pancreatic disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, some types of cancer, and diseases outside of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., liver failure or heart disease). These type of health issues will need to be discussed with your veterinarian and can require prescription pet medication.

Immediate Care for Dog Diarrhea

If your dog is very young, very old, has a preexisting health condition, call your veterinarian for advice on how to handle the diarrhea. These individuals can become severely debilitated even when suffering from relatively mild diarrhea. Also, call your veterinarian if your dog’s diarrhea is frequent and/or very watery; contains more than just a streak of blood; is dark and tarry; or if your dog is vomiting profusely, lethargic, depressed, and/or is in pain. These can be signs of potentially serious health conditions.

But if your dog is an otherwise healthy adult and, it is reasonable to try some home treatment.

For dogs who just have diarrhea:

  1. Make sure the dog has access to plenty of clean water to avoid dehydration. Encourage the dog to drink. If needed, offer dilute chicken, beef broth or Pedialyte in addition to the water.
  2. Give the dog a small meal of boiled white meat chicken (no bones or skin) and white rice. This can be the dog’s diet until the stool consistency returns to normal.
  3. If the diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call your vet immediately.

For dogs with this sickness who have vomited only once or twice:

  1. Remove all food for 12 hours.
  2. To avoid dehydration, offer the dog small amounts of water frequently throughout the day. If needed, you can also offer some dilute chicken or beef broth or Pedialyte in addition to water.
  3. When the dog has not vomited for at least six hours, offer a small amount of boiled white meat chicken (no bones or skin) and white rice.
  4. Wait two hours. If the dog has not vomited then offer another small meal of cooked chicken and rice.
  5. Continue this treatment, gradually increasing the amount of food offered at each meal and lengthening the time between meals until the stool consistency returns to normal.
  6. If the diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call your vet immediately.

what should my dog's poop look like-infographic

Diagnosis for Dogs With Diarrhea

If your dog suffers from frequent liquid bowel movements, or the current attack is severe and/or associated with vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain or weight loss, make an appointment with a veterinarian. Diagnosing the cause of dog sickness can sometimes be as easy as running a simple fecal exam; at other times it can be challenging and require different procedures such as lab work, abdominal x-rays or ultrasound, endoscopy or exploratory surgery.

Prevention of Diarrhea in Dogs

There are several ways to reduce the occurrence of diarrhea in dogs:

  • Try not to suddenly change a dog’s diet.
  • Do not give the dog bones as toys (firm rubber dog chew toys are a better choice).
  • Don’t let your dog play with small objects that could be swallowed.
  • Do not feed your dog table scraps.
  • Do not allow your dog to scavenge.
  • Always keep your dog up-to-date with deworming and vaccinations.

Learn how to properly use a bland diet to treat a dog with diarrhea.

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