It's a rather unpleasant subject, but for those who own dogs, the likelihood of encountering the less-than-pleasant task of cleaning up after bouts of diarrhea, often referred to as “doggie runs,” is all too familiar. Diarrhea in dogs is a frequent incident, yet its occurrence, duration, and severity can vary from one canine to another.
While it may be challenging to completely prevent your dog from experiencing diarrhea (or even passing small amount of watery stool), understanding the underlying causes of this condition can significantly reduce both the frequency and duration of these undesirable episodes. Fortunately, there are medications and supplements designed to alleviate dog diarrhea, providing a way to help put a stop to it.
How the Tummy Works
There exist several distinctions in the way dogs and humans process food. Firstly, in humans, the shape of the jaw and the presence of salivary enzymes initiate the breakdown of food components in the mouth.
Conversely, dogs possess mouths and jaws designed for tearing, crushing, and swiftly ingesting their food. The primary purpose of a dog's salivary enzymes is to combat bacteria, allowing them to handle items in their mouths, be it food or other objects, that would potentially result in a hospital visit for their human counterparts and almost certainly induce diarrhea in people.
Food swiftly travels down a dog's esophagus and enters their stomach in larger portions, where the majority of digestion occurs. Dog stomach acids are roughly 3x more potent than those found in humans, enabling them to digest food that remains relatively intact.
Under normal circumstances, the transit time for food to traverse a dog's mouth, small intestine, and large intestine should be less than 10 hours, culminating in the production of well-formed, solid feces.
Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs
Numerous factors can perturb the harmonious functioning of a dog's digestive system, leading to instances of diarrhea or, less commonly, constipation. Some of these factors, like excessive grass consumption, are relatively benign. (Certain dogs do take pleasure in grazing on grass.) In contrast, other factors can pose severe threats, such as the presence of non-digestible objects (e.g., rocks) obstructing the stomach or the onset of serious ailments like cancer.
When faced with uncertainty, it is always prudent to seek guidance from your veterinarian. Dog diarrhea usually stems from a variety of causes, with the primary culprits often being:
- Intake. Consuming excessive amounts of food, ingesting garbage, or partaking in spoiled food can all lead to this condition. In veterinary terminology, it is formally referred to as “garbage toxicosis” or “garbage gut.”
- Diet modification. A dog's digestive system may require several days to acclimate to processing novel protein sources. This is why numerous dog food manufacturers suggest a gradual transition when transitioning from one food brand to another.
- Food intolerance.
- Hypersensitivities / Allergies.
- Toxic substances or plants.
- Ingesting an inedible foreign object.
- Stress or emotional upset.
- Bacterial illnesses, like salmonella.
- Parasites: The majority of these parasites will induce sickness in puppies or in adult individuals with compromised immune systems.
- Infections from prevalent viruses like:
- Canine coronavirus
- Antibacterial drugs and other meds.
- Medical conditions, such as kidney and liver ailments, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.
Dog Poop and Their Health
The texture and color of diarrhea provide valuable insights into its underlying cause and the condition of your dog's digestive system. Make sure to take careful note of these characteristics and any other relevant details when describing your dog's symptoms to your veterinarian.
While many instances of dog diarrhea can resolve with a few days of home treatment, it's advisable to contact your vet if it persists beyond that or if there's no apparent benign cause (such as rummaging through the trash or drinking from puddles).
Purina's infographic offers a visual reference for what is considered “normal” canine feces – it should be chocolate brown, log-shaped, compact, and easy to scoop. According to experts, it should have a consistency similar to cookie dough or Play-Doh when pressed.
On the other hand, if you observe large volumes of stool, a pudding-like or watery texture, the presence of jelly-like mucus, or blood streaks, these are not indicative of a normal condition.
The color of your dog's feces can also offer significant insights into their internal health. Typically, feces should be a healthy chocolate brown color. However, if you notice unusual colors such as orange, green, or gray, it could indicate potential problems with organs like the liver, gall bladder, or pancreas.
The presence of black, tarry stool in dogs is a grave concern, often suggesting internal bleeding. If you observe such black tarry stool or bright red blood in your dog's feces, it is crucial to promptly contact your veterinarian. Purina has thoughtfully provided a helpful reference in the form of a color wheel to assist in identifying various fecal colors and their potential implications.
Alternative Methods for Interpreting Canine Feces
Being aware of the usual color, shape, and consistency of your dog's feces plays a pivotal role in both you and your veterinarian's ability to identify the underlying issue when your dog experiences diarrhea. These factors provide crucial clues to help your vet pinpoint the location of the problem within your dog's digestive tract.
However, the analysis doesn't stop there. There are additional noteworthy aspects to consider regarding your dog's stool, apart from its color, each offering valuable insights into the reasons behind your dog's digestive issues:
- Smaller amounts of stool with visible straining, occurring several times within an hour, could indicate inflammation in your dog's large intestine.
- When your dog produces three or four instances of feces with a large volume, this may suggest a disorder in the small intestine.
The presence of irregularly shaped or discolored solid objects can provide insights into what your dog has ingested. For instance, discovering several small, white, rice-like shapes may signal a tapeworm infestation. Finding grass, wood, or string in the stool might indicate that your dog consumed something they couldn't digest.
Purina created a highly detailed chart that illustrates how veterinarians evaluate the texture of canine feces using a one-to-seven rating scale.
While it might not be the most pleasant task, taking a moment to inspect your dog's feces during your backyard cleanup or daily walk is crucial. This practice allows you to establish a baseline for what your dog's regular feces should look like. Consequently, when you observe any abnormalities or if your dog experiences diarrhea, you can provide your veterinarian with as much pertinent information as possible.
Rest assured, they are well-accustomed to handling these matters. Equipped with your knowledge of what's typical and atypical for your dog's feces, your vet will be better equipped to advise whether an examination is necessary or if you can manage your dog's diarrhea at home.
When to See the Vet?
It is imperative to promptly seek veterinary assistance if your dog's diarrhea is accompanied by any of the subsequent indicators:
- Recurring vomiting
- Unproductive retching
- Appetite loss
- Obvious tummy ache
- Gums are pale, white, bluish, or gray in color
- Duration of loose stool is more than 24 hours
- Consumption of rodenticide (or any toxic substance)
- Substantial quantity of blood in the feces
- Pre-existing factors like advanced age, diabetes, Cushing's syndrome, cancer, or any underlying health conditions
The ingestion of foreign objects like toys, gloves, bags, or any other item should be regarded as an emergency situation, as it may lead to gastrointestinal tract blockage requiring immediate surgical intervention.
In the case of adult dogs, if diarrhea is the sole symptom, you may choose to wait for a couple of days to observe whether the diarrhea resolves on its own. However, if the diarrhea persists for more than three days, it should prompt seeking veterinary attention, as it could indicate an underlying health issue.
Be sure to bring a recent sample of your dog's feces to your vet, which can be tested for the presence of parasites and pathogens. Veterinarians emphasize that in approximately 50% of cases, such tests can reveal potential causes of chronic diarrhea.
If the examination yields negative results for parasites and pathogens, your veterinarian may recommend a dietary trial to investigate whether the diarrhea is related to a food sensitivity. An elimination diet is considered the most reliable approach for pinpointing which specific foods may be triggering the issue.
What to Do?
Numerous instances of dog diarrhea are relatively mild, and with the guidance of your veterinarian, they can often be addressed at home, sparing the need for a visit to the vet's clinic. Your dog's diarrhea may exhibit improvements through a straightforward treatment plan, which may involve:
Over-the-Counter Dog Diarrhea Meds
Having an accessible over-the-counter dog diarrhea remedy is a wise precaution and can be conveniently ordered online for prompt delivery, catering to those sporadic instances of loose stools or diarrhea that can affect any dog.
Temporarily refraining from feeding your dog for a period ranging from 12 to 24 hours, while providing them with regular, small amounts of fresh, clean water, can assist in addressing the underlying cause of digestive distress and promote the settling of your dog's gastrointestinal tract.
This practice is generally the initial approach to managing diarrhea. However, before opting for a fasting period for your dog, it's essential to ensure that your dog is in a condition that can tolerate it. If you have any doubts, it's advisable to consult your veterinarian. Notably, puppies and elderly dogs, for instance, are not suitable candidates for fasting.
Additionally, fasting may not be suitable for smaller dogs who lack the same physical reserves as their larger counterparts. Always seek your vet's guidance if you have any uncertainty about whether fasting is suitable for your dog.
Diarrhea in dogs has the potential to lead to dehydration, so it is crucial to provide your dog with continuous access to fresh, clean water. In some cases, you may consider offering diluted, unflavored Pedialyte to help maintain electrolyte balance, but it is essential to do so only under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Following the fasting period to alleviate diarrhea in your dog, a gradual reintroduction of simple foods into their diet is typically recommended. Many dog owners begin with foods known to act as binders, aiding in the restoration of normal stool consistency. Some well-established approaches encompass:
- Plain, cooked rice.
- Potatoes boiled without their skin
- Plain, low-sodium, low-fat cottage cheese
- Herbs like fennel may possess properties that can calm the digestive system.
- Yogurt without flavoring and containing live cultures can be beneficial for dogs that can digest milk and dairy products.
- Diarrheal medications. This may be a viable choice; however, they might necessitate a prescription and should only be administered following the guidance of your veterinarian.
- Rice Water: Cook a generous quantity of premium white rice in ample water, strain out the rice grains, and provide your dog with the cooled, starchy, creamy white broth that remains. To enhance its appeal, you can add a touch of unsalted chicken broth or a spoonful of meat-based baby food.
- Tailored dog food options: Certain brands provide specialized dog food designed for sensitive stomachs, which can provide relief for digestive issues. In some instances, a prescription from your veterinarian might be necessary to obtain sensitive digestion prescription dog food.
- Pumpkin: Whether you use homemade pumpkin puree, canned 100% pumpkin puree from your pantry, pet-safe pumpkin powder, or a specialized canned pumpkin formulated for dogs, it's worth noting that this remedy possesses a unique quality: it's effective for addressing both diarrhea and constipation. If you opt for store-bought canned pumpkin, exercise caution and scrutinize the label to confirm that it contains 100% pure pumpkin and not “pumpkin pie filling,” which may contain added sugar and other ingredients aside from pumpkin.
Approaches that prove effective in managing one dog's diarrhea might not yield the same results in another dog. Therefore, some experimentation may be necessary to determine the most suitable solution when your dog experiences diarrhea. Keeping a record of what proves successful in halting your dog's diarrhea and what does not can be beneficial, as it equips you with a plan of action if your dog encounters diarrhea again.
Once you've identified a recuperative diet that is gentle on your dog's digestion and doesn't trigger a recurrence of diarrhea, you can gradually increase the portions over several days. Afterward, you can start reintroducing small quantities of your dog's regular food until your dog's feces return to a normal state.
Preventing Diarrhea in Dogs
Optimal canine well-being is achieved through preventive measures. Here are some guidelines for averting diarrhea in your dog:
- Monitor your pet's response to the new diet and make any necessary adjustments.
- Kindly refrain from taking your pet to public areas until they have completed their entire vaccine series.
- Ensure your dog remains safeguarded from parasites by consistently administering monthly preventatives for heartworm, fleas, and ticks.
- Remember to maintain your pet's vaccination schedule to shield them from diseases such as panleukopenia and viral infections like parvovirus.
- Protect your pet from potential dangers, such as leftover food, bones, and household items that could lead to poisoning or the ingestion of foreign objects.
- Introduce the new food gradually, spanning several days to weeks, with a gradual increase in the daily amount. This approach allows the gastrointestinal tract to adapt to the new diet over time.
- When uncertain, seek guidance from your veterinarian for a safe and healthful dietary transition.
Understanding and addressing diarrhea in dogs is essential for the well-being of our four-legged companions. By following preventive measures, maintaining a healthy diet, and seeking professional advice when needed, we can ensure that our pets enjoy a comfortable and happy life, free from the discomfort of this common digestive issue. A little care and attention can go a long way in ensuring our canine friends remain in the best of health, and our bonds with them continue to flourish.
Fortunately, the outlook for dogs experiencing diarrhea is typically very positive. However, it's important not to delay seeking help until your dog becomes dehydrated due to excessive vomiting. The sooner you reach out to a veterinarian and address your dog's diarrhea, the sooner your furry companion will recover and feel more comfortable.
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