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How to Stop Diarrhea in Dogs

 

Reviewed for accuracy on October 22, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

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Diarrhea is a common problem in dogs, often because they will put almost anything in their mouth. But it can also be caused by more serious health problems. Some of these issues require close attention, especially if the diarrhea is severe or occurs frequently.

Dog Diarrhea: What to Watch For

Loose stools are, of course, the main indicator of diarrhea. Diarrhea may also be accompanied by vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, lethargy and other symptoms of disease.

Primary Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

Acute diarrhea (appears suddenly) in an otherwise healthy dog is often due to dietary indiscretion (scavenging or eating food outside their diet like food scraps); stress; a sudden change in diet (switching their food without a transition period); or viral, bacterial or parasitic infections.

Chronic diarrhea can be caused by dietary allergies or intolerances, stress, some types of parasites (e.g., Giardia, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms), bacterial infections, pancreatic disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, some types of cancer, and diseases outside of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., liver failure or heart disease).

These types of health issues will need to be discussed with your veterinarian and can require prescription medication.

Immediate Care for Dog Diarrhea

You should call your veterinarian for advice on how to handle the diarrhea if your dog:

  • Is very young or very old

  • Has a preexisting health condition

These pets can become severely debilitated, even when suffering from relatively mild diarrhea.

Also call your veterinarian if your dog’s diarrhea:

  • Is frequent and/or very watery

  • Contains more than just a streak of blood

  • Is dark and tarry

OR if your dog is:

  • Vomiting profusely

  • Lethargic

  • Depressed

  • In pain

These can be signs of potentially serious health conditions.

If your dog is an otherwise healthy adult, then it is reasonable to try some at-home treatments.

At-Home Treatment for Acute Diarrhea in Dogs

For healthy adult dogs who have mild diarrhea with no other symptoms:

  1. Make sure your dog has access to plenty of clean water to avoid dehydration. Encourage your dog to drink. If needed, offer dilute, low-sodium chicken or beef broth or Pedialyte in addition to the water.

  2. Give your dog a small meal of boiled, white-meat chicken (no bones or skin) and white rice—you can also use sweet potato or pumpkin instead of rice. (Pumpkin and sweet potato can also be added to your dog’s regular diet to increase their fiber intake.) You can give this diet to your dog until their stool consistency returns to normal. If your dog has chicken allergies, you should replace the protein with a hypoallergenic option.

  3. If the diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call your vet immediately.

At-Home Treatment for Acute Diarrhea With Vomiting in Dogs

For dogs with diarrhea who have vomited only once or twice:

  1. Remove all food for 8-12 hours.

  2. To avoid dehydration, offer your dog small amounts of water frequently throughout the day. If needed, you can also offer some dilute, low-sodium chicken or beef broth or Pedialyte in addition to water.

  3. When your dog has not vomited for at least 8-12 hours, offer a small amount of boiled, white- meat chicken (no bones, skin or spices) and white rice.

  4. Wait two hours. If your dog has not vomited during this period, then you can offer another small meal of cooked chicken and rice.

  5. Continue this bland diet for 1-3 days, gradually increasing the amount of food offered at each meal and lengthening the time between meals until the stool consistency returns to normal. You will need to do a gradual transition back to your dog’s typical diet in order to avoid another gastrointestinal upset.

  6. If the diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call your vet immediately.

Diagnosis for Dogs With Diarrhea

If your dog suffers from frequent liquid bowel movements, or the current attack is severe and/or associated with vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain or weight loss, make an appointment with a veterinarian.

Diagnosing the cause of dog diarrhea can sometimes be as easy as running a simple fecal exam. But sometimes, it can be challenging and require different procedures such as blood work, abdominal X-rays or ultrasound, endoscopy, or exploratory surgery.

How to Prevent Diarrhea in Dogs

Here are several ways to reduce the occurrence of diarrhea in dogs:

  • Do not suddenly change your dog’s diet.

  • Do not give your dog bones as toys (firm, rubber chew toys are a better choice).

  • Do not let your dog play with small objects that could be swallowed.

  • Do not feed your dog table scraps.

  • Do not allow your dog to scavenge.

  • Always keep your dog up-to-date with deworming and vaccinations.

Learn how to properly use a bland diet to treat a dog with diarrhea

Dog Stool Infographic

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