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Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea? How To Help Your Pooch's Poop Problem

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Being a pet parent is without question one of life's greatest pleasures. You have the unconditional love of your canine companion and revel in all the memories you get to make with them over the years. 

But as with everything in life, there are ups and downs. And chances are that at some point or another, your beloved pooch (and you) will have to deal with the messy mush that is diarrhea. But even though most cases of diarrhea shouldn’t cause serious concern, you're probably wondering "Why does my dog have diarrhea in the first place?" 

To get to the bottom of this question (so to speak), we'll review the common causes of dog diarrhea as well as what you should be looking out for when it comes to this condition. We'll also share some of the available treatment options for preventing and curbing dog diarrhea so your beloved pooch can get back to feeling his or her best.

Common Causes of Dog Diarrhea 

There are numerous causes of diarrhea, so it can be a little difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why your dog has a case of the runs. That said, as a dog owner, you know your pet better than anybody else and might have a fairly good sense of what might be causing the issue. We’ll review some common causes of dog diarrhea so you know what to look for.

An occasional spell of loose stools shouldn't worry you too much, but call the vet if your dog's diarrhea happens alongside other symptoms such as blood in the stool, vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite, or abdominal pain. 

Dogs with stomach pain will often yowl or growl if you touch their belly or try to pick them up. They might also take a “praying position” with their rear end up in the air to stretch the area and avoid having their tummy touch the floor. If you notice this behavior, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet may want to perform a barium X-ray to identify any potential problems in your dog's digestive tract. 

It's also worth noting that there are a few different types of diarrhea, and they each last for different lengths of time. Acute diarrhea lasts less than two weeks, persistent diarrhea lasts from two to four weeks, and chronic diarrhea lasts more than four weeks. However, don't wait too long before calling the doctor. If your fur baby’s diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours, it's time to contact the vet to determine if there are any underlying health problems. 

Here are some common causes of dog diarrhea:

  • Eating the wrong thing: From table scraps and human snacks to foreign objects and even grass, consuming the wrong thing can give your pooch diarrhea. Resist the urge to feed your dog leftovers and human food in general. We know it's hard to say no to those puppy dog eyes, but it's in your furry friend's best interest. Keep a watchful eye on Rex so he sticks to safe chew toys and healthy snacks, and discourage him from eating whatever he finds during outdoor walks.
  • Sudden changes in diet: Abruptly changing your dog's diet could be a precursor to diarrhea. Since a dog's digestive system takes time to adapt to new food, it's best to make changes gradually. This way, their digestive system won't get overwhelmed. For instance, if you're switching from dry kibble to fresh food, introduce small portions of the new food rather than switching the full portion at once. This will allow your dog's digestive tract to adapt without too much intestinal disruption. 
  • Parasites: Whipworms, tapeworms, giardia, coccidia, hookworms, and roundworms are just a few of the intestinal parasites that can cause dog diarrhea. As always, make sure your pooch is up-to-date on vaccines to help prevent these types of parasitic infections.
  • Infections: Viral infections such as parvovirus and distemper as well as bacterial infections such as E. coli or salmonella are other common reasons why your dog might have loose stool. Again, be sure that your pooch is current with their shots and talk to your vet about adding doggie multivitamins to your pet’s regimen.
  • Illness: There are many illnesses and medical conditions that can cause diarrhea in people, and the same goes for dogs. Inflammatory bowel disease is one potential cause, but there are other conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, and certain cancers that can cause diarrhea. Diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract typically have bloody stool, so call your vet right away if you notice this.
  • Allergies: From dirt and dust to mold and pollen, dogs can have a host of allergies. You can usually tell if your dog's diarrhea is related to allergies if they often scratch, cough, wheeze, or have watery eyes. Talk to your vet and consider giving your pooch natural allergy supplements to help stave off these unwanted symptoms.

Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea? Understanding Different Types of Diarrhea

Why does my dog have diarrhea: A chocolate lab trying to poop on the grass

Now that you know what might be causing your dog's diarrhea, it's vital to understand that not all diarrhea is the same. Just as you need to pay attention to any additional symptoms aside from your dog's runny poo, you need to observe what the poop looks like and compare it to a normal bowel movement. To be clear, a healthy dog stool should be brown with a solid and soft (not watery) texture.

Here's a brief rundown of how to "read" your dog's diarrhea to help you figure out what might be the culprit: 

  • Too-soft stool: Fido is eating the wrong thing.
  • Green stool: Your dog has likely eaten too much grass, but it could also be a parasite.
  • Greasy, grayish stool: Daisy’s diet includes too much fat or grease.
  • Yellow stool with mucus: This is usually a sign of food intolerance or an allergy.
  • White specks in stool: This often clearly indicates intestinal parasites.
  • Bloody diarrhea: This is a potentially serious condition that requires you to call your vet right away.

For more detailed info and illustrations of the different types of dog diarrhea, check out the Canine Journal. Once you talk to your vet, they may either want to see your pet in person or ask you to provide a fecal sample for further testing.

Common Treatments Options for Your Dog's Diarrhea

Why does my dog have diarrhea: A veterinarian treats a beagle

When it comes to treating your pooch's diarrhea, there are a variety of options. Of course, it all depends on the specific circumstances and what your vet recommends. In the meantime, here are some of the most tried-and-true methods that may help your doggy get over diarrhea:

  • Hydration: Diarrhea goes hand-in-hand with dehydration, so keeping your pup properly hydrated is crucial. If your buddy doesn't feel like drinking much water ⁠—  dogs should drink roughly an ounce of water per pound of body weight every day consider adding a little beef broth to it.
  • Bland diet: Before turning to over-the-counter or prescription drugs, many vets recommend putting your pet on a bland diet to calm an upset stomach. Because it's low in fat and fiber, this simple diet can help create more solid poop. Boiled meat, white rice, and pumpkin puree are just some of the go-to vittles on this eating program. 
  • Probiotics: Just as with humans, research shows that probiotics (aka "good bacteria") support your dog's digestive health, immune system, and overall well-being. As such, be sure to give your beloved pet a canine probiotic as part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Imodium: Although you might be most familiar with this over-the-counter medication for humans, Imodium can also be given to dogs for diarrhea. However, talk to your vet first for detailed instructions on how to administer it.

Get Your Precious Pup Back to Normal

Why does my dog have diarrhea: An owner holds her happy French bulldog

It goes without saying, but poop happens. While doggy diarrhea is no fun for you or your pet, chances are it's a temporary situation that can be resolved without too much stress.

Still, it's imperative that you understand the potential causes of your dog’s diarrhea and know when it might indicate an underlying health issue such as an infection, illness, allergy, or parasites. 

If your dog's diarrhea comes with other symptoms or lasts for more than 24 hours, reach out to your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. For more tips on how to keep your favorite canine as healthy and happy, check out the PetHonesty blog.