In dogs, diarrhea is a common problem, and stopping it is often as simple as controlling your dog’s diet. Some cases of diarrhea in dogs, however, are caused by health issues other than mild dietary indiscretion. These cases require prompt veterinary attention.
What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs
Potential causes of diarrhea in dogs range from mild to severe. Some conditions that cause this problem include the following:
- Rapid change in diet
- Eating garbage
- Eating table scraps
- Food allergies or intolerances
- Intestinal parasites
- Ingesting certain poisonous plants or other toxins
- Viral infections, including parvovirus
- Bacterial infections
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Certain cancers in dogs
- Cushing’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Partial intestinal obstruction
Most commonly, diarrhea that occurs suddenly in an otherwise healthy dog is caused by the animal having eaten something that caused minor intestinal irritation. This type of dog diarrhea usually resolves quickly with supportive care.
It is important to note that severe dog diarrhea in a young unvaccinated dog could be a symptom of a highly contagious and severe infectious disease called parvovirus. If you are dealing with diarrhea in an unvaccinated puppy or a young dog with an uncertain vaccination history, contact your veterinarian immediately. More about prevent pet diseases with vaccinations.
How to Read Your Dog’s Poop
It’s very important to read the signals contained in your dog’s poop, because they can provide valuable clues as to just what’s going on internally with your pet. Quite often, diarrhea in dogs will develop as a result of something it has recently ingested, but the causes might also be more serious, so you shouldn’t just ignore it and hope it goes away.
Here are the various colors and consistencies you might encounter in diarrhea, and some possible causes:
Green – since the color of your dog’s poop is often an indicator of the color of foods recently eaten, greenish poop may be a sign that your dog has begun eating grass for some reason – observe its behavior to determine if this might be the case. This can also signal something more serious, such as a gall bladder issue, so don’t let it go for too long.
Orange or yellow – this can be an indicator of a biliary issue, which means bile is leaking from the gall bladder into the abdomen, and coming out as excrement. It can also be a sign of a liver issue, and in these cases, there may be accompanying symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and visible jaundice.
Red streaks – this usually means there is an amount of blood in your dog’s stool, and the first thing to check is whether or not there are visible cuts around the anus which might be causing it.
Black and tarry – this often indicates bleeding in the upper gastro-intestinal tract (the stomach or small intestine), and is a sign that needs to be reacted to quickly, before it develops into a serious condition. Bleeding ulcers sometimes cause black, tarry stools, and dogs have also been known to ingest rat poison which induces this appearance in their stool.
Gray and greasy – this may again be an indicator of bile leakage into the dog’s abdomen, or it could be a sign of trouble with the pancreas.
White spots (that look like grains of rice) – this is very often an indicator that your dog has tapeworms, which will need to be removed by the vet.
Chocolate brown – this is what your dog’s poop should always look like. In addition to the chocolate color, it should be shaped roughly like logs, and be firm enough to scoop easily.
Something to keep in mind when analyzing your dog’s stool is whether or not it’s normal for your dog – for instance, diarrhea that just won’t stop is not normal for any dog. On the other hand, some dog breeds are simply more susceptible to diarrhea. If your dog is on some kind of medication, it’s entirely possible that it’s affecting its digestive system. In many cases, you may just have to go with your gut feeling – no one knows your dog better than you, and if you feel that something’s wrong, chances are you should have it checked out.
What Stops Diarrhea in Dogs
If you have a healthy adult dog with sudden dog diarrhea and no other symptoms, you can try to treat the problem with home care. Home care for a dog with diarrhea involves providing a period of gut rest to allow the intestines to heal. This is accomplished by feeding small amounts of bland food, such as chicken and rice, for a few days. After the diarrhea stops, you can gradually reintroduce the dog’s regular food.
In addition to controlling diet, it is also critical that you give any dog with diarrhea constant access to fresh water. Because diarrhea is more watery than normal feces, animals with this problem can become dehydrated easily.
Diarrhea in young puppies, senior dogs and animals with chronic illnesses can quickly become a life-threatening problem. These animals usually require more intensive supportive care than you can provide at home. Adult dogs with severe diarrhea, diarrhea that does not respond to home care, diarrhea accompanied by other symptoms or diarrhea that contains blood or foreign material also require prompt veterinary care.
In a dog with diarrhea that is chronic or due to something other than minor intestinal upset, deciding on an effective treatment requires finding the cause of the problem. For example, dogs with allergies or other autoimmune conditions require dietary modification. Animals with bacterial infections need antibiotics. If the diarrhea is caused by a tumor or obstruction, the animal may require surgery.
Home remedies for dog diarrhea
There are several home remedies for dog diarrhea that can be very effective, and when using these, you could see improvement in as little as a day, if you hit on the right cause. First of all, try having your dog fast for either a half-day or a full day, so anything inside won’t be eliminated quite so quickly.
Encourage your dog to drink lots of water when diarrhea appears, because you may be able to flush out whatever is causing it. If you dog has been on some kind of spicy diet, change it to more bland foods which perhaps will be less irritable to his digestive tract. Sometimes just feeding your dog smaller portions will help the digestive tract be more efficient in its work, and get your dog back on track to good health.