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Treating Diarrhea in Dogs

When your dog has diarrhea, you want a solution fast. But first, it's important to determine the cause of your pup's diarrhea and to establish how serious the situation is. Our Huntersville vets explain.

When Your Dog Has Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common problem for our four-legged friends, with causes ranging from nothing to worry about to serious, previously undiagnosed, health conditions.

Most dogs will experience diarrhea at some point. In fact, mild bouts of diarrhea are very common in dogs and can be caused by mild intestinal distress due to your dog eating a small amount of something that doesn't agree with them, such as table scraps, or just from the simple act of switching to a new brand or flavor of food.

That said, there are also a number of more serious reasons why your dog could have diarrhea. 

Why does my dog have diarrhea?

If your dog is experiencing an episode you are bound to be wondering what causes diarrhea in dogs. There are countless reasons why your dog might find themselves suffering from diarrhea, but below are some of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Change in diet or treats
  • Eating garbage or spoiled food
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones and fabric
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons
  • Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus
  • Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia or Giardia
  • Bacterial infections - such as salmonella
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Medications such as antibiotics

But how do you know whether your dog's diarrhea requires a visit to the vet?

Should I contact the vet if my dog has diarrhea?

If your dog has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your pooch has two or more bouts of diarrhea.

If your pup is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for urgent care. 

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your pup is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious and life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your pooch is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your dog has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your pooch is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.

Is bloody diarrhea in dogs an emergency?

Our veterinarians understand how challenging it can be for pet parents to know when a trip to the vet is necessary. Bloody diarrhea and recurrent episodes of vomiting are considered to be veterinary emergencies. If your dog is experiencing bloody diarrhea contact your vet right away or call your nearest animal emergency hospital for urgent assistance.

How can I stop my dog's diarrhea?

Never give your dog human medications without consulting your veterinarian first! Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to dogs.

If your dog has passed one or two runny or soft stools, you may want to give your dog some time to recover by simply enforcing a 12 - 24 hour fast. Often, giving the dog's GI tract time to settle down without having to digest food can help to resolve this messy problem.

Feeding your pup a bland diet for a day or two can also be helpful in resolving diarrhea in dogs. Plain cooked white rice with a little chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) may help to make your pup's tummy feel better. Once your pooch feels better gradually reintroduce their regular food.

Other things that might help to soothe your dog's upset tummy include natural yogurt, probiotics, peeled boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, egg with no oil added, specially formulated dog foods, and medications prescribed by your vet.

That said, when it comes to the health of your canine companion it is always best to err on the side of caution. By taking your pooch in for an examination you give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your pup's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has recurring diarrhea, contact LakeCross Veterinary Hospital to book an urgent examination for your canine companion.

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