Diarrhea: We're all familiar with it, and it's not fun to talk about. But it happens. And it's a relatively common ailment for our canine friends to experience, too. It's a safe bet that at one point or another, your dog will have a bout of diarrhea.
As we'll learn, there are all sorts of potential causes of dog diarrhea. Some cases are quite serious, and some can be cleared up at home without much trouble. That's why it's important to be familiar with the common causes of diarrhea in dogs and when it's a problem. That way, you can let your vet know.
Let's examine some of the possible causes of diarrhea in dogs, what your dog's loose stools can tell you, and how to go about treating the problem.
First, it's important to understand that diarrhea is a symptom of a problem, not a disease in and of itself. Even if it's as simple as an upset stomach, there is something causing your dog's loose bowel movements.
Here are some of the most common causes of dog diarrhea:
Disgusting as it may be, examining your dog's poop during a bout of diarrhea is a good way to get a general idea of what may be wrong. Consider things like color, frequency, and content of the feces to help decode what your dog's diarrhea means.
Black, tarry stools indicate internal bleeding, because the dark color comes from digested blood. You should let your vet know if your dog's diarrhea is black or dark brown.
Bloody diarrhea that contains visible red blood indicates bleeding in the large intestine, which is also a cause for concern. Tell your vet about the issue and ask about next steps.
Yellow diarrhea usually occurs when a dog owner has fed their pet a bland diet, like one of plain boiled chicken and white rice. When these foods mix with the yellow bile of the gastrointestinal tract, it produces yellow stools. If you see this color after giving Fido a bland diet to soothe his diarrhea (more on that below), yellow stools aren't a cause for concern. Otherwise, let your vet know.
Cases of dog diarrhea are classified either as acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea means one or two episodes of diarrhea, which usually resolve on their own or with help from home remedies (discussed below). Acute diarrhea is usually caused by something like dietary indiscretion or too much human food at one time.
Chronic diarrhea is more concerning. Diarrhea is considered chronic when it keeps happening over two days or more, or when it persists despite treatment. Things like IBD, parasites in the intestinal tract, and illnesses or infections are usually to blame.
Do you see green strings in your dog's stool? It's probably grass. How about small white specks? These are probably bits of worms being excreted in your dog's poop. You might even see foreign objects — coins, rocks, etc. — in your dog's fecal matter. Taking a look at the contents of your dog's diarrhea (gross, we know) can clue you in to the cause.
Regardless of what might be causing your dog's diarrhea, you want to get it resolved as quickly as possible. If your pooch is experiencing an acute case of diarrhea but you don't see any additional symptoms like vomiting, loss of appetite, or signs of abdominal pain, you can try to relieve your dog's discomfort at home.
Here are some common home remedies to try:
If your dog's diarrhea is chronic or severe, or if home remedies like those described above don't work, it's time to see the vet.
If you notice symptoms like vomiting, appetite loss, weight loss, signs of pain like whimpering or sensitivity to touch, bloating, or lethargy, give your vet a call. A full diagnostic workup, possibly including things like blood work and X-rays, may be in order to diagnose the problem and get your dog proper treatment.
Medications like antacids and antidiarrheals could be prescribed to soothe your dog's digestive tract. Dewormers will be given in the case of an intestinal worm infestation, and antibiotics can clear up most bacterial infections and infections like giardia. A change in diet might be needed in the case of a food intolerance or allergy. In the case of a foreign body ingestion, induced vomiting or even surgery could be necessary.
Most of the time, your dog's diarrhea is caused by dietary indiscretion: Your dog ate something they shouldn't have, or you fed them too many table scraps. In these acute cases of diarrhea, you can probably resolve the problem at home using remedies like a bland diet or canned pumpkin.
It's also possible for health problems like IBD, colitis, bacterial or viral infections, food allergies, parasites, toxins, and foreign body ingestion — among many others — to cause diarrhea in dogs. This is especially likely if the diarrhea is chronic in nature and you notice other symptoms. Call your vet's office as soon as you're concerned about your dog's diarrhea.For more information about your dog's health and wellness, visit the Native Pet blog.
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