Diarrhea in dogs
Diarrhea is an increase in the volume of stool or frequency of defecation, usually followed by the change in its consistency. It is one of the most common clinical signs of gastrointestinal disease, but also can reflect primary disorders outside of the digestive system. Below are the most common causes for diarrhea:
- Diet: sudden change in diet, food intolerance. If you introduce new diet to your dog, introduce it gradually, mixing it with his current food to ensure an easier transition for your dog’s digestive tract to adapt to new proteins.
- Ingestion of poisonous substances, garbage, spoiled food
- Bacterial infection, for example: Salmonella
- Viral infection: for example: distemper and parvovirus. This can be prevented by keeping your dog’s vaccination up to date.
- Parasitic infection, for example: intestinal worms and giardia. Most of parasitic infections are asymptomatic (doesn’t show any symptoms) unless in puppies or dogs with weak immune systems.
- Other diseases, for example: kidney or liver disease, colitis (infection of the colon), inflammatory bowel disease
- Stress or emotional upset
- Side effects of certain medications
What to do
It is a common practice to withhold food for 12-24 hours after diarrhea. Most animals will fast themselves when they have gastrointestinal disorder and it’s a good idea to stop feeding your dog if he doesn’t fast himself. ONLY do this if your dog is healthy enough to endure it. For example, puppies need more nutrients than adult dogs and going through a 12-24 hours fasting may lead the puppies to starvation.
If your dog is healthy enough to undergo the fast, please provide water in small amounts and add frequently, as this will help the gastrointestinal tract to settle and can clear the cause of the diarrhea.
As diarrhea can lead to dehydration, you may want to add electrolytes such as Pedialyte to the water to keep your dog’s electrolyte balance. You can add some honey to prevent hypoglycemia.
After the fast, if there is no further vomiting and the diarrhea has stopped or slowed, offer some broth or small amounts of food. Gradually increase the amounts of food over the next few days.
Below are some food that can help to normalize the stool consistency:
- Yogurt or other source of probiotics: the “good” bacteria will fight the harmful bacteria that may be responsible for the diarrhea.
- Steamed pumpkin.
- Plain protein sources, for example: eggs, skinless chicken meat.
- Boiled potatoes without skin.
Other things to note
Many times diarrhea will resolve itself after a few days of home treatment, but if it continues it’s a good idea to bring your dog to a vet. Diarrhea is just one of the many symptoms your dog may have, and making a diagnosis only based on this one particular symptom is difficult. To assist your vet in making a diagnosis, please take note of the consistency, color, frequency, and volume of the diarrhea as they will give useful information about the disease.
Other signs to look for include flatulence, blood or mucus in stool, changes in volume of stool and straining to defecate. Lethargy, dehydration, fever, vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss and an increased urgency to defecate may also present.