It feels terrible when your dog suffers from any illness, as it can’t communicate as humans can. If you are a dog parent, you have probably come across dog diarrhea. Dog diarrhea, similar to diarrhea in humans, is a compilation of various diseases that forms unhealthy stools. Unformed and loose stools are the sign of diarrhea, which occurs frequently.
While it may not be the most fun topic, as a dog parent, it’s 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
Hopefully this does not happen to our dogs but it is important to note that such risks exist and we need to be proactive as dog parents. Before going on to the cause of diarrhea, you should have an idea of the Canine Digestive System.
The Digestive System of Canines
Dog’s digestive system differs from the human digestive system. The jaw and salivary enzymes that humans possess break down every morsel in the mouth, whereas jaws in dogs help tear, gobbling 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 chunks directly run down to the esophagus and then enters the dog’s stomach. The digestion of food mostly takes place in the stomach. The acid present in the canine stomach is more stronger and in larger volumes per part when compared to that in humans. Because of this, dogs can digest intact and chunked food much more easily than humans.
The shift of food from the mouth to the stomach and then to the small and large intestine takes less than 10 hours in normal condition, producing a well-formed stool.
Now that we know how the digestive system works in dogs’, we can move forward to the cause of diarrhea.
Causes of Dog Diarrhea
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:
- Infectious viruses: Viruses such as Parvovirus, coronavirus (not covid-19); parasites including roundworms, whipworms, hookworms; bacteria such as leptospirosis, salmonella, E. coli overgrowth can cause infection in the gastrointestinal tract, which exhilarates the cause of diarrhea.
- Autoimmune: Lymphangiectasia and bowel disease can cause dog diarrhea.
- Trauma: Penetrating wound, bleach exposure, ulceration, getting hit by a vehicle, twisting of the gastrointestinal tract are common reasons for a dog to suffer from diarrhea.
- Vascular: Heart stroke, allergic reaction, refraining blood flow to the intestine due to clots, is another reason dogs have diarrhea.
Can Human Food Cause Diarrhea in Dogs?
Unfortunately, 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.
Different 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. We can divide dog diarrhea into two different sets:
- Large-Bowel Diarrhea: Diarrhea from the large intestine or colon is Large-bowel diarrhea. If there is diarrhea from the large intestine, then it can be identified by:
- Ascending Frequency
- Stool gets eliminated in small volumes
- Blood and mucous release along with 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 re-absorbs water for the prevention of dehydration.
The colon’s job is to pull out the water of the stool. As the blood vessels get too close, it quickly breaks, causing inflammation. There are mucous glands present in the colon, which help to lubricate the stool for easy elimination. The mucous gland overproduces mucous coating during the inflammation, making the stool runny.
- Small-Bowel Diarrhea: Diarrhea that arises from the small intestine is small-bowel diarrhea. If there is diarrhea from the small intestine, then it can be identified by:
- Frequent goopy stool formation
- The texture of the stool remains frothy
- Blood and mucous is absent in the stool
The small intestine generally absorbs nutrients. During inflammation, the absorption capacity falls, which results in fatty poops.
Small bowel diarrhea also causes malnutrition. The symptoms are:
- Weak hair coating
- Loss of weight
- Loss of appetite
Apart from these, there are other types of diarrhea, which you should not neglect. Let us look into the different kinds of Dog Diarrhea.
- Acute Dog Diarrhea: Acute diarrhea in dogs can be readily resolved with minimal intervention of the dog owner. If it persists for longer than 48 hours, and you notice blood present in the stool, you should visit the veterinarian.
- Chronic Dog Diarrhea: Even If your dog already had prior treatment for diarrhea, this issue will persist. Resolving Chronic diarrheas quickly is a bit tricky. Some causes of chronic diarrhea in a dog are:
- Bowel disease
- Exocrine Pancreas disease
- Metabolic issues
Your dog might lose weight due to chronic diarrhea. It is recommended not to feed your dog food that is not part of its diet. An unregulated diet can lead to chronic diarrhea. It is always best to plan a diet chart for your dog with the consultation of your vet.
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.
Poop Color Analysis for Dog Diarrhea
Color is an integral part of analyzing what your dog has eaten. Lighter the food, more delicate the color of the poop! Yet, there are essential color indicators that can help while talking to the vet.
- Bloody Diarrhea: 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.
- Black Diarrhea: At times, the blood is digested even before being eliminated with the stool. Due to the blood’s digestion, the color of stool changes from blackish green to black. Black diarrhea is also named melena. The ulcer is the reason behind the stool being black.
- Yellow Diarrhea: Yellow stool is normal stool. 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.
By now, we know that you should treat right away you see the symptoms. It is best to treat your dog with proper consultations. So, let us move on to the testing and the treatments for Dog Diarrhea.
Testing and Treatment for Dog Diarrhea
When you will consult your vet, they will generally run a few tests to diagnose the issue that is causing diarrhea in your dog. The test report will help the vet determine the best form of treatment. The following is a list of a few possible diagnoses:
- Presence of intestinal parasites in fecal floatation
- Giardia test for the search of giardia parasite
- Overgrowth of bacteria by gram stain
- Presence of parvovirus by parvo test
The following are a few tests along with their purposes:
- CBC bloodwork for protein loss, anemia, inflammation, metabolic disease, and protein loss
- CPL test for the presence of pancreatic lipase
- Ultrasounds for obstruction, gall bladder, inflammatory bowel disease
Treatment will continue based upon the test report. Additionally, before the vet recommends additional tests, you will need to provide information on illness history, symptoms which have shown up, stool color, and any unordinary characteristics. Based on this information, the vet will recommend tests, and treatments.
Dogs with acute diarrhea will be made to fast for 12-24 hours or fed with a small amount of food that will readily digest. Water will be provided in intervals. This is a conservative treatment approach, where, along with the easy-to-digest diet, prebiotic fiber will be given, which soothes the intestinal passage. This procedure may vary depending upon the dog’s bodily condition.
Medications for Dog Diarrhea
Medication for dog diarrhea is based on the illness that is causing the diarrhea and the test report the vet runs. It is important to know that diarrhea is a symptom and not an illness.
Examples of medications include:
- 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.
Treating Dog Diarrhea at Home
If diarrhea is chronic, it is advised to visit your vet. However, if your dog has mild symptoms, it is recommended you feed your dog rice water. Along with rice water, intestinal protectant Kaopectate and Pepto Bismol can be given. If diarrhea does not stop, Loperamide can be provided to the dog.
Fasting is a critical component of the treatment. During the fast, the GI track does not have to work and can recover. While fasting, it is important that your dog consumes plenty of rice water. Mild diarrhea will generally resolve gradually and as your dog’s health starts to improve, you can reintroduce solid food slowly.
As a reminder, even if rice water is considered a remedy, it is essential not to ignore the other symptoms than diarrhea. There always is at least a small probability that a fatal illness is the cause of the 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.