Diarrhea is defined as loose stools, generally in larger and more frequent amounts than normal. Although it's not a disease itself, it can be a sign of infection or disease. However, most frequently, it's a minor condition that can be resolved quickly or sometimes on its own. 

Why does my dog have diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a relatively common occurrence in dogs and is usually indicative of a digestive upset. The three most common causes of diarrhea in dogs are:

  • Parasites, 
  • Stomach upset, and 
  • Stress or general anxiety. 

The first two cases of diarrhea are easily treated with medication prescribed by your veterinarian, while the third is a bit more difficult to address.

Diarrhea caused by parasites can be diagnosed by symptoms such as blood in the stool, changes in appetite, or changes in stool consistency or frequency.

If your dog has consumed something they shouldn't have, like items from the garbage, they will often have symptoms comparable to parasite infection: decreased activity level (typically), appetite loss, and diarrhea of unusual consistency or frequency.

A stress-related episode of diarrhea is frequently accompanied by other behavioral changes including excessive vocalization, urinating or defecating where they shouldn't, hiding in strange locations, and tearing up furniture. Putting together a routine and remaining consistent can aid in reducing your dog's stress levels. 

Food poisoning is another prevalent cause of diarrhea in dogs, which is caused by consuming rotten leftovers or undercooked meat. And, sadly, diarrhea in dogs can occasionally be caused by something more serious than food intolerance or food poisoning. Diarrhea can also be a sign of gastrointestinal infections such as giardia and coccidia, as well as other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and colitis. If your dog has experienced multiple bouts of diarrhea in a short period of time, this may indicate that he is ill and it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian.

Other causes of diarrhea may include the following:

  • Eating too much/too quickly
  • Dehydration
  • Intestinal parasites (worms)
  • Food allergies or sensitivities
  • Some medications
  • Parasites such as worms and coccidia
  • Excessive consumption of high-fat foods and sweets
  • Heavy exercise after eating

When to contact your vet

To begin, you'll want to determine whether your dog's diarrhea requires veterinary attention. If it persists or is followed by vomiting, lethargy (weakness), or blood in the stool, you should immediately consult a veterinarian. 

This is especially true if there is no obvious cause for the diarrhea. If, on the other hand, your dog's diarrhea appears to be due to a course of antibiotics (in which case it should improve once the medications are discontinued) or they are transitioning to a new food, a vet appointment can be delayed for a day or two.

What will the vet do to treat diarrhea in dogs? 

If you go to the veterinarian, they will take several factors into consideration. The diarrhea's characteristics, such as its color, consistency, odor, and frequency, are critical in determining the cause. Your veterinarian may request that you bring a representative sample of fresh feces to your appointment.

Knowing the details regarding your dog's diarrhea and being able to answer your vet's questions about your dog's nutrition, environment, habits, and behavior will help narrow down the list of possible reasons. By decreasing the list of possible reasons, you may assess whether or not particular tests are required, as well as whether or not you can treat the problem with over-the-counter remedies.

If diarrhea is the only symptom, a series of tests is ordered to rule out specific parasites and diseases. If your dog's diarrhea is severe or is linked with multiple other clinical indications, your veterinarian will perform a series of tests to establish the cause of the diarrhea and the extent to which your dog has been ill as a result of it. These tests help your vet to administer the proper treatment to your dog.

Microscopic fecal examination, X-rays with or without barium (a liquid given to dogs that shows up on X-rays and can highlight abnormalities in the intestine), blood tests, fecal cultures or DNA tests, intestinal biopsies, endoscopy, ultrasound, and exploratory abdominal surgery are all diagnostic tests that may be performed depending on severity.

How to stop diarrhea in dogs

Your veterinarian may first propose a conservative treatment rather than an in-depth diagnostic work-up for healthy adult dogs with simple acute diarrhea (diarrhea that's most likely a common stomach upset). Withholding all food for 12-24 hours or providing tiny portions of an easily digested diet at more frequent intervals are examples of conservative treatment. Water should always be available. 

The recommended diet is frequently a veterinary-prescribed, specially formulated dog food that is easy to digest while also incorporating components like prebiotic fiber, which aids in the recovery of the digestive tract from whatever caused the diarrhea. 

Your veterinarian may also propose a bland home-made food, which often consists of cooked white rice or noodles and boiled chicken. You can gradually reintroduce your dog's regular food by mixing it in with the special diet for several days as the stools return to normal.

Probiotics to help stop dog diarrhea

Research has shown probiotics can be beneficial for dogs experiencing bouts of diarrhea. Distinct types of beneficial bacteria have different anti-diarrhea capabilities.

Bacillus coagulans, for example, is excellent for "traveler's" diarrhea and antibiotic-induced diarrhea, but Enterococcus faecium responds swiftly to stress-induced diarrhea. Lactobacillus rhamnosus should be given to dogs with food allergies, and Bifidobacterium animalis should be given to dogs with idiopathic canine diarrhea. 

In dogs with bacterial imbalance caused by chronic enteropathies, antibiotics, or Clostridium difficile-triggered diarrhea, Saccharomyces boulardii is recommended.

Probiotics should be used in conjunction with other therapies to reduce diarrhea like a bland diet and plenty of water. Probiotics can continue to be taken even once the diarrhea has passed to maintain gastrointestinal health.

Preventing future diarrhea

Diarrhea is only one of the many medical problems that a dog owner will encounter. While it may be unpleasant for your dog, it is often not life threatening. When it becomes chronic diarrhea or the dog's condition deteriorates as a result of the diarrhea, a veterinarian should be contacted as soon as possible. Proper home care, like feeding a nutritious diet and a gut health supplement, can help you reduce your dog's chances of experiencing diarrhea in the future.

FullBucket’s Daily Dog supplement includes pre- and probiotics, in addition to L-glutamine for optimal digestive health. Just 1 scoop per day will do wonders for your dog’s consistent gut health!

Read more

Efficacy of s. boullardi as a probiotic

Clinical effect of probiotics in prevention or treatment of gastrointestinal disease in dogs: A systematic review - PMC

A canine-specific probiotic product in treating acute or intermittent diarrhea in dogs: A double-blind placebo-controlled efficacy study - ScienceDirect

Probiotics for the treatment of Clostridium difficile associated disease - PMC

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