Diarrhea is never fun, and it’s always a symptom of something that’s not quite right with the intestinal tract. Your pup may or may not be bothered by it – many times, a dog will have diarrhea but act fine, as if nothing is abnormal. But when your dog has a bout of diarrhea, your antenna should go up and you should watch him closely to see if it’s a one-off or something that continues for days.
Is Your Dog Suffering From Chronic or Acute Diarrhea?
Chronic diarrhea is a condition that occurs regularly. If your dog experiences frequent bouts of diarrhea – even though you’ve tried various remedies – he may have an underlying medical problem that will need a veterinarian’s expertise to diagnose.
Acute diarrhea happens “out of the blue.” It’s a fairly common occurrence, usually caused by something introduced into your dog’s intestinal tract. Just think about how often your pooch eats or tastes something he finds outside – it’s not unusual for him to ingest something that will cause a gastrointestinal upset. Most of the time, the symptoms will go away on their own and the stool will return to normal without you having to do anything. But sometimes it’s necessary to get a vet’s input.
Dog Diarrhea Symptoms
Well, you THINK you know what diarrhea is, but it’s not always as obvious as you imagine:
- Explosive, frequent, loose, watery stools are the most common signs for your dog.
- Straining can be a sign, too. It’s not constipation, though it may look like it as he continues to try to defecate after the initial flow of diarrhea. Diarrhea disrupts your dog’s gastrointestinal system, so he may feel like he needs to constantly go, even when there’s nothing left in the system to eliminate. And straining is the result.
- Other symptoms that can accompany diarrhea include fever, loss of appetite, dehydration and lethargy.
Dog Diarrhea Causes
Here are some of the possible culprits:
- Your dog eats something she shouldn’t and it upsets her small or large intestines.
- Parasites can easily get into your dog’s intestinal tract
- Food allergies can cause stomach aches and other problems for your dog, even developing into inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- A bad reaction to a particular food item – especially a new food that has been introduced suddenly into his diet
- Accidental poisoning can occur when your dog gets into chemicals or foods that are poisonous to canines.
- Bacterial or viral infections can invade your dog’s system and keep him from absorbing nutrients properly
- A blockage can happen if your dog eats something that gets lodged in her intestinal tract and causes diarrhea
- Chronic illness, such as issues with the kidneys or liver, stomach or intestinal ulcers, colitis or hormonal imbalance
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Drug side effects from some canine medications
- Stress. Just think about what happens to YOU when you have to speak in front of an audience! ‘Nuff said.
When To Start Worrying About Your Dog’s Diarrhea
In most cases, a healthy dog that has diarrhea will have one “event” and then be done with it. If your dog seems fine afterward, simply keep a close watch to make sure the diarrhea goes away without any issues.
But if it goes on for longer, your dog may start showing other signs that things are not right. If your dog is small in size, old or a puppy, he is more at risk of becoming dehydrated after several bouts of diarrhea. If your dog acts fine but the diarrhea continues in recurrent bouts, see the vet about it. Take along a fecal sample so the vet doesn’t have to extract it; the sample is needed in order to determine if there is a bacterial or viral infection involved.
Even if he acts normally and doesn’t seem bothered by it, he may have an underlying condition that you should get checked out by your veterinarian.
And if your dog is passing blood in the stool, the stool is yellow or green, or if you notice weakness or lethargy along with the diarrhea, it’s time to go to the vet immediately.
What Can I Give My Dog For Diarrhea?
There are a few things you can do help your dog get back to normal. Make sure you consult with your vet before making major changes to your dog’s diet, and if your dog has a medical condition that’s causing the diarrhea, he/she may have some specific treatments to recommend.
- Fast for 12-24 hours. If your dog got diarrhea from something she ate, this treatment gives your dog’s stomach a chance to rest and eliminate whatever bad stuff she ingested. Make sure you provide plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration.
- Bland diet. After that brief fasting period, feed your dog foods that don’t have any upsetting ingredients, such as commercially available bland dog foods, or your own concoction of boiled chicken, beef or turkey with white or brown rice. (Note that a change in diet can sometimes make the diarrhea come back, especially if a food allergy caused it in the first place). Offer the food slowly – divide the meal into four parts and feed your dog every 4-6 hours to avoid stomach upsets. If your dog’s stool improves, you can feed him two meals a day; keep that up until the stools are back to normal, then transition back to normal food.
- Introduce probiotics and fiber. Talk to your vet about supplements that help generate healthy bacteria in your dog’s gut to promote good digestion. And there are good high-fiber supplements that can help regulate your dog’s system.
To conclude, diarrhea is a common problem but not one that you should ignore. If it doesn’t go away quickly by itself and persists more than a few days – even if your dog “acts fine’ – get to the vet. And don’t wait around to go to the doc if you start to notice other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, energy or other “sick” behavior. Your dog’s health and life could be at stake!