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Dog Diarrhea- All You Need To Know

What is Dog Diarrhea?

Dog diarrhea is a gastrointestinal disruption causing watery and frequent bowel movements. Dogs’ teeth and salivary enzymes are designed to tear apart flesh, crack and swallow food items and kill certain bacterias. Dog diarrhea, similar to diarrhea in humans, is a compilation of various diseases that form unhealthy stools. Unformed and loose stools are the sign of diarrhea, which occurs frequently. It is essential to understand the causes and implications of diarrhea. Dog diarrhea is generally treatable but on occasion it can be life-threatening.

Examples of severe consequences of diarrhea include

  • Organ failure
  • Development of cancer (diarrhea may be an early symptom)
  • Long term breathing difficulties due to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration

The Digestive System of Dogs

The digestive system of dogs is also different from that of humans. The jaw and salivary enzymes that humans possess break down every morsel in the mouth, whereas jaws in dogs help tear, gobble the food down, and crush. In the case of dog’s salivary enzymes, they can only kill bacteria, which is the reason behind tolerating any items. Food travels fast through a dog’s esophagus in chunks to the stomach, where strong acids help digest the food easily. Normally, the whole digestion process will happen in under 10 hours, producing a healthy stool. If this balance is disturbed, it will lead to diarrhea or constipation in dogs. 

Is Diarrhea Common For Dogs?

Yes, diarrhea commonly occurs in all dogs, but the severity and frequency can vary from one dog to another depending on the causes.

Causes Of Dog Diarrhea

Diarrhea is not a disease, but it could be a sign of other life-threatening health issues in a dog. Dog diarrhea can occur through the intestinal infection caused by bacteria, intestinal worms, and coccidia. Also, consuming litter from litter boxes and other offensive objects can cause diarrhea in dogs. Along with these, a change in the dog’s diet can also cause sudden diarrhea. Studies have shown that stress from travel and environmental change can cause unforeseen diarrhea.

Although diarrhea is common in dogs, diarrhea can also be a symptom of severe health disorders. Conditions like systemic illness, intestinal disease, allergies, or organ dysfunction can cause diarrhea.  

In a broader spectrum, dog diarrhea is the malfunction of gastrointestinal stretch. Here is a list of some of the causes of dog diarrhea:  

Improper Diet: Excessive food intake, feeding on garbage or spoiled food is considered garbage gut or garbage toxicosis and can cause diarrhea in dogs.

Grass Eating: Sometimes, dogs might overeat grass which can lead to diarrhea. Diarrhea because of this reason is not a serious issue, and the dog will be cured in a day or two.

Intolerance to Food: Dogs can be intolerant to certain foods like milk products, salt, sugar, beef, wheat which may vary from dog to dog. Eating such foods can trigger diarrhea.

Allergies:  Food allergens can be dairy products, meat, soy, eggs, and gluten found in wheat. It is recommended to avoid such foods if the dog is allergic to them. Including probiotics, fish oils, fresh grounded flax seeds, Lecithin granules, nutritional yeast, kelp powder alfalfa, nettles, spirulina in their diet will improve their overall digestive health.

Toxic materials or plants: Materials like toys, socks, plants, or leaves can be toxic to dogs causing more severe illness along with diarrhea.

Indigestion: Indigestible materials like plastics or stones can disturb the balance of the digestive system triggering diarrhea.

Parasites: Puppies and adult dogs with weakened immune systems are susceptible to parasites like roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, giardia, hookworms, viruses like parvovirus, coronavirus, distemper, and bacterias such as leptospirosis, salmonella, or E. coli overgrowth can cause infections in the gastrointestinal tract causing diarrhea.

Other illnesses: Lymphangiectasia, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcer, colitis, organ dysfunction, disruption in the gastrointestinal tract, hypothyroidism, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, addison’s disease, and diseases in the kidney, liver, heart, and pancreas could also be causing dog diarrhea. 

Other Medications: Stomach upset due to some medicines can be the cause of diarrhea.

Stress or Anxiety: Like humans, dogs will also have physical responses to psychological issues like trauma, pain, stress. 

Can Human Foods Cause Dog Diarrhea?

Yes, human food is a leading cause of diarrhea in dogs. Most dog owners share leftovers with dogs and while it generally is a sign of affection, it is actually not healthy for your dog. So, please stop feeding food from your plate as it might affect your dog’s digestion!    

Dogs cannot properly digest high sugar, salt, and fat. Food containing any of these can lead to diarrhea. Vegetables such as green beans, carrots, and fruits like apples without seeds, can be fed to dogs. It is best to visit a vet and ask for a diet chart for your dog, which would be best for the dog’s GI tract.  

Types of Dog Diarrhea

 It is important to note that there are various types of dog diarrhea. If you are a dog owner, you must know the different kinds in order to best help your dog receive the right form of treatment. Dog diarrhea can be categorized as,

  • Acute Diarrhea
  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Large Bowel Diarrhea
  • Small Bowel Diarrhea
  • Diarrhea and Vomiting

Acute Diarrhea

 Acute diarrhea doesn’t need any medication and will be cured in a day or two. What should you do?

  • Carefully monitor the dog. 
  • Provide enough drinking water to prevent dehydration. 

When should you consult a vet?

  •  if diarrhea lasts for more than two days.
  •  if there is blood or mucus in the stool.

Chronic Diarrhea

This type of diarrhea can be identified by

  • Diarrhea lasting more than two weeks
  • Repeated occurrence of diarrhea 

Chronic Diarrhea can be caused due to other illnesses like 

  • Cancer
  • Dysbiosis 
  • Parasites
  • Exocrine Pancreas Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Repeated intake of intolerant food
  • Imbalanced diet leading to weight loss, lethargy, and fragile coat. 

Large Bowel Diarrhea

Large Bowel Diarrhea originating from the large intestine is often called squirts and can be identified by,

  • Increased Frequency
  • Elimination in Small volumes
  • Straining to defecate
  • Blood in the stool
  • Mucus in the stool

It is natural to be concerned if blood is in the dog’s stool. This is a clear indication of inflammation, and it is best if a veterinarian is visited.

What does the colon do? It works in two phases:

  • It stores the stool until it exits.
  • It reabsorbs water for the prevention of dehydration.

The blood vessels are closer to the colon’s surface, and so when the colon tries to resorb water to avoid dehydration, the blood vessels will break due to strain and inflammation, leading to blood in the stool. Mucous glands overproduce mucus when there is inflammation to help in lubrication resulting in mucus in the stool. However, too much blood or mucus in the stool requires immediate medical attention.

Small Bowel Diarrhea

Small Bowel diarrhea is stool arising from the small intestine which can be identified by,

  • Large and frothy stool
  • Average frequency
  • No straining to eliminate

The stool should not have any blood or mucus. If there is blood, it will be digested, and the stool will be black.

Small Bowel Diarrhea is mainly caused when the absorption of nutrients by the small intestine is disturbed. Dogs with small bowel diarrhea will show malnutrition signs, which are,

  • Increased Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Weak Hair

Other Diarrhea Symptoms And What They Mean

Diarrhea results in lower absorption of water, electrolytes, and nutrients.

Vomiting along with Diarrhea   

This is a red alert! Vomiting along with diarrhea can be fatal for the dog. It indicates inflammation in both Upper Gastrointestinal Tract and the stomach. A small amount of fat-treat can cause pancreatitis. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes within the rest of the things, causing inflammation. This can cause abdominal pain along with diarrhea and vomiting.

The vomit might be black, blue, and red; this indicates that the vomit contains blood. Vomiting containing blood should suggest that you have to run to the vet immediately, or it can be fatal.

Color and Consistency of Dog Diarrhea

The color and consistency of the stool can help identify the causes and proper treatment for dog diarrhea.

Brown, consistent stool in the shape of logs with the amount proportional to food quantity is the normal, healthy stool.

Yellow diarrhea may be because of bacteria growth, insufficient bile production, coccidia, or liver diseases. The color is yellow due to the bland diet of the dog. If the dog is eating chicken and rice, it mixes up with the GI tract’s yellow bile.

Black or dark brown stool because of the bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, and the blood is digested. Due to the blood’s digestion, the color of stool changes from blackish green to black. Black diarrhea is also named melena. Other reasons could be kidney or pancreas diseases. 

Grey diarrhea results from parasites, insufficiency in bile, or other pancreatic issues.

Green stool is mostly due to excessive grass-eating, but it could also be because of the gallbladder or gastrointestinal issues.

Blue diarrhea is a medical emergency, and the sample stool must be taken to the vet. If the dog had eaten plastic or other toxic materials, resulting diarrhea would be blue.

Red or streaks of red diarrhea mean blood in the stool or cuts in the dog’s anal area. Colitis is the cause of hematochezia or bloody diarrhea in dogs. This comes under Large-Bowel diarrhea. It occurs due to the breakage of blood vessels in the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract. The breakage of a blood vessel leads to blood strain through the stool. Blood in small amounts can be normal, but medical intervention is essential if more blood is in the feces. Parvovirus, bacteria, hemorrhage could be the reason for the blood.   White spots in the stool could mean tapeworms or other parasites affecting the dog.

Is Dog Diarrhea a Complicated Issue?

Yes, dog diarrhea could be a sign of other life-threatening health issues. So, it is essential to seek veterinary help if diarrhea lasts for more than two days or recurring frequently.

When to Consult a Vet To Treat Diarrhea

It is necessary to consult a veterinarian and get medical under the following situations,

  • Frequent, severe diarrhea in a single day.
  • If diarrhea exists for more than 48 hours.
  • Blood in the stool or vomit.
  • Worms in the stool.
  • Black or blue stool.
  • If the dog is weak and lethargic or with fever.
  • If you suspect that your dog has eaten any toxic materials.
  • If the dog has other illnesses.
  • Diarrhea because of other medications.
  • If the dog’s gum is pale, blue, white, grey.
  • If the dog seems to be in physical pain.

Diagnostic Tests for Dog Diarrhea

The veterinarian will run some tests to determine the cause of dog diarrhea. Prognosis depends on the severity of the sickness. 

  • A fecal exam should be done to rule out the possibility of worms. Giardia and parvo testing are used to screen Giardia parasites and parvovirus.
  •  Blood samples will be tested to detect any imbalance in the functioning of the organs, protein loss, anemia. 
  • CPL tests focus on pancreas-related issues.
  •  X-rays and ultrasounds can be used to check whether the dog has eaten any toxic material or foreign objects. This will also help in diagnosing cancer in dogs. 
  • The vet might recommend an endoscopy to observe the intestinal issues. During the endoscopy, the vet can give the dog anesthesia.
  • Rectal exams provide information on the presence of rectal cancer.
  • When visiting the vet, try to take the diarrhea sample as it would be easier to find the cause and proper medicine by examining the stool sample.

Home Remedies For Dog Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea needs no treatment, and the dog should be cured within 48 hours. If the illness persists, the following home remedies can aid in restricting dog diarrhea. Depending on the stool’s color, consistency, and frequency, it is advisable to seek medical help to avoid any serious illness.

Fasting: Fast your dog for 12 hours, providing only fresh drinking water to curb the illness. After 12 hours, start by feeding bland meals and continue it for a week even after the dog is cured. The bland diet could be boiled chicken or low-fat meat without salt or seasoning mixed with white rice after removing any extra fat.

Rice Water: Serving rice water repeatedly whenever the dog might drink it is an easy and effective remedy for diarrhea. To prepare rice water, boil 1 cup of rice with 3 cups of water until the water becomes creamy white. Strain the water, and if necessary, add any of the dog’s favorite chicken or meat flavor in small quantities to make it tastier.

Yogurt: There are some beneficial bacteria in yogurt, which are helpful for dogs with tolerance to milk products. Never feed your dog yogurt if it was intolerant to any milk product earlier.

Pumpkin: Fresh or canned plain pumpkin is effective in treating both diarrhea and constipation.

Potatoes: Peeled and boiled potatoes can be served in small quantities as a quick remedy.

Marshmallow: The root of marshmallow can soothe the gastrointestinal tract and cure sores and inflammation.

Probiotics: Probiotics or has beneficial bacteria and can be fed to the dog in the form of powder, capsules, dog food, or mixed with rice water. Bacterias like Lactobacillus acidophilus,Enterococcus faecium, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium breve which are already in the dog’s gut are in probiotics that can speed up digestion.

Amino Acids: Amino acids like L-Glutamine can be served to dogs, mixed with other supplements. Amino acids can heal sore intestines.

Proteins: Foods like eggs and chicken are rich in protein sources. It is recommended to cook eggs without oil or butter and chickens without skin.

Herbs: Herbs like elm, fennel have soothing properties that can reduce inflammation.

Treatment for Dog Diarrhea

Once the diagnosis is over, the veterinarian will start appropriate treatment depending on the cause. 

  • Antibiotics with anti-inflammatory properties, metronidazole and tylosin are used to treat dog diarrhea. 
  • When there is a bacterial overgrowth, amoxicillin is added with metronidazole and tylosin.
  • Good bacteria in the GI tract consume fiber and then produce fatty acids, which help the intestine. Probiotics and fiber are essential as medication for forming fatty acids in the GI Tract.
  • Diarrhea caused by cancer can be treated using a chemotherapeutic drug.

Some of the dewormers usually prescribed are,

  • Panacur
  • Dolpac
  • Drontal

The commonly prescribed anti-diarrheal supplements include,

  • Metronidazole
  • Tylosin

Some of the prescribed probiotics are,

  • Acidophilus
  • Bismuth subsalicylate
  • Loperamide

For acute diarrhea, a prescribed diet is sufficient to cure the dog. These medications should not be given to dogs without veterinarian’s approval and should never exceed the prescribed dosage.

How to Prevent Dog Diarrhea?

Keep an eye on the dog during it’s time outdoors to avoid any intake of foreign objects. While changing the diet, slowly introduce the new diet along with the old diet and gradually reduce the old diet. Regular health checkups, vaccinations. And deworming will decrease the possibility of dog diarrhea.

Dog Breeds More Prone To Diarrhea

Puppies and immunity compromised adult dogs will be sick more often than healthy dogs. Dog breeds like Terriers, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Shih Tzu, German Shepherd, Irish Setter, Boxer, Poodle have sensitive guts and are more prone to diarrhea. 

The Bottom Line   

A dog suffering from diarrhea can be frustrating for both the dog and the dog parent. It is possible to treat at home by fasting and feeding bland food. Still, there is always a chance of other concurrent diseases or health issues triggering the gastrointestinal tract for diarrhea. Whether the symptoms are mild or chronic, consultation with your vet is highly recommended. Whenever you visit a vet to treat diarrhea, mention previous and concurrent health issues. These are important to keep track of and refrain from unwanted treatment and tests. Never forget to mention the symptoms you have noticed in your dog. If ever, your dog vomits while suffering from diarrhea, rush him or her immediately to the vet as it can be fatal. Always keep an eye on the stool color and consistency, as it tells a lot about your dog’s overall health and, of course, diarrhea. And try not to treat your dog with anything high in sugar and salt content.   

 A disciplined treatment and a lifestyle can help your dog live a healthy life.

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