Dog diarrhea is a messy topic, but knowing how to deal with this unpleasant but sometimes unavoidable event is an important part of dog ownership. While nearly all dogs will have an occasional diarrhea episode occasionally, you can help prevent your dog from having loose stool.
If your pup is already dealing with diarrhea, read our tips for quickly remedying—or at least temporarily halting—this messy malady.
Diet change, including even a minor adjustment, is a major cause of dog diarrhea. As Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA, President and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and author of the book National Geographic Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness: The Veterinarian’s Approach to At-Home Animal Care, explains, “We all know not to change a dog’s food abruptly, but [diarrhea] can happen from eating a new treat.”
Unusual foods in small amounts, such as a bite of pepperoni, can cause significant issues for dogs with testy digestive tracts. If this describes your dog, be cautious when changing their diet or introducing a new food or treat.
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Many issues can cause your four-legged friend to experience diarrhea. Common diarrhea causes in dogs include:
If your dog’s loose stool is caused by something other than a diet change, food sensitivity, or harmless stomach bug, you should consult your veterinarian so they can identify and address the underlying cause. However, to stop your dog’s diarrhea quickly, follow these tips:
Feeding your dog a bland diet will ease their irritated digestive tract’s workload while still providing necessary nutrients. Dr. Weitzman suggests boiling white rice, which can bind the stool, and mixing it with a low-fat protein. Steamed chicken or cooked ground beef with the fat drained off are great mild, low-fat protein options for dogs. A bland diet will also prevent diarrhea from worsening while you wait for your veterinarian to determine the underlying medical condition.
When a dog has diarrhea, they experience a significant gut microbiome imbalance, an extreme decrease in the healthy bacteria that dwell in their intestines. When harmful bacteria outnumber beneficial bacteria, a pup experiences altered digestion, reduced nutrient absorption, and poor immune health.
Probiotic (i.e., beneficial microbe) supplements can repopulate the gut microbiome and help restore normal balance and function. If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, your veterinarian will recommend probiotics as part of your pup’s treatment plan. To support digestion and immune function, and potentially prevent loose stool, you should also consider giving your dog probiotics before a potentially stressful event (e.g., veterinary visit, vaccines, diet change, relocation). Because beneficial bacteria are species-specific, always use a probiotic intended for dogs, but ensure you ask your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your pup’s diet.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be a great way to slow your pet’s digestive tract, but always consult your veterinarian to ensure you give your pup medication that is safe for dogs and confirm proper dosing. Many medicines intended for humans contain xylitol, a sweetening agent that is toxic to dogs.
OTC medications are for short-term use only and intended only as a temporary fix until your pup can see the veterinarian. According to Jerry Klein, DVM, Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club, the recommended Pepto-Bismol dose is one teaspoon for every 10 pounds of a dog’s body weight. Immodium is generally safe for dogs as well, but it’s typically used as a last resort because the medication can lead to constipation. “It’s for those 2 a.m. emergencies,” says Dr. Weitzman. If necessary, administer a 2-milligram pill for every 40 pounds of your dog’s body weight.
Once you’ve started to resolve your dog’s diarrhea, you’ll need to play detective to determine what caused them to get sick in the first place.
Start by considering the obvious:
Once you have ruled out the obvious diarrhea-causing culprits, take a look at other factors.
Consider other reasons for your pup’s problem:
If your dog’s diarrhea is frequent or isn’t resolving, you should call your veterinarian. They will perform a physical exam, including blood work and a stool sample analysis, to check for bacteria, parasites, or other health-related issues. Once your veterinarian has determined the underlying cause for your pup’s diarrhea, they will create a treatment plan, which might include avoiding the food that caused the issue or avoiding high-traffic dog areas (e.g., dog parks or daycare).
Most dog diarrhea cases are not serious. However, if your dog’s diarrhea persists for more than 36 hours, you should call your veterinarian. Schedule an appointment and collect a stool sample to bring in for the veterinarian to analyze.
While isolated diarrhea events may be unconcerning, diarrhea that occurs with other illness signs can suggest a more serious underlying problem, especially in puppies. Seek veterinary attention if your dog’s diarrhea is persistent or accompanied by any of these signs:
Dogs will be dogs, and you will not be able to prevent the occasional diarrhea episode. However, you can help minimize the likelihood that your dog will experience diarrhea while promoting a healthy and resilient digestive tract. Follow these tips:
Diarrhea in dogs isn’t the most glamorous aspect of canine ownership, but the condition is something that demands attention. Understanding diarrhea causes, treatments, and prevention, including a high-quality healthy diet, can help minimize the mess and keep your pup feeling their best.
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