Diarrhea is a problematic issue that dog owners frequently face. Many conditions can result in diarrhea, and some are extremely dangerous for your pet. Our team at Town and Country Animal Hospital wants to help by answering some frequently asked questions about dog diarrhea.

Question: What causes diarrhea in dogs?

Answer: Any issue that causes inflammation in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, or the inability to appropriately absorb nutrients, can result in diarrhea. This is an extensive list, but a few of the most common reasons dogs suffer from diarrhea include:

  • Eating inappropriate food — When you feed your dog table scraps or they go dumpster diving, their gastrointestinal tract can become inflamed.
  • Eating a new diet — Any change in your dog’s diet can result in diarrhea. If your dog’s diet needs to be changed, ensure you make the change gradually over at least one week.
  • Eating foreign objects — Dogs are notorious for ingesting foreign objects, such as toys or socks, which can become lodged in their gastrointestinal tract, causing diarrhea.
  • Eating a toxic substance — If your dog ingests a toxic substance, they could experience diarrhea. You should immediately contact Town and Country Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control if you know or suspect your dog has ingested a poisonous substance.
  • Parasites — Hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, tapeworms, giardia, and coccidia can cause diarrhea. Puppies and dogs who have a suppressed immune system are at highest risk.
  • Infectious diseases — Viruses, such as parvovirus, distemper, and coronavirus, and bacterial infections, such as salmonella, can result in diarrhea. Affected dogs are typically extremely ill, and will have other signs, including lethargy, inappetence, and fever.
  • Food intolerance or allergies — Typically, dogs exhibit skin and ear issues when affected by food allergies, but gastrointestinal signs may occur. In addition, some dogs are sensitive to certain foods, resulting in diarrhea.
  • Drug side effects — Diarrhea can occur as a side effect of certain medications.
  • Anxiety — Stressed dogs can develop diarrhea.
  • Other — Many other issues can cause diarrhea, including inflammatory bowel disease, kidney and liver disease, cancer, and pancreatitis.

Q: When should I be concerned if my dog has diarrhea?

A: If your dog has a bout of diarrhea but otherwise seems healthy and normal, they are likely fine, and the diarrhea will resolve without veterinary intervention. However, situations that do indicate your dog needs veterinary attention include:

  • Your dog has other signs — If your dog is exhibiting other signs, such as lethargy, fever, vomiting, or decreased appetite, they will need veterinary attention.
  • Your dog has blood in their feces — Bright red streaks indicate your dog is bleeding from their anus or lower gastrointestinal tract. Dark, tarry feces indicate your dog is bleeding from their upper gastrointestinal tract. These situations should be addressed by a veterinary professional.
  • Your dog’s diarrhea doesn’t resolve — If you have tried at-home remedies, and your dog’s diarrhea has not resolved after a few days, they will need medical attention.
  • Your dog is dehydrated — Diarrhea can result in dehydration, a dangerous condition for your dog. If your dog’s mucous membranes are tacky or dry to the touch, your pet needs veterinary care.
  • Your dog is vulnerable — If your dog with diarrhea is a puppy, geriatric, or immunosuppressed for any reason, they should be seen by a veterinarian.
  • Your dog recently started a new medication — If your dog recently started a medication, you should seek veterinary advice to ensure the diarrhea isn’t a drug side effect.

Q: What should I do if my dog has diarrhea?

A: If your dog has diarrhea, but their condition does not warrant a trip to the veterinarian’s office, you can try treating them at home.

  • Fast your dog — Withholding food can allow time for your dog’s gastrointestinal tract to heal and become less inflamed. However, if you have a puppy, a geriatric dog, or a toy breed, they do not have the physical reserves to handle fasting, and this approach is contraindicated.
  • Feed a bland diet — For dogs who can’t be fasted, and for those coming off a fast, you should feed a bland diet. Commercial bland diets are available, or you can feed your dog boiled chicken and rice. Once they have had normal feces for several days, you can gradually return them to their previous diet.
  • Ensure they remain hydrated — Ensure your dog has access to clean water at all times. Some pets will be more tempted to drink if you offer an unflavored electrolyte solution.

Q: How do I prevent diarrhea in my dog?

A: Not all dog diarrhea can be prevented, but you can take steps to lower your dog’s risk.

  • Don’t feed table scraps — Never feed your dog table scraps, and ensure they don’t have access to the garbage.
  • Keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date — Ensure your dog is current on all vaccinations, to protect them from preventable infectious diseases.
  • Provide year-round parasite control — Administer parasite control year-round, to protect them from gastrointestinal parasites.
  • Bring in your dog for yearly wellness exams — Yearly wellness exams are the best way to catch conditions, such as kidney and liver disease, in the early stages, when they are easier to manage. By keeping these conditions under control, your pet may never have to suffer from consequences such as diarrhea.

Handling diarrhea is never fun, but being prepared can help you manage the situation. If you are concerned about your dog’s diarrhea, contact our team at Town and Country Animal Hospital, so we can get them on the road to recovery.