Posted by Pet Honesty on

What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs?

Table of Contents

Being a pet parent has a funny way of bringing out the med student in all of us. Suddenly, you find yourself inspecting everything that comes out of your dog with newfound courage and precision. Your text messages with your significant other become a string of poop reports. Naturally, nothing warrants inspection and causes a stir quite like diarrhea in dogs.

When your morning walk is greeted with an unexpected mushy mess, your brain immediately starts seeking a cause. Knowing the source of the runny poo calamity is essential to getting back on the regularity train. Read on to find out what causes diarrhea in dogs and how to fix it. 


    Husky in the snow

    Dogs with Diarrhea: Causes

    There are a number of reasons why your dog (and you) may be experiencing the unpleasantness of diarrhea.

    1. Food Faux Pas

    Arguably the number one cause of diarrhea in dogs is eating something that doesn't agree with their tummy. This cause can manifest in a number of different ways. 

    1. Eating spoiled food (We see you garbage can bandits out there!)
    2. Swallowing a non-food item or foreign body (socks are popular)
    3. Consuming too much food
    4. Eating human food that is toxic to dogs (Chocolate's got some unsavory friends)

    As tempting as it is to give in to your dogs adorable begging eyes, resist the urge! Their tummies (and your floors) will thank you for it later.

    2. Sudden Changes in Diet

    Sometimes in a pinch, you accidentally grab the wrong dog food at the store. While this may seem like an innocent mistake, sudden changes in your dog's diet can actually cause gastrointestinal distress. 

    It can often take several days for your dog's stomach to adjust to the protein structure of new food. Therefore, veterinarians recommend incrementally mixing the new food in with the old food over the course of two to three days.

    Dog in yellow leaves

    3. Allergies and Intolerances

    If diarrhea is accompanied by additional symptoms such as itchiness, ear inflammation, and licking of the feet, food allergies may be the issue. 

    Most dogs develop their food allergies and intolerances within their first one to five years. Common canine food allergens include wheat, egg, beef, dairy, lamb, chicken, fish, pork, and rabbit.

    Furthermore, dogs can be allergic to prescription medications and antibiotics. Be sure to always monitor your dog after introducing any new food, medicine, or supplement.

    4. Emotional Distress

    Dogs are very loving and sensitive creatures. So much so that certain emotional stress can cause gastrointestinal upset.

    To illustrate, moving is a very emotionally taxing event for a dog. Take care when adjusting your dog to any new environment, especially a new home.

    5. Parasites

    Roundworms and ringworms and hookworms oh my! Let's just say, the creatures in The Wizard of Oz ain't got nothing on the terrors of intestinal parasites.

    In addition to the three aforementioned worms, whipworms, tapeworms, Giardia, Spirochetes, and Coccidia can all become unwelcome guests in your dog's intestines. Naturally, diarrhea is a side-effect of hosting intestinal parasites.

    Dog chewing on a bone

    6. Consuming Toxic Substances

    Try as you might, you cannot puppy proof the entire world. Sometimes your sweet dog will lick, or even eat, a toxic plant or substance.

    In your home, be sure to lock all cleaning chemicals and potentially toxic substances high and far away from prying puppy paws.

    7. Infections and Viruses

    On the more serious side, diarrhea can occasionally be an indicator of infection. Such as:

    1. Distemper
    2. Parvovirus
    3. Coronavirus
    4. Salmonella (Bacterial)

    These type of infections are more common in puppies and younger dogs. Be sure to get your dog up to date on all of their vaccinations to help prevent viral and bacterial infections. 


    More on diarrhea and disease later in this article. 

    Dog looking into the sky

    Types of Diarrhea

    To spot an irregularity, it is important to know what "normal" bowel movement looks like. A normal, healthy doggie poo should be solid, but soft, with a consistent brown color. To paint a picture that may ruin your favorite childhood candy, think visually along the lines of a Tootsie Roll.

    Additionally, not all diarrhea is created equally. In fact, certain colors or textures in your dog's diarrhea can help indicate what is causing it in the first place. 

    • Irregularly soft stool: Indication of having eaten something disagreeable
    • Liquid Diarrhea: Possibility of infection
    • Gray and Greasy stool: Signal your dog is eating too much fatty or greasy foods
    • Poop with Mucus: This can be an indicator of Parvo or intestinal parasites
    • White flecks (worms) in stool: You guessed it, parasites!
    • Black tar-like or bloody diarrhea: Blood is clearly somewhere it shouldn't be. Possibility of disease or other serious issues, seek veterinarian care immediately

    The Canine Journal has a thorough infographic of irregular dog diarrhea for further consideration. If your dog's stool is questionable, take a sample to your vet for further testing.

    Diarrhea: Ailment or Symptom?

    First of all, occasional diarrhea is completely normal and no cause for a panicked run to your vet. However, should diarrhea become chronic and paired with other symptoms, it may a sign that something more nefarious is at hand. 

    With this in mind, keep a lookout for additional symptoms in tandem with diarrhea. Such as:

    • Vomiting
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Excessive drooling
    • Depression
    • Straining to defecate
    • Pale or Tacky Gums
    • Lethargy
    • Constant itching (allergies)
    • Sudden changes in your dog's behavior
    • Blood in vomit or diarrhea

    Ultimately, if your dog is suffering from more the one of the aforementioned symptoms, seek veterinary attention immediately.

    Dog playing in the snow

    Natural Treatment for Dog Diarrhea

    Once you have ruled out bigger issues like disease and infection, there are natural ways you can soothe an upset puppy tummy from home. 

    1. Rehydrate

    Anytime diarrhea or vomit make an appearance, dehydration is not far behind. Therefore, be sure to provide your dog with plenty of clean water. Additionally, you need to make sure they actually drink the water.

    Sometimes, tummy issues make your dog a little hesitant to eat or drink anything. In that case, you can supplement their water with a little bit of beef broth to make it more enticing. Furthermore, you can try giving them children's Pediatlite for an extra hydration boost. 

    2. Simple Diet

    If your dog is experiencing gastrointestinal tract issues, it is a good idea to feed them simple foods until their stool is back to normal.

    For example, many vets suggest a home-cooked meal of skinless, boiled chicken and plain white rice. This simple meal will not only feel like a treat to your dog, but it will be easily digestible in their sensitive bellies. 

    Be sure to feed them small amounts, slowly increasing the serving with each incident-free day. At first, you may consider withholding food for roughly six hours after a GI incident.

    3. Probiotics and Prebiotics

    Naturally, stomach issues can be tough on both you and your dear dog. Afterward, your best bud's belly may need some help getting back to prime homeostasis. 

    The successful implementation of probiotics into your dog's diet can effectively restore healthy gut function and prevent future issues. The Pet Honesty probiotic for dogs is a great all-natural choice. Better yet, it comes in a delicious duck flavor dogs love!

    Dog sitting together in the street

    How to Prevent Diarrhea in Dogs

    Often times, you can save you and your pup some distress by actively preventing diarrhea in the first place. Here are some tips to promote a healthy tummy: 

    1. Keep a watchful eye on curious puppy mouths
    2. Never abruptly switch your dog's diet
    3. Lock away all toxic substances (cleaning products, roach killer, chocolate, etc)
    4. When playing outside, discourage your dog from taste testing grass and other forms of foliage
    5. Vaccinate! Several infections and diseases can easily be prevented by staying on top of vaccinations
    6. Resist the urge to feed your dog table scraps, leftovers, and human food in general
    7. Implement a healthy regimen of dog multivitamins and gut-healthy canine probiotics

    By following these seven simple steps your dog's tummy will be happy and healthy. Bonus! You won't wake up in the middle of the night to a fresh pool of diarrhea to clean up.

    Diarrhea in Dogs: Final Thoughts

    When your dog has diarrhea it is all too easy to fall down the Google rabbit hole of terror. However, rest assured that while diarrhea can be a symptom of something else, more than likely your dog just ate something they weren't supposed to.

    On the other hand, be sure to pay attention to the color, consistency, and frequency of any gastrointestinal episodes. If your dog suffers from extended diarrhea for more than 24 hours, it is time to go to the vet and seek further medical attention.

    From all of us here at Pet Honesty, we wish you and your dog a happy and healthy day!



    Camille Arneberg and her dog
    Camille is a co-founder of Pet Honesty 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.