It’s a safe bet that your dog will experience a bout of diarrhea at some point or another. Just about every dog can get an upset stomach, and diarrhea is usually quick to follow.
It can be tempting to deal with a case of doggy diarrhea on your own. You might figure you can use the same methods you’d use for yourself or a family member. One of those methods is Imodium, a common over-the-counter medication designed to treat diarrhea.
Imodium is generally a safe medication for humans, but you might be wondering, “Can I give my dog Imodium for diarrhea?” And what about other diarrhea treatments like Pepto Bismol (known medically as bismuth subsalicylate)?
For the most part, it’s not a good idea to treat your dog’s diarrhea with Imodium from your medicine cabinet. Unless your veterinarian specifically directs you to give your dog this diarrhea treatment, don’t do it. There are other options better suited to treating your dog’s loose bowel movements.
Let’s take a look at how Imodium factors into the equation, and how to go about treating your dog’s diarrhea safely and effectively.
What Is Imodium, and Is It Safe for Dogs?
Known generically as loperamide, Imodium is a synthetic opioid that was originally developed as a pain management medication. However, it didn’t serve its intended purpose very well — the dosage needed for Imodium to effectively manage pain is very high, so the risks tend to outweigh the benefits.
One of the side effects of Imodium in both humans and dogs is constipation, so the medication quickly became an antidote to diarrhea. And it still is today.
Dogs can be given opioids, and they’re safe when administered under the close supervision of a veterinarian. The same holds true for Imodium. If your veterinarian prescribes it and gives you the go-ahead, it’s safe for your pooch.
That said, Imodium isn’t good for every canine companion. In fact, it can prove quite dangerous for many dogs.
Potential Dangers and Side Effects of Imodium for Dogs
Imodium can be safe for a dog when given with the direct approval and guidance of a veterinarian. But for many dogs, this medication is no-go.
Dogs who should not be given Imodium include:
- Herding breeds. Herding dogs like Australian shepherds, collies, and Shetland sheepdogs sometimes carry a mutant form of the MDR1 gene. This means that their systems can’t break down certain types of drugs as well as they should, including loperamide. Not every dog in the herding group has this gene mutation, and you can have your pup tested to find out if the mutation is present. But in general, it’s safest to avoid giving your dog Imodium if he or she is a part of this breed.
- Dogs with additional health issues. Never give Imodium to a dog who has had a recent head injury, has difficulty breathing, or has Addison’s disease, liver disease, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or hypothyroidism. Dogs with these health conditions will be more susceptible to the side effects of Imodium.
- Dogs that have an intestinal infection or have ingested something toxic. If your pooch is suffering from an intestinal infection, or if they’ve ingested something toxic, diarrhea is the body’s way of naturally flushing out the system to get rid of the toxic agent. Stopping that process with Imodium means you’re keeping the toxin inside your dog’s body, which you obviously don’t want to do.
- Dogs that are taking other medications. Imodium interacts with certain medications in dangerous ways. These drugs include antihistamines and other sedating medications, as well as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which are sometimes prescribed for depression and anxiety. If your dog is taking other medications, make sure to tell your veterinarian about them before you administer Imodium.
Even for dogs that don’t fall into one of the above groups, Imodium can cause side effects that aren’t worth the trouble. These include abdominal pain, bloating, lethargy, central nervous system depression, and weight loss, among others.
As always, it’s best to have a discussion with your veterinarian to see whether or not Imodium or another treatment for dog diarrhea is the right course of action for your pet.
How to Treat Your Dog’s Diarrhea
Rather than using Imodium, dog owners may want to turn to natural remedies or other treatments for dog diarrhea. In many cases, these efforts can resolve your dog’s upset stomach and diarrhea without resorting to medication at all.
Withhold Fido’s normal dog food for 12-24 hours after his bout of diarrhea. This allows the digestive tract to recuperate. Your dog should be allowed to drink water during this period to stay properly hydrated.
Before going back to normal dog food, feed your dog a bland diet of boiled white rice and a small bit of fully-cooked, plain, white-meat chicken. These foods are lighter on Rex’s tummy and are easily digestible. Consult your vet for advice on how long you should feed your dog the bland diet before transitioning back to normal food.
Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that live in your dog’s gut. They support proper digestive health and can often help to relieve diarrhea. Ask your vet about giving your dog a probiotic supplement to treat diarrhea, or giving them one regularly to help prevent diarrhea in the first place.
Pepto Bismol is commonly used to soothe indigestion for people. But can you give your dog Pepto Bismol?
Pepto Bismol isn’t the same as Imodium. The active ingredient in Pepto Bismol is bismuth subsalicylate, not loperamide. A few small doses should be safe for your dog — the recommended dosage is one teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight — but check with your vet to be sure.
Pepto Bismol isn’t something that should be used for dogs on a long-term basis, and it can interact badly with other medications your pet might be taking. Dogs that are pregnant or nursing, have bleeding disorders, or taking anti-inflammatory drugs should never be given bismuth subsalicylate. However, there is a form of bismuth subsalicylate that’s formulated specifically for dogs — it’s called Corrective Suspension. Ask your veterinarian about it.
See Your Vet
If steps like fasting, a bland diet, and probiotics don’t have a positive effect on your dog’s diarrhea, it’s time to see your vet. It’s possible that a serious medical condition — disease, infection, ingestion of a foreign object — is the cause of your dog’s loose bowel movements.
Can I Give My Dog Imodium for Diarrhea or Not?
Is Imodium safe for dogs? Yes, it can be, but only when given with the permission and guidance of your veterinarian. In most cases, vets will recommend a natural remedy, such as withholding food or implementing a bland diet for a day or two, before resorting to an anti-diarrhea medication like Imodium.
Remember that certain dogs should never be given Imodium, including herding breeds, dogs with pre-existing health conditions that make them more susceptible to the side effects of the drug, and dogs with intestinal infections or those who have ingested something poisonous.
If your dog is prescribed Imodium, make sure you understand the dosage and administration process — this medication can come in liquid form or as caplets. And, of course, keep a close eye on your dog so that you can spot any harmful side effects and take quick action. Never give your dog Imodium you’ve purchased over the counter without checking with your veterinarian first.