Unless you have a full-time dog walker, you probably come in contact with your dog’s poop on a daily basis. Let’s face it, it’s hard not to notice what it looks like when you’re the one having to pick it up. Typically your dog’s feces should be a couple of short, soft logs. Veterinarians describe the ideal stool as “fudge-like.” But what happens when your dog’s poop has no shape at all and turns into that dreaded runny liquid we call diarrhea? Dog diarrhea can be caused by a number of different underlying conditions. Whether it’s brought on by food allergies, parasites, medications, or any other health problem, what is most important is that you discover the underlying cause so that you can find an effective dog diarrhea treatment plan as soon as possible.
If your pup is just experiencing small issues within his intestinal tract, he may just need a dog digestive supplement. However, if it’s something more serious, your vet may have to prescribe antibiotics or other medication. This helpful guide will explain how to treat diarrhea in dogs and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
What Causes Dog Diarrhea?
Very simply, diarrhea in dogs is caused by gastrointestinal distress. This can occur from changes in your dog’s diet, scavenging spoiled food, new medicines, food allergies, and even sickness. Diarrhea itself is not necessarily a cause for alarm, but it should put you on guard if you are noticing other signs of distress in your dog.
What are Some of the Long Term Ailments that Cause Diarrhea?
According to PetMD, the most common ailment that manifests in chronic diarrhea is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. You may have heard of IBS in humans, but it is just as common in our canine companions. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects the entire digestive system, including the way your dog passes stool.
For a rudimentary understanding canine gastrointestinal distress, and specifically IBS, let’s identify the different parts of your dog’s digestive system. The canine digestive system can be subdivided into four main categories:
-The mouth and esophagus
Here is the basic outline of how your dog’s digestive system operates:
Your dog consumes food, which is then chewed and swallowed using the mouth and esophageal passage. After food is chewed and swallowed it is passed on to the stomach where it can stay for up to twelve hours. In dogs, the stomach acts as a staging area and storage facility. Even though digestive enzymes and stomach acids help to break down the food in the stomach, there is no actual digestion that happens here.
After food is broken down in the stomach the nutrient rich mush is passed into the intestines, aka the bowels. The intestines are responsible for pulling the nutrients out of food and passing on waste to the colon. After food has passed through the entire intestinal tract it is passed into the colon where it is eventually expelled as fecal waste.
So what causes IBS and how is it related to chronic diarrhea? IBS is widely regarded as the physical manifestation of a mental disorder. In most cases of IBS in dogs, there is a mental and a physical trigger that manifest as physical symptoms of gastric disruption. There are many canine health experts who believe IBS is simply the beginning stages of Irritable Bowel Disease, a condition where the intestines lose functionality due to chronic inflammation.
Not all chronic diarrhea is caused by IBS or IBD, but it is something to pay attention to. Trupanion asserts that some of the potential mental and emotional triggers that cause chronic diarrhea are as follows:
-Change in routine
-Change in environment
-The loss of an owner
If you notice any of the aforementioned mental stressors it is important to try and meet them head on. Exercise and diet are the best tools you possess as an owner to keep your dog mentally, emotionally and physically well. Routine is important to your dog, and as such you should take care to keep your dog on a regular schedule. Typically the more regular the schedule is, the more regular your dog is.
There are certain physical triggers that could be causing your dog’s chronic diarrhea. These physical triggers could be any of the following.
-Dietary intolerance to grain
-Allergic reaction to food
If you are nervous that your dog’s bowels may be obstructed or impacted, it is important to call your vet right away. Any time your dog has diarrhea for a period of longer than a few days, it could mean something serious is going on, and waiting is never the right option.
Most of the time chronic diarrhea is simply food related so the correct diet is critical for combating chronic diarrhea. There are many dietary options for your dog and it may take some experimenting to find the correct dietary balance for him. When experimenting with different food options it is important to take the process slow and see how his body reacts. Consult with your dog’s vet as they will be able to offer insight that comes from a depth of knowledge surrounding canine health, as well as your dog’s personal medical history.
Remember that while some human foods are ok for dogs, the list is short. Here are some human foods that are safe for a dog’s stomach:
There are some foods you should never feed your dog, as they will undoubtedly lead to stomach issues like diarrhea. In some cases the foods listed below can lead to greater health risks and even death. Here are the top known human foods that are disastrous for dogs according to WebMD for Pets:
Treatment for Dog Diarrhea
Dog diarrhea treatment often depends on the cause, but with all cases of diarrhea, hydration is critical in the recovery process. In addition to offering water, try incorporating small amounts of beef broth to replenish some of the sodium your dog has lost. Diluted Pedialyte can also be used as a safe way to treat dehydration caused by diarrhea.
In dogs with no pre-existing medical conditions and if no other symptoms are present, it is most likely that your dog just ate something that upset their stomach. If you recently switched to a new food, then diarrhea could be a side effect from a new ingredient. Try mixing the old and new food together as a way to transition your dog’s digestive system. If no dietary changes have taken place, then try a 24-hour bland diet of white rice and boiled chicken to settle the stomach and return the stool to normal form.
What Can I Do to treat Diarrhea at Home?
There are many homeopathic remedies for soothing gastrointestinal distress in dogs. One such treatment is canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin is an excellent hydrator and fiber rich source of nutrients. Due to its low glycemic index pumpkin is very basic, which balances the pH levels of your dog’s digestive system. As a result of restoring a healthy pH balance, your dog’s gut is able to combat any excess acidity that may have been contributing to his diarrhea. Additionally, pumpkin is anti-inflammatory and helps to fight intestinal swelling.
Believe it or not, belly rubs can be a great way to soothe the pains of chronic diarrhea. So long as your dog is not in too much abdominal pain, a light belly rub can help to ease the pain that accompanies gastrointestinal distress. Additionally, these belly rubs promote increased levels of happiness in your dog, which in turn will reduce his cortisol and stress levels. This chemical reaction to physical affection has the potential to alleviate pain and symptoms of gastric distress in your dog.
If your dog has a pre-existing health condition or if he exhibits additional symptoms of sickness or allergies, contact your veterinarian immediately. The American Kennel club lists other symptoms that may indicate a greater health risk as:
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Abdominal Pain
Diarrhea is often the first warning sign for a more significant health issue, and the faster you seek professional medical help, the better they will be in the long run. If you are ever in doubt - call your veterinarian and ask a question, rather than attempting to diagnose a problem yourself.
How Do I Clean Up When My Dog Has Diarrhea?
If you are outdoors and you have a bag handy (as all responsible dog owners should) then simply do your best by sweeping up the feces. It will be a more difficult task than you are used to, but try to scoop up as much as you can. Typically diarrhea comes in multiple fits so be prepared to use a couple of bags for this endeavor.
It is always important to tie off your dog’s poop bag to avoid spreading germs, but it is especially crucial with diarrhea. The bacteria in diarrhea have been linked to things like e.Coli and other fecal-related transferable illnesses, and extra precaution should be taken as a result.
If your dog has an indoor accident, then sanitation is required. First and foremost get your dog cleaned up. It may be hard to remember at the moment, but accidents are not grounds for punishment. Especially with an accident regarding diarrhea, the faster you clean up, the better it is for everyone’s health and well-being.
Hopefully, in the throes of their accident they didn’t visit too many areas of your house, but to prevent any further contamination, clean the dog first. Sometimes spot cleaning with a soapy wet rag and a towel are enough to do the trick, but for big messes, a full bath may be necessary.
Once your dog is clean and quarantined, then you can take care of the other mess. Make sure to sterilize any surface that came in contact with your dog’s fecal matter and wash any linen that may have been a casualty of the accident.
An Isolated Incident or a Repeat Offender?
When your dog has diarrhea, it is usually no cause for alarm, but it should put you on alert as an owner. After your dog has diarrhea, it is important to start watching for other signs and symptoms of sickness like vomiting, swelling, scratching, excess drooling, etc. If you notice any other symptoms in addition to diarrhea, or if diarrhea persists, then give your vet a call for further assistance.
Is Diarrhea Dangerous for Dogs?
One isolated case of diarrhea on its own does not pose any immediate health risks for your dog. Unfortunately, your dog’s stomach is sensitive and therefore susceptible to internal gastrointestinal dischord. The occasional bout of diarrhea is no cause for alarm, and often is just your dog’s body working through a gastrointestinal issue. However, when diarrhea persists the danger for health complications does come into play.
One of the biggest threats that persistent diarrhea poses, is a lack of dietary nutrients. In addition to the threat of dehydration, diarrhea is often a sign that your dog is not absorbing the calories he needs. As your dog ingests food, his stomach and intestines work to digest and absorb nutrients. Diarrhea, is a signal that those nutrients are not being absorbed properly which could lead to weight loss, fatigue and even brittle bones.
It is always important to remain calm and collected when making decisions on how to best treat your dog. For pup’s, symptoms of sickness like diarrhea are often frightening and painful, and your dog will look to you for support and guidance. If your dog is suffering from chronic diarrhea, the time to seek help is now. After reading this blog post, you are now equipped to treat the unexpected and deal with the many potential causes that are associated with diarrhea.
Camille is a co-founder of PetHonesty and VP of Pup Parent Education. After watching her own family dog suffer from joint issues for years she became passionate about improving dogs' quality of life. With the help of a team of veterinarians and dog nutritionists she now helps educate other dog owners about the small but powerful things they can do to positively impact their dogs' health and wellness! She lives in Austin, TX and loves cuddling puppies, being outside and reading.