Diarrhea is a very common issue that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. However, for a pet owner, it can be frustrating and concerning to see your dog experiencing discomfort.
To help them out, it’s best to first understand the potential cause of their diarrhea and then decide whether the situation requires home remedies or veterinary assistance. This process can sometimes be complex, so we’ll try to simplify everything and explain what you need to know about managing your dog's diarrhea.
In this article, we will discuss what you can give a dog when they have diarrhea and signs to look out for to determine the seriousness of the situation. But before that, let’s start by understanding what causes diarrhea in dogs.
What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs?
Diarrhea isn’t a disease; in fact, it’s usually a symptom of an underlying problem. It occurs when something affects your dog’s digestive system and its ability to absorb water, nutrients, and electrolytes.
Some common reasons why a dog may develop diarrhea are:
1. Dietary indiscretion
If your dog has eaten something they aren’t supposed to eat, it can upset their stomach, causing diarrhea. It’s especially common in dogs who have a tendency to get into the garbage and eat something that’s toxic for them. This allows the bacteria or other toxins to enter their digestive system, resulting in bloody or watery diarrhea.
2. Changes in diet
Any unexpected or sudden change in your dog's diet can disrupt the digestive system, causing diarrhea. That’s why it’s recommended to transition them from their old food to their new food slowly over 7-10 days.
It’s also worth noting that any kind of digestive issues during a dietary transition will usually resolve within a few days.
3. Food intolerance or allergies
Allergies or intolerance to certain foods like gluten or lactose can cause digestive upset, resulting in diarrhea.
4. Bacterial or viral infection
Infections from common viruses like Parvovirus and Distemper, as well as bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, can cause gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea in dogs.
5. Ingesting foreign objects
If your dog has accidentally ingested a foreign object, like a toy or sock, it can disturb their digestive system, causing diarrhea. It can be a serious situation, depending on the size of the object. Thus it’s recommended to look out for additional signs of intestinal blockage like vomiting, bloating, loss of appetite, weakness, or restlessness.
Parasites like roundworms, hookworms, or Giardia, acquired through contaminated food, water, or soil, can also cause diarrhea in dogs. In some of these cases, you can even see worms in your dog's stool as white spots.
But if there aren’t any visible worms in the stool, you can look for other symptoms of parasites like weight loss, vomiting, weakness, respiratory issues, and malnutrition.
If your veterinarian has recently started a new medication for your dog, there’s a chance that they can get diarrhea as a side effect. In such cases, you can talk to your veterinarian about the side effects and solutions to correct the problem while on the medication or other medical options.
8. Stress or emotional distress
Stress, emotional distress, or anxiety caused due to any environmental changes or trauma can also trigger diarrhea in some dogs.
Additionally, dogs who are scared of loud noises, thunderstorms, or fireworks can also experience diarrhea. In this case, the problem will resolve on its own when the source of noise is eliminated or the dog feels more safe and calm.
9. Underlying health condition
Frequent or persistent diarrhea in dogs can be a sign of any underlying health issues, like inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, liver diseases, kidney diseases, or thyroid disorders. This situation requires medical intervention for proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
When to See a Vet?
Most cases of diarrhea in dogs can resolve on their own within a day or two. However, it’s still important to exercise caution and look out for additional signs that might indicate a bigger problem.
You should seek immediate veterinary help if:
the diarrhea is severe, frequent, or continuous and has lasted for more than 48 hours
there’s blood in their diarrhea
you notice other symptoms like loss of appetite, abdominal pain, bloating, weakness, fever, etc
you notice any significant behavioral changes like aggression or excessive whining
your dog has pre-existing health conditions
Remember that prompt veterinary visits can help prevent any unforeseen circumstances. So, if you notice anything unusual or you’re worried about the well-being of your dog, consult a veterinarian.
What to Give a Dog for Diarrhea?
If your dog has experienced a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, there might not be any cause for immediate concern. In such cases, you can try some remedies listed below to help your dog:
1. Consider Fasting
Withholding food from your dog can sound harsh, but it can be beneficial when dealing with diarrhea. If you allow your dog to fast for at least 12 hours, it will help reduce the stimulation in the digestive system, giving it a chance to rest and recover.
However, it’s important to note that the fasting period shouldn’t last more than 12 to 24 hours unless specified by a veterinarian. Also, if you have a puppy or a dog with certain medical conditions, you shouldn’t make them fast without talking to a veterinarian.
2. Provide Water
Diarrhea can put a dog at risk of dehydration due to excessive fluid loss. If left unaddressed, this can lead to a serious and potentially life-threatening problem. Thus, you need to ensure your dog stays properly hydrated during episodes of diarrhea.
You should keep a bowl of fresh and clean drink water near them at all times. If they are reluctant to drink plain water, you can offer them some ice chips or cubes. Another option is to make rice water by boiling plain white rice in a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 4 cups of water.
This rice water can be really beneficial during times of diarrhea as it provides hydration and has a binding effect on the digestive tract. However, please remember to cool down the rice water before serving and refrain from adding any seasonings, as that can be harmful to your dog.
Also, try to use white rice instead of brown rice when making rice water, as it's easier to digest and has a lower fiber content, which can help provide relief to your dog’s digestive system.
3. Give a Bland Diet
After the fasting period is over, you should feed your dog a bland diet for 24 to 48 hours. The best option is to make some plain-cooked white rice, which is a digestible carbohydrate, with boiled chicken, which is a lean protein. This meal is easier to digest, nutritious, and gentle on the dog’s stomach. Plus, the moisture content and binding effect of rice will help your dog recover faster.
The exact amount of rice and chicken you can feed to your dog after diarrhea will vary depending on their size, age, and individual needs. However, as a general guideline, you should start with a very small amount, 1/2 to 1 cup of cooked white rice with 1/2 cup of shredded boiled chicken. You can adjust this portion size according to your dog’s weight and current situation.
If you’re completely uncertain about the appropriate portion sizes, it's always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. Also, you should avoid feeding your dog a bland diet for more than 24-48 hours, as this diet doesn’t contain all the nutrients a dog needs.
4. Feed Them Some Vegetables
Apart from a bland diet, you can also give your dog other foods that are rich in dietary fibers, like plain pumpkin, as it will help regulate bowel movements and firm up the stool. But make sure that you’re offering them plain pumpkin that doesn’t contain any added sugars or seasonings.
Additionally, some veterinarians recommend feeding plain boiled white or sweet potatoes to dogs with diarrhea as these starchy foods help in binding your dog’s stool and make it firmer.
5. Offer Probiotics & Prebiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are also called good bacteria, as they help in promoting and supporting your dog’s gut health, digestion, and immune system. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a source of food for the probiotics or the good bacteria.
Both probiotics and prebiotics can help treat diarrhea in dogs by restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut and enhancing nutrient absorption. You can either feed your dog foods like dog-friendly yogurt that act as natural probiotics or consult with a veterinarian about adding probiotic and prebiotic supplements to their diet.
6. Take them to a Veterinarian
If you’re worried about your dog’s health and none of the home remedies are providing them relief from diarrhea, then you should seek medical expertise. You can take your dog to a veterinarian for a thorough examination to diagnose the underlying cause of the diarrhea.
They can help your dog by prescribing medications, administering fluid therapy, or recommending further diagnostic tests to identify and treat the specific issue that is causing diarrhea.
How to Prevent Diarrhea in Dogs?
Although you cannot predict and prevent diarrhea at all times, you can take the following measures to improve your dog’s overall digestive health and reduce the occurrence of diarrhea:
Feed them a healthy and well-balanced diet
Give them regular exercise to promote their physical and mental health
Avoid making any sudden changes in their diet; if you want to feed them something new, transition gradually over 7-10 days
Don’t feed them table scraps, as that might contain food ingredients that are harmful to dogs
Make sure they are drinking enough water, especially during hot weather or after a play session
When going on a walk, don’t let them eat anything unknown or suspicious
Secure your garbage cans and store your household chemicals and medications in a location that is inaccessible to your dog
Try to minimize stress and anxiety in your dog's life by maintaining a safe and calm environment
Vaccinate your dog against common viruses
Practice good hygiene by maintaining a clean and sanitary environment for your dog
Schedule regular veterinarian check-ups to monitor your dog's overall health
There can be endless reasons why your dog has diarrhea. While in most cases, it’s a result of your dog eating something they shouldn’t have, in rare cases, it can also indicate serious problems like bacterial or viral infections, parasites, intestinal blockage, or any other health issues.
If it’s a single episode of diarrhea with no other symptoms, there’s probably nothing to worry about, and you can take various measures at home to provide relief for your dog. For example, you can provide them with rice water to promote hydration and introduce a bland diet consisting of cooked rice and chicken to soothe their stomach.
But if they’re showing other signs of a bigger problem or diarrhea is persistent despite your efforts, you should consult with your veterinarian for further guidance.
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about diarrhea in dogs:
1. What can I feed my dog with diarrhea?
Most vets recommend withholding food from your dog for 12 hours when they have diarrhea. During this time, you can provide them with fresh drinking water, ice chips, or rice water. Once your dog has started to recover from diarrhea, you can feed them a bland diet consisting of plain-cooked white rice, which is a digestible carbohydrate, and boiled chicken, which is a lean protein.
You can also give them some starchy vegetables that are rich in dietary fibers, like plain pumpkin and boiled sweet potatoes. Just make sure you aren’t adding any seasonings to these vegetables, as that can have a bad effect on your dog’s health.
2. What to give a dog with bloody diarrhea?
Bloody diarrhea in dogs can indicate a serious underlying problem. Thus, it’s best to avoid any home remedies and consult a veterinarian to determine the cause of your dog’s bloody diarrhea.
3. What kind of fruits and vegetables can I give to my dog with diarrhea?
It is unlikely that fruits will help improve your dog’s diarrhea, but you can give them some starchy vegetables that contain dietary fibers, like pumpkin and potatoes. These vegetables are easy to digest, and they help in binding your dog’s stool and making it firmer.
However, you should only feed your dog boiled and unseasoned potatoes because raw potatoes are much harder to digest, and they contain solanine, a toxin that can be harmful to dogs when eaten in large quantities.
4. What should I do if my dog's diarrhea doesn't resolve despite my efforts?
If your dog is experiencing frequent and persistent diarrhea, it can be a sign of a bigger problem, like bacterial or viral infections, parasites, allergies, or intestinal blockage. It can also be an indication of underlying health issues, like inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, liver diseases, kidney diseases, or thyroid disorders. Or it could also be an issue with the type of food you are feeding.
Therefore, in such situations, you should consult with your veterinarian to identify the cause of your dog’s diarrhea.
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