What Is Dog Diarrhea?
Officially, dog diarrhea is the “frequent evacuation of watery stools,” or according to the American Gastroenterology Association (AGA), “an increase in the frequency, fluidity, or volume of feces.”
Regardless of the terminology, dog diarrhea is the main sign of intestinal dysfunction, and it can be classified as acute (if it lasts less than 14 days) or chronic (if it lasts over 14 days).
What Is the Most Common Cause of Diarrhea in Dogs?
The cause of dog diarrhea can be something as simple as an upset stomach or as severe as cancer. Before reviewing the most common causes, we should emphasize that diarrhea is not a disease but a sign of intestinal dysfunction.
Here are the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs:
- Sudden Diet Change. The dog’s GI tract needs several days to adjust to a new food. Sudden changes in the diet almost always cause diarrhea. Understandably, a dog who has eaten dry kibble its whole life will experience quite a shock if served wet dog food with meat and veggie chunks. Puppies are more sensitive to sudden diet changes than adults.
- Dietary Indiscretion. Dietary indiscretion is a fancy term for saying dogs would eat just about anything – a toy, a sock, dirt, wood, cat poop, or even table scraps from the garbage. Since the dog’s gut is not designed to handle them, their presence irritates the gastrointestinal tract and changes the consistency of the dog’s stool.
- Food Allergies and Intolerances. Dogs can be either allergic or intolerant to various food groups and ingredients – specific proteins, gluten, or lactose. Although the exact mechanism behind food allergies and intolerances differs, the clinical manifestation is similar and includes diarrhea.
- Intestinal Parasites. Intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, Giardia, and Coccidia can cause dog diarrhea, among other issues. Typically, dogs contract intestinal parasites by drinking contaminated water or otherwise ingesting contaminated soil or stool. Puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems are at higher risk.
- Viral or Bacterial Infections. The dog’s gut is a common target for various viruses and bacteria. Viruses like parvovirus, distemper, coronavirus, and bacterial infections such as Salmonella are accompanied by severe (explosive and often bloody) diarrhea.
- Illnesses. Dog diarrhea can be one of the symptoms of severe health issues like:
- Gastrointestinal inflammations or cancers
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Liver, pancreas, or kidney diseases
- Toxin Ingestion. Eating toxic substances is life-threatening, and its complex manifestation usually starts with diarrhea. Toxic substances include some human foods (chocolate, grapes, avocado), human medications, household products (detergents, antifreeze), and plants.
- Foreign Bodies. Swallowing foreign objects such as toys, clothes, sticks, and rocks can cause intestinal blockage and diarrhea (followed by constipation). This is a life-threatening situation and requires immediate veterinary attention.
What are the Signs of Diarrhea in Dogs?
Given below are some of the signs and symptoms of dog diarrhea. These include:
- Loss of Appetite. Your dog might completely stop eating if it gets diarrhea because of the digestive distress it is facing.
- Vomiting. Since your dog is unable to hold in any food and process it, chances are they might vomit it all out.
- Retching. This happens because of indigestion and can be a very uncomfortable experience for your dog.
- Accidents in the House. Because of the increased bowel movement frequency, the dog can make accidents around the house (even if fully potty trained).
- Painful Abdomen. Due to flatulence, your dog might have an upset stomach that could be borderline painful for them.
- Weakness/Lethargy. Since your dog is unable to hold and digest food, they might become weak and even dehydrated. This is a worrisome sign and needs the attention of a vet.
- Fever or Hypothermia. This is another sign that your dog has diarrhea. While this does not last long, it can have fatal consequences if not treated immediately.
- Weight Loss. If your dog has chronic diarrhea, it might end up losing a lot of weight. Change in body weight is not regularly linked with acute diarrhea.
What Does the Color of Your Dog’s Diarrhea Mean?
The dog’s diarrhea color can give a hint of the underlying cause. For example:
- Green Diarrhea: Means the dog was eating grass probably due to stomach upset.
- Brown or Black Diarrhea: Tarry diarrhea means there is bleeding in the upper parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Digested blood often looks like coffee grounds.
- Red Diarrhea: Bloody diarrhea indicates bleeding in the lower parts of the digestive system, large intestine, and rectum. The blood is bright red and non-digested.
- White Diarrhea: Usually indicates pancreas issues and the presence of unprocessed fat in the stool.
What Does the Consistency of Your Dog’s Diarrhea Mean?
The consistency of dog diarrhea can indicate the location of the problem.
For example, small intestine diarrhea is larger in volume but less frequent and rarely speckled with blood or mucus. On the other hand, large intestine diarrhea is smaller in volume, but frequent, and more likely to be bloody or tainted with mucus.
What can I Feed a Dog With Diarrhea?
Here are some ideas on what pet parents can feed dogs with diarrhea:
- Bland Diet. Sometimes, simplicity is key – one of the oldest home remedies for dog diarrhea is a bland diet of boiled chicken (or turkey) and white rice. The meat to starch ratio needs to be 1:2 – one cup meat to two cups rice.
The chicken is chosen because it is an easily digestible protein source and the starch from the rice has the ability to bind water, thus changing the fecal consistency. The bland diet mixture is given in small amounts several times per day.
- Canned Pumpkin and Ginger. Canned pumpkin is great for soothing upset stomachs. Once digested, pumpkin is slowly absorbed, making an excellent modifier for stool consistency – it is a remedy for both constipation and diarrhea.
Your dog may not be fond of the taste, but ginger promotes and maintains a healthy digestive tract. Ginger has potent anti-inflammatory properties, which can also help with non-GI-related issues like arthritis.
- Bone Broth. Bone broth is a great option for easing an upset stomach while simultaneously hydrating your dog. To make bone broth, simply simmer a whole chicken in a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar in a crockpot until the meat falls off the bone.
We recommend purchasing a specially formulated brand for dogs because certain ingredients in human broth can cause further irritation and prolong the bouts of diarrhea.
What can I Give My Dog to Stop Diarrhea?
When dealing with non-complicated cases of diarrhea, there are two options – let the loose stool run its course (and clean after your dog) or be proactive and use diarrhea medications combined with supplements (probiotics & prebiotics) and a bland diet to speed up the recovery.
Here are some over-the-counter medications and supplements pet owners can use to manage dog diarrhea.
Honest Paws Pre+ Probiotics. This product is specially formulated with both dog probiotics and prebiotics. It helps avoid dog diarrhea, loss of appetite, constipation, and other health issues. Additionally, it also boosts the immune system, helps with bad breath, and certain skin problems.
The supplement comes in the form of chicken-flavored powder and is packed in easy-use single-dose sachets. It is gluten-free, lab-tested, and made in the USA. Additionally, the product is safe to use in both dogs and cats.
PetLab Co. Digestive Support Bites. These soft treats provide dogs with nutritional support for a healthy gut, skin, and coat. Made with turkey meat they are an effective and tasty way to strengthen your dog’s digestive system.
Digestive Support Bites are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, containing sources of vitamins A, C, and E. The formula also includes quality ingredients including pumpkin, organic apple cider vinegar, and rosemary extract to help optimize your dog’s immune system.
Meaningful Tree Prebiotics. If your dog is dealing with the occasional digestive upset or if you just want to support overall gut health, Meaningful Tree Prebiotics is an all-natural option. The formula is gentle, yet effective to help balance a dog’s gut microbiomes and fight inflammation.
Meaningful Tree Prebiotics uses a proprietary formula, combining extra virgin olive oil and acacia fiber into an effective prebiotic for dogs. This prebiotic is formulated with traceable and sustainable products and made in the USA.
Vets Preferred Anti Diarrhea Liquid for Dogs. If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, a quick and effective way to soothe their stomach and restore pet health is with Vets Preferred Advanced Anti Diarrhea.
This soothes your pet’s upset stomach and stops their diarrhea with its advanced formulation. This product has fast absorbent action, which helps alleviate the irritation, discomfort, and cramping associated with dog diarrhea within 2-3 days.
Purina FortiFlora Probiotics for Dogs. This is a probiotic supplement for the dietary management of dog diarrhea. It is vet-recommended and is made with a proprietary microencapsulation process that enhances the stability and survival of the beneficial bacteria until they reach the dog’s intestinal tract.
It has a dog-friendly liver flavor and comes in pre-measured, single-dose pouches. Each package has 30 pouches. This single-strain probiotic supplement is perfectly safe for dogs of all ages.
Bernie’s Perfect Poop Digestion & General Health Supplement for Dogs. The high-fiber grass bits in this product revitalize the pet’s digestive tract to relieve digestive issues including diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, stalled digestion, bloating, and food intolerance.
It also helps to reduce gas, stool odor, bad breath, and firm up poop. Additionally, it increases the absorption of nutrients. Each chewable bit contains a blend of probiotics, prebiotics, dietary fiber, and enzymes with a delicious chicken or cheddar cheese flavor.
Vet Worthy Anti-Diarrhea for Dogs. This unique formulation is veterinarian-recommended and made in the USA. It has a delicious liver flavor and comes in liquid form that dogs really like. This product helps protect your pet with its safe, natural, and balanced formula.
The supplement contains pectin and kaolin. Pectin coats the gastrointestinal lining, while kaolin slows down the feces passage through the intestines. Together, they relieve dog diarrhea and help soothe upset stomachs.
VetriScience Laboratories Fast Balance Gi Paste Gastro Intestinal Support for Dogs. This is a fast-acting, easy-to-administer paste that provides immediate GI tract support for dogs, cats, and horses. It also helps maintain balanced microflora levels in the gut.
The product contains a specialized yeast extract that is rich in mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) that offers immediate relief from diarrhea. It is formulated with probiotics, including beneficial microbes like Bacillus subtilis, mixed Lactic acid bacteria, and Enterococcus faecium.
How Long Does Diarrhea Last for Dogs?
Dog diarrhea can last anywhere from two days to several weeks, depending on the underlying cause.
If you have recently changed your dog’s diet or offered treats from the dinner table – you are looking at the culprits. The good news is – the episode of diarrhea is transient and usually self-limiting.
However, dog diarrhea that lasts for more than 48 hours or is accompanied by vomiting, blood, or mucus is a red flag indicating more severe conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, or pancreatitis.
When Should I Be Concerned About My Dogs Diarrhea?
You should be concerned about dog diarrhea in two situations – if your dog’s clinical manifestation includes various signs or if you tried the above-described first aid tips, but diarrhea persists for over 48 hours.
Dog vomiting and diarrhea often occur at the same time. Here are some additional dog diarrhea accompanying signs indicating you should be concerned:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive gassiness
- Blood or mucus in the stool
If your dog shows these signs or diarrhea lasts over two days, go to the vet. The vet will perform a full physical examination and diagnostics (blood work, ultrasound, x-rays, or endoscopy) to determine the exact culprit and develop an individually-tailored treatment plan.