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Dogs and Diarrhea

Dogs can have diarrhea for any number of reasons. Diarrhea is a common symptom of many canine ailments. It can also mean that your dog simply has an upset stomach or ate something that disagrees with him. For most cases of acute diarrhea (a sudden case of diarrhea that lasts for a day or so), there is no reason to take your dog to see a vet. Your dog’s own gastrointestinal system will expel whatever is causing the upset and he should quickly return to normal. However, for diarrhea that lasts longer or which has some distinctive features (blood) or if there are other serious symptoms, you should take your dog to the veterinarian.

Common Causes of Diarrhea

Dogs get diarrhea for the same reasons that humans do. It is a sign of an upset stomach or a virus. If you are over-feeding your dog or feeding him rich tablescraps, this can be one reason why a dog would have a sudden, acute case of diarrhea.

Dogs can also have diarrhea if they have a virus such as parvo. Parvo is a serious disease which can kill dogs, especially unvaccinated dogs. Most cases of parvo are seen in dogs six months old or younger. Bloody diarrhea is often found with parvo, along with a distinctive odor. Serious vomiting also accompanies the virus. If you suspect that your puppy or dog has parvo you should take him to the veterinarian right away for a diagnosis and treatment. This is the only way to save his life.

Allergies can also cause some dogs to have diarrhea. Some dogs are much more sensitive to foods that other dogs. If your dog has problems with his diet you may need to talk to a dietary consultant.

Most attacks of diarrhea are in the acute form but some dogs do have chronic diarrhea. You should be sure to have your dog checked for parasites such as worms and infections from things such as giardia and clostridium. Irritable Bowel Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease could also be possible causes of chronic diarrhea. You will need to work with your veterinarian to provide treatment for your dog.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

Although diarrhea itself is often the primary symptom of a dog with diarrhea, the diarrhea can appear in different forms. It doesn’t have to be a watery discharge. Any kind of stool that is softer than normal should be noted, especially if your dog continues to have this kind of stool for more than one or two bowel movements.

You should also pay attention to the nature of the stool. What color is it? Is there blood in it? Is it yellow? Is it watery? Is your dog trying to pass gas? Is he straining to defecate without having a bowel movement? Is he having explosive diarrhea? You should note all of these clues to your dog’s diarrhea. If you do need to take your dog to the veterinarian he or she will ask you about your dog’s stool. You may need to take a sample with you for testing.

Diarrhea Treatment

If your dog is having a temporary, acute case of diarrhea he will probably feel and act all right otherwise. He may continue to play and even want to eat. Make sure that your dog continues to drink water so he doesn’t become dehydrated. You may want to buy some Pedialyte or electrolytes sports drink (plain) to give to him in place of water. This will keep his electrolytes in balance since he is expending some through his diarrhea.

You can treat most cases of simple acute diarrhea at home. You will need to put your dog on a bland diet for a few days until his stomach returns to normal. Cut your dog’s portion size in half for a few days. He doesn’t need to fill up on a lot of food when he’s having diarrhea. Keep things light. Give him a bland meal such as 1/3 meat (chicken — no skin or bones, or hamburger) and 2/3 rice. You can also add a little cottage cheese to this mix. You may also give your dog a couple of tablespoons of yogurt and mash a sweet potato for him. All of these foods are bland and easy to digest. They should help your dog’s stomach return to normal over a couple of days.

Signs of Diarrhea

Do take your dog to the veterinarian if you see the following signs:

  • Your dog acts like he doesn’t feel well
  • He is lethargic
  • Your dog acts like his stomach is bloated or he has abdominal pain
  • He has a fever
  • Your dog seems dehydrated
  • Your dog has repeated vomiting
  • There is more than a trace of blood in the stool


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