Diarrhea is unpleasant for everyone involved, not least of all your dog. Dog diarrhea is one of the most common reasons pet owners turn to their veterinarians…the good news is, it’s not usually anything to be too worried about.
That said, you do need to do a few things if your dog has diarrhea. Here’s what to know.
The Causes of Dog Diarrhea
Just like in humans, dogs get diarrhea for a wide variety of reasons. In most cases, the exact cause is never determined after the diarrhea runs (sorry) its course! Most bouts of tummy troubles in dogs come from some kind of “dietary indiscretion” like eating garbage or chowing down on a plate of forgotten chicken nuggets.
A few of the common causes of dog diarrhea include:
- Eating too much, something slightly spoiled, or something with too much oil/sugar/fat
- A sudden change in diet, including switching to a new food, or the introduction of new medication
- Gastrointestinal bacteria such as Campylobacter
- Gastrointestinal viruses, especially in younger dogs
- Gastrointestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, or Giardia
- Stress or anxiety
- Irritable Bowel Disease or other inflammatory issues
- Disorders of the liver, pancreas, or thyroid or other metabolic diseases
How Long Does Dog Diarrhea Last?
It’s a good question, and one most pet parents are anxious to answer. Unfortunately, there’s no real timeline for diarrhea, particularly when it can’t easily be linked to some specific food or illness. As long as the diarrhea isn’t too voluminous and your dog seems to be drinking and eating plenty, diarrhea should usually only last 3-4 days before clearing up on its own. If it doesn’t, it’s definitely time to call the vet.
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How to Know if Diarrhea in Your Dog is Serious
Why do dog parents call the vet about diarrhea when it usually goes away on its own? Because occasionally it can be an indicator of something more serious.
To know whether to worry about your dog’s diarrhea, consider the following: volume, blood, and symptoms:
- Volume: Small, mucousy diarrheas usually start in the large bowel and while uncomfortable for your dog, typically sort themselves out. Large volume, watery diarrheas from the small bowl are more likely to result in dehydration and/or electrolyte imbalance.
- Blood: If you see blood in your dog’s stool whether or not it’s diarrhea, make a veterinary appointment immediately.
- Symptoms: The presence of other symptoms is usually the best way to tell diarrhea is a sign of something more serious. If you notice any of the following in tandem with unusual bowel movements, call your vet.
- Loss of appetite or thirst
- Obvious pain or discomfort
- Lethargy or extreme weakness
- Lack of urination
Know that diarrhea is much more likely to have negative consequences for dogs who are older, younger, or otherwise in compromised health.
How to Treat Dog Diarrhea
Okay, so you know all about dog diarrhea, but how do you stop it? Well, in many cases diarrhea simply needs to run its course, but there’s actually a few things you can do to stem the tide, so to speak.
First and foremost, make sure your dog drinks plenty of water. Give him chicken broth or even low-sugar Pedialyte if you have to! If he’ll eat, stick with plain white rice and boiled chicken (no skin) for a day or two until his stools get back to normal.
If you consult your veterinarian about your dog’s diarrhea, he may recommend a number of diagnostic tests depending on the circumstances. If you recently took your dog swimming in a lake, for example, it might make sense to test his feces for the presence of Giardia. Knowing exactly what’s causing the diarrhea helps inform your dog’s treatment.
There are a number of antidiarrheal agents available that your vet may prescribe to help firm up your dog’s stools including Metronidazole and tylosin. Depending on the cause of the diarrhea, he may also need to start your dog on a deworming medication or another prescription to help treat the underlying issue. If your dog frequently has bouts of unexplained diarrhea, talk to your vet about probiotics and/or your dog’s diet.