Doggy Diarrhea 101
Dr. Christy Michael, BVMS
Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital
What are the common causes?
Let’s face it, no matter how diligent we are, our canine companions can occasionally develop embarrassing problems like diarrhea. Causes for such a simple symptom can range from issues as simple as stress, a parasite, diet change, or eating something they shouldn’t; to complex health issues such as gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and food allergies, just to name a few.
What are common treatments?
Often an uncomplicated episode or two of simple diarrhea will resolve with treatment as simple as a bland diet—for example, boiled white rice, boiled white meat chicken, or cottage cheese. However, sometimes the treatment can become much more complex. Treatment for more serious diarrhea may require fluid therapy from your veterinarian, antibiotics, dewormer, pain relief, stomach protectants, dietary adjustment, lifestyle changes, or other treatment depending on the cause of the diarrhea. Some dogs may require treatment in the hospital that allows them to go home immediately afterward, while some may need to be hospitalized for more intensive treatment.
When does the condition warrant a visit to your veterinarian?
While it’s anything but fabulous, diarrhea is one of the most common complaints of my emergency room patients, and there are definitely times when either an ER visit or a routine visit with your regular veterinarian is warranted. Reasons to have your dog examined for diarrhea on an emergency basis would include severe, profuse watery diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, suspicion that your dog is in pain, known exposure to a toxin, or other concurrent symptoms such as vomiting or loss of appetite. Reasons to have your dog examined on a more routine visit with your regular veterinarian may include long–term diarrhea, visual parasites in diarrhea, or repeated or intermittent episodes of diarrhea over time. If you do have your dog examined by a veterinarian for diarrhea, it is always a good idea to collect a sample of their stool if possible just in case your pet is unable to provide a fresh sample at the vet. Use plastic bags and gloves and always remember to wash your hands after handling feces, as some diseases can be transmitted between animals and people! Depending on your dog’s history and physical examination, your veterinarian may recommend analysis of a fecal sample, blood work, or other specific tests.
What are some everyday measures to take to combat this issue?
It may seem simple, but it is important to pay attention to your dog’s bowel movements. Even if they go outside off leash in a fenced yard, go with them to watch for any signs of problems. Watch what they lick or eat both outdoors and indoors and restrict access to inappropriate materials. Avoid feeding rich table scraps that can be challenging to digest. Remember that a healthy diet goes a long way toward a healthy gut and a healthy dog!