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Dog Diarrhea – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Image of a dog with an upset stomach

When your dog has diarrhea, you can’t help but be concerned. After all, diarrhea is generally a sign that something is wrong. Unfortunately, it is hard for an owner to ascertain the severity of the situation, and often, it is necessary to take your dog for a visit to your veterinarian for treatment. Yet diarrhea is sometimes simply a response to something your dog’s system finds disagreeable, and it remedies itself within a day.

How can the average pet owner determine whether their dog’s diarrhea warrants a vet visit, or is of a less serious nature? 

What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs?

Typically, diarrhea appears quite suddenly, but there are some markers that owners can look for to help them get to the root cause behind the problem. In general, diarrhea consists of fecal matter that is loose or watery. Though often seen on its own, it can also be accompanied by vomiting and extreme fatigue among other symptoms.

If your dog is in excellent health, the sudden appearance of diarrhea is rarely indicative of a serious problem. Dogs who experience a change in routine or diet will sometimes develop diarrhea as a response to the stresses they are experiencing.  However, certain types of infections are also evidenced by diarrhea and are of a far more serious nature, particularly if they are the result of a parasitic infestation.

Frequently re-occuring bouts of diarrhea warrant a trip to the veterinarian for proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. While chronic diarrhea issues are not necessarily linked to serious, life-threatening ailments, the risk of dehydration is greatly increased.

Frequent diarrhea episodes may be indicative of food allergies and sensitivities and may necessitate dietary restrictions or even a change of food entirely. Other potential causes of diarrhea include:

  • Parasites including roundworm, Giardia, hookworms, and whipworm
  • Bacteria-based infections
  • Pancreatic issues
  • Inflammation of the bowel
  • Cancer
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Liver failure
  • Heart disease

What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?

There are a number of different symptoms that indicate that your dog is suffering from diarrhea and could benefit from a visit to your local veterinary clinic.

Among the most commonly seen symptoms are:

  • Watery stool
  • Excess feces
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Vomiting
  • The presence of blood or mucus in the stool
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Increased temperature
  • General fatigue
  • Instability
  • Low mood

What is the Treatment for Dog Diarrhea?

If your dog has been experiencing chronic diarrhea for a period of a day or two, it’s time to make an appointment to visit your veterinarian. Prompt diagnosis will be key to providing the correct treatment to alleviate the problem.

Your veterinarian will need to perform a thorough physical examination to help ascertain any abnormalities in your dog’s condition that may be contributing to the diarrhea. In addition to this, a complete history of your dog’s health and recent changes within the last week or so will be extremely beneficial to your veterinarian as he or she attempts to help your dog.

If the issue causing the episodes of diarrhea is not immediately evident following a physical examination and oral history, it will be necessary to proceed to bloodwork and urinalysis. These two tests will be critical to ruling out any potential diseases that may be playing a role in your dog’s current condition.If all of these attempts remain unfruitful, your veterinarian will likely want to x-ray your dog to rule out any possible obstruction that may be responsible for straining or explosive diarrhea. It may also be wise to provide a sample of your dog’s stool for your veterinarian to assess for the presence of Giardia, Parvovirus, Cryptococcus, or other parasites.

Once diagnosis has been completed, a strategy for wellness can be devised. If the source behind the diarrhea is mild in nature, IV fluids can help restore a proper hydration balance. It is also important to refrain from feeding any food for 12-24 hours following the the final bout of diarrhea. Once food can be started again, it is wise to begin with a bland diet of boiled chicken mixed with unseasoned rice for a few days. If your dog’s fecal matter returns to normal after a period of time eating a bland diet, he may safely resume eating his regular meals.

If your dog’s diarrhea is the result of an obstruction, surgery will be necessary to remove the item causing the blockage. If an infection is the culprit behind the diarrhea, de-worming agents will be administered. It may also be necessary for your dog to take a medication designed to protect his intestines.

For the utmost in safety precautions, it is wise to adopt a schedule for regular de-worming. It is inexpensive and simple to treat, and is but one more time when an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  It is easier to prevent a parasitic infection than to treat one.

If garbage scavenging is to blame for your dog’s diarrhea episodes, you will need to devise a plan to keep him out of the garbage. Removing Fido’s access to trash receptacles is a great way to eliminate the problem entirely.

It is always prudent to exercise moderation and caution when feeding people food or table scraps to your dog. Any departure from Fido’s regular diet can upset both his tummy and his bowels and lead to unpleasant circumstances. While it is not necessary to completely eliminate these special treats from Fido’s daily routine, it is best to limit them to keep his digestive health on track.

Diarrhea is never pleasant. It’s uncomfortable for your dog and a large inconvenience—to say the least—for you. Unfortunately, it does happen. Follow these simple tips to help keep Fido in tip top shape and prevent bouts of diarrhea.

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