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How to Handle Dog Diarrhea: The #1 Guide for Diarrhea in Dogs

Katelyn Son

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec, DVM

All dog diarrhea cases have one thing in common – an upset stomach. Considering how common an upset stomach is, it is easy to assume how common diarrhea is in dogs. 

In fact, according to a study, 14.9% of dogs had diarrhea within the previous two-week period. Another study reported that 28.6% of dogs visit their vets due to diarrhea as the main complaint. 

Therefore, let’s dive into the hidden dangers of loose stool in dogs – the causes, the warning signs, and some diarrhea first aid tips.

@onevetEvery pet parent has struggled with this before! Watch the video to learn how to fix it #dog #doghealth #vet #onevet #veterinarian #dogdiarrhea♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) – Danilo Stankovic

The Canine Digestive System

The dog’s digestive system is a complex apparatus specifically designed to process food –from the mechanical grounding in the mouth through nutrient absorption in the intestines to eliminating non-digestible items via the anal opening. 

To simplify the canine GI tract, imagine a long pipe with two opening points – the mouth as entrance and the anus as an exit. Digestion occurs alongside the entire pipe, but different processes take place at different points within the pipe. 

What Causes Dog Diarrhea

dog diarrhea scaled

The official diarrhea definition is “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, 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).

The cause of dog diarrhea can be something as simple as an upset tummy 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.

vets org

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. It should be noted that 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 these (non)edible items, their presence will cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining and disrupt the normal digestion processes, eventually triggering diarrhea. 
  • Food Allergies and Intolerances. Dogs can be either allergic or intolerant to various food groups and ingredients – specific proteins, gluten, or lactose. Although the mechanisms behind allergies and intolerances are different, the clinical manifestation is similar and includes diarrhea. 
  • Intestinal Parasites. Intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, Giardia, and Coccidia can cause severe damages that are not always limited to the GI tract. 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. Diarrhea can be one of the symptoms in dogs with severe health issues like:
    • Liver, pancreas, or kidney tumors
    • Gastrointestinal inflammations or cancers 
    • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Intoxications. Consuming toxic substances is a life-threatening problem with complex manifestation that usually starts with diarrhea. Toxic substances include human foods (chocolate, grapes, avocado), medications, household products (detergents, antifreeze), and plants. 

How Serious is Diarrhea in Dogs?

Home Remedies for Dog Diarrhea

In simple terms, the severity of the diarrhea episode depends on the underlying cause and varies from benign and transient to challenging and ongoing. 

Based on studies, “acute, self-limiting diarrhea is relatively common and usually requires minimal diagnostic testing and therapy,” while “chronic diarrhea can be particularly challenging to diagnose and does not respond to empirical therapies.”

Vets Preferred Advanced Anti-Diarrhea for Dogs
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If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, a quick and effective way to soothe their stomach and restore gut health is with Vets Preferred Advanced Anti Diarrhea

  • Soothe your pet’s upset stomach and stop their diarrhea with the advanced diarrhea medicine for dogs.
  • This advanced anti-diarrhea for dogs medicine is made in the USA under strict supervision to ensure optimum quality.
  •  Has fast absorbent action, which helps alleviate the irritation, discomfort, and cramping associated with dog diarrhea within 2-3 days. 

What Stools can Tell You About Your Dog’s Health

Dog Stool Scale

Poop can tell you a lot about your dog’s overall health. When judging the stool appearance, you need to consider the four C’s of stool examination – color, consistency, content, and coating. 

Although the “normal” stool appearance depends on several factors (age, diet, lifestyle), the general rule of thumb is that the healthy poop should be brown and neither too soft nor too hard. 

What Does the Color of Your Dog’s Diarrhea Mean?

The dog’s diarrhea color can give a hint on the underlying cause. For example:

  • Green diarrhea – means the dog was eating grass probably due to stomach upset.
  • Brown or black diarrhea – means there is bleeding in the upper parts of the GI tract.
  • Red diarrhea – means the dog is bleeding in the large intestine.
  • White diarrhea – usually indicative of issues with the pancreas.

What Does the Consistency of Your Dog’s Diarrhea Mean?

Obviously, in diarrhea cases, the main issue is the consistency change. However, analyzing the other C’s can help locate the source of the problem. 

For example, small intestine diarrhea is usually larger in volume but less frequent and rarely speckled with blood or mucus. On the other hand, large intestine diarrhea is smaller in volume, more frequent, and bloody or tainted with mucus. 

What to Feed a Dog with Diarrhea

Feeding a dog with diarrhea is, in fact, much simpler than it sounds. The right diet for diarrheic dogs is made of one or two simple yet high-quality ingredients and needs to be offered frequently but in small amounts, as you do not want to burden the GI tract. 

Here are some ideas on feeding a dog with diarrhea:

  • Bland Diet. Sometimes, simplicity is key – one of the oldest anti-diarrhea tricks in the book is feeding your dog a bland diet of boiled chicken (or turkey) and white rice (or potatoes). 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 stool 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, canned pumpkin is slowly absorbed, making an excellent modifier for stool consistency – it is a remedy for both constipation and diarrhea. Your dog might not be fond of the taste, but ginger is very effective in promoting and maintaining a healthy GI tract. Ginger has potent anti-inflammatory properties, which can also help with non-GI-related issues like arthritis.
  • Bone Broth. Bone broth is another 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 diarrhea episodes. 

Home Remedies for Dog Diarrhea

Dogs with acute diarrhea can safely be treated at home as long as they do not exhibit additional signs and symptoms and manage the situation within a day or two.  

When dealing with non-complicated acute diarrhea bouts in dogs, 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 probiotics and a bland diet to speed up the recovery. 

Medication for Dog Diarrhea 

Many vets and pet parents rave about the results of the Vets Preferred Advanced Anti Diarrhea supplement. It aims to relieve not only diarrhea but also ease stomach cramps and abdominal pain

This is just one of the many anti-diarrhea products on the market. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian what will work best for your dog. 

Probiotics for Dogs 

Probiotics are naturally occurring “good” bacteria that live in the dog’s gut and assist with digestion and absorption processes. 

Probiotics are extremely efficient in managing diarrhea – they strengthen the dog’s stool and decrease the length of the diarrhea episode. Probiotics should be used combined with prebiotic – fibers that serve as food for the healthy gut bacteria. 

We recommend using our Honest Paws Pre+ Probiotic supplement for dogs. The probiotic is custom-formulated with all the right stuff to help keep your dog’s digestive system in tip-top shape.

Keeping Your Dog Hydrated

Dehydration is commonly associated with diarrhea – so much is coming out, and nothing is going in. Dehydration is quickly progressing and leads to an electrolyte imbalance which is considered a life-threatening emergency. 

To prevent diarrhea, you need to ensure your dog gets enough fluids. You can entice your dog’s appetite by putting few drops of chicken broth into the water.

When to go to the Vet for Dog Diarrhea

When to go to the Vet for Dog Diarrhea

Every dog will experience diarrhea at least once at some point in its life. What every dog parent must not do is panic. 

If you have recently changed your dog’s diet or have been offering treats from the dinner table – you are looking at the culprits. The good news is – the diarrhea situation 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 critical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, or pancreatitis. 

Generally speaking, you should be concerned in two situations – if your dog’s clinical picture includes various signs and symptoms or you have tried the above described first aid tips, but diarrhea persists for over 48 hours. 

A trip to the vet’s office is warranted if your dog is exhibiting one or more of these signs and symptoms: 

  • Fever
  • Vomiting        
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Bloating     
  • Excessive gassiness   
  • Dehydration    
  • Abdominal pain    

In these cases, the vet will perform a full physical examination and diagnostics (blood works, ultrasound, x-rays, endoscopy) to determine the exact culprit and develop an individually-tailored treatment plan. 

Our Final Thoughts on Dog Diarrhea

puppy with toilet paper

Dog diarrhea or dog poop, in general, is an unpopular and messy topic. However, it is quite common and sometimes indicative of a more serious health issue. 

Therefore, as a responsible parent, you need to be familiar with the basics of dog diarrhea and understand that diarrhea is a symptom, not a disease. Therefore, simply putting a “band-aid” on the external signs will often worsen the underlying problem.  

Make sure to take the necessary steps to prevent or alleviate diarrhea in the early stages. If it continues for more than a day or two, or your dog is in obvious distress, do not hesitate to call or visit the vet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you give a dog for diarrhea?

You can give your over-the-counter anti-diarrhea meds combined with probiotic supplements. There are plenty of such products on the market, but they are not all made the same. We recommend using the Vets Preferred Advanced Anti Diarrhea supplement and the Honest Paws Pre + Probiotics

What home remedy can I give my dog for diarrhea?

In terms of home remedies, you should prepare your dog’s homemade meals until diarrhea resolves. Popular and efficient anti-diarrhea home remedies include chicken and rice bland diets, canned pumpkin and ginger, and bone broth. 

What is the most common cause of diarrhea in dogs?

In dogs, the most common causes of diarrhea are dietary indiscretions and sudden diet changes. By dietary indiscretion, we refer to eating table scraps, garbage, or inedible items, and by sudden diet changes, we mean switching from one brand or food type to another without a transition period.

Sources

(PDF) Risk of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs (researchgate.net) 

Prevalence of canine enteric coronavirus in a cross-sectional survey of dogs presenting at veterinary practices (nih.gov)

Diarrhea (nih.gov)

Safety and tolerance of dietary supplementation with a canine-derived probiotic (Bifidobacterium animalis strain AHC7) fed to growing dogs – PubMed (nih.gov)

Effects of a probiotic intervention in acute canine gastroenteritis–a controlled clinical trial – PubMed (nih.gov)

(PDF) The Utilisation of Prebiotics and Synbiotics in Dogs (researchgate.net)

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