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Dog Diarrhea: Why Does Your Dog Have It? How Can You Stop It?

It’s pretty much inevitable that your dog will get diarrhea at some point in their lifetime. But don’t worry: while dog diarrhea can be distressing for both you and your dog, there are several reasons why it occurs. Knowing what causes this can help you figure out how to treat it correctly. 

It’s a very helpless feeling to see your pet not feeling well. It doesn't help that pets can't communicate what's wrong — what's causing your dog's diarrhea, how your dog feels, or the right way to stop it. When your dog has an upset stomach, it can be hard to treat your dog's diarrhea if you don't know what's causing it. Is it something they ate? An allergic reaction? A parasite? Is something really bad going on?

When your dog experiences diarrhea, it’s completely normal if all of these questions are racing through your mind. But before you concern yourself, you should take a moment to consider what could have caused this. Often there is a logical reason why your dog's diarrhea occurred, and once you figure out what it is, you can begin to treat your dog. 

Read More: Why Your Dog Has An Upset Stomach & How To Prevent It

“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.

So what is the cause of your dog's diarrhea and what can you do? 

This article will go over some insight on what to do if your dog has diarrhea. This first part will cover why you can never go wrong by reaching out to a vet about the situation at hand. Then, it’ll dive into some of the common causes of diarrhea in dogs. 

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Some of them will surprise you, and others are quite predictable! Afterward, you will have information on how to potentially treat your dog’s diarrhea. The finale will cover why you should keep monitoring your pet to ensure they make a complete recovery. 

Being a pet parent can be difficult, and figuring out what to do in moments of need can be taxing. Hopefully, this guide provides you with some insight about how to help your dog when they’re suffering from diarrhea. 

Should I talk to my vet about my dog’s diarrhea?

There’s never a wrong time to reach out to a vet about your dog’s health. If you’re concerned about your dog’s condition, or even just want some insight on their behavior, you can talk to a vet online.

If your dog is very young or old or has other health problems, play it safe and talk to a veterinarian immediately. But if your dog has had just a few bouts of diarrhea but otherwise seems to feel fine, home treatment is often appropriate.

Of course, this is up to your own discretion. Even if your dog isn’t a young pup or elderly dog, you can never go wrong by talking to a vet. Not only will they be able to advise you on how to handle your dog’s illness, but they can also help ease your nerves. It’s never easy seeing your pet unwell, and it’s completely normal to feel anxious about their wellbeing. Therefore, if getting a vet’s seal of approval could help you relax, it’s worth the time.

You might be wondering what an online vet is, or how you can find a reputable one. That’s where Pawp comes into the picture. Pawp provides your pet with outstanding telehealthcare. Pawp has online vets that are available to you 24/7. There’s never a wait, and you don’t need an appointment. 

An online vet is an excellent option for a few reasons. For one, not all medical concerns warrant a costly visit to your local vet. Moreover, sometimes you need medical advice for your pet when their regular vet isn’t accessible. If your dog has diarrhea during the weekend, overnight, or on a holiday, you might not be able to reach their local vet. Therefore, an online vet is the way to go. 

At Pawp, you can expect experienced professionals to help you with all of the questions you have about your dog’s diarrhea. All of the Pawp vets have at least five years of experience, but most have over 10! 

Why does my dog have diarrhea?

Dr. Justine Lee, DVM and Veterinary Expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance says while the 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 their condition becomes chronic diarrhea. In addition to this, knowing what caused your dog’s diarrhea is important because you could have a better grasp on how to prevent it in the future. 

Was there a sudden change in diet?

“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. If you moved your dog to a new diet recently and didn’t take time to gradually ease them in, expect diarrhea as a result. 

Does your pet eat garbage?

“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 an online vet or call a poison control hotline. Of course, you can never be too careful; if you have even the slightest concern, it’s worth getting a vet’s insight. As always, it's best to avoid table scraps for both puppies and dogs. 

Read More: 12 Human Foods That Are Toxic For Dogs

Does your pet have parasites?

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.

Read More: How Do I Know If My Dog Has Parasites?

Did your pet eat a foreign object?

“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. If a foreign object (this could include a dog toy as well) might be to blame for your pet’s diarrhea, you should get them to a vet as soon as you can. 

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Was you pet exposed to a toxic substance?

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. Nevertheless, if you notice that your dog is acting odd, or if it would give you greater peace of mind to talk to a vet, you can certainly do that. Even small amounts of toxic foods and substances can be dangerous. 

Does your pet have allergies?

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 chewing or licking of the paws, increased scratching, and moist or scabbed skin,” says Oaks.

Read More: Does My Dog Have Food Allergies?

Could this be a medication side effect?

If your pup is currently taking medication? If so, medication side effects can definitely be the reason why your dog’s feces has changed. Certain medications will cause diarrhea. Discuss this with your veterinarian if you notice a link, as a change in medication may be helpful.

Is it a case of irritable bowel disease?

“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 something that you will have to work with your vet to treat, so if you feel this could be the reason your dog is experiencing diarrhea, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Could it be bacteria exposure?

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. 

Is it kidney or liver disease?

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. The sooner your dog gets diagnosed, the faster your vet can work to take appropriate action. 

How do I treat my dog’s diarrhea?

When your dog is suffering from diarrhea, all pet owners want their furry friends to feel better as soon as possible. Luckily, there are several steps that you can take to help nurse your pup back to health.

Here are some steps that you can take to help your dog feel better when they’re struggling with diarrhea:

How important is hydration?

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.

That might sound intimidating, so be sure to reach out to a vet if you need specific guidance about what you can do to help keep your dog hydrated. Water is always a smart idea, but sometimes your dog will require more rigorous methods of hydration. A vet can help you figure this out. 

Should I feed my dog bland meals?

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.

But what if you find that even with that diet, your dog is still experiencing diarrhea? It’s time to get a professional’s opinion on your next steps. Oftentimes, this will help settle your pet’s stomach, but if it doesn’t, it’s possible that there’s a more serious issue. 

Did your dog eat something toxic?

Don't wonder. Get a vet's opinion — for free.

Have you thought about anti-diarrheal dog medications?

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.

Have you talked to a vet yet?

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. Additional symptoms to consider are lethargy and loss of appetite.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s always better to reach out to a vet sooner than later. If the situation is dire, the timing could make a big difference in your pet’s recovery process. And even if the situation isn’t too extreme, it will help your pet feel better as soon as possible--and consequently, you’ll feel better too.

Sources:

Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs – US National Library of Medicine 

Learn How To Care For Exotic Pets | Oddly Cute Pets

Animal Poison Control | ASPCA

Bacterial-associated diarrhea in the dog: a critical appraisal | Small Animal Clinic

7 Common Side Effects of Pet Medications | Pet MD

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs | Pet MD

Warning Signs of Dehydration in Dogs | American Kennel Club

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