By Dr. Méline Joaris
Dog diarrhea presents as soft to liquid stool, sometimes with more frequency and volume relative to normal. Thankfully, most of the time it isn’t anything serious. One of the most common causes is a dietary indiscretion from scavenging, also known as ‘garbage gut’. It is a problem we see often in dogs because they will lick, eat and pick up pretty much anything.
However, it can also be caused by food intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, and more worryingly, by parvovirus (especially in puppies!), foreign bodies or toxins.
Should I Take My Dog to the ER?
You should definitely take your dog to a full-service veterinarian or urgent care if your dog:
- Is lethargic, not responding to you as usual, or appears in pain (crying out, sitting in the praying position)
- Has very frequent and/or watery diarrhea, or with more than a few streaks of blood
- Has passed black or tarry diarrhea
- Has also vomited frequently and/or vomit contains brown specks or blood
- Has not eaten for more than 48 hours, or drunk water for more than 24 hours
- Is a puppy or elderly dog showing any of the symptoms above
If your dog has a pre-existing medical condition and starts having diarrhea, it could also slow down their recovery. It is better to contact your veterinarian straight away in these cases.
What If My Otherwise Healthy Adult Dog Has Diarrhea?
If your adult dog is usually healthy with no underlying medical problems, it is reasonable to try a few things at home to make them feel better before you rush to the ER.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so it is important to encourage your dog to drink and make sure they have access to plenty of fresh, clean water. You can tempt them to drink more by flavoring water with a little bit of low sodium/no spice chicken or beef broth. Using unflavored Pedialyte also helps to restore lost electrolytes.
Be Careful With Food
Give their gut 12 hours to rest by removing all food and treats (don’t do this for puppies or dogs with other medical conditions). Then start by feeding again small but frequent meals of bland food, such as boiled chicken breasts, white fish or scrambled egg whites with white or brown rice. Try this a few times daily for a few days. Once the diarrhea resolves, gradually re-introduce your dog’s normal food over the next 10 days.
You may notice that your dog doesn’t poop for a couple of days after a bout of diarrhea. As long as they’re bright, eating and not showing signs of straining to go to the toilet, don’t worry! It can take a couple of days for the gut to start forming normal poops again.
Supplement Their Diet With Probiotics
Probiotics may be beneficial and promote good gut bacteria to manage dog diarrhea. You can use Fortiflora or Pro-Pectalin Gel as they are specifically formulated for dogs. Avoid using yoghurt or keffir products. They might work for you, but they usually do not contain the right kind of dog gut bacteria. More importantly, most dogs are lactose intolerant and this may actually make their diarrhea worse!
Disclaimer: If your dog isn't improving within 48 with those steps or their symptoms are worsening, contact your local veterinarian or the vet team at Fuzzy right away.