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7 Common Causes And Cures For Doggy Diarrhea

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on February 15, 2018

There are a variety of causes for diarrhea in dogs. While some can be quite serious – like certain cancers and diseases of the liver, pancreas or heart – most are relatively harmless if treated promptly.

The following 7 factors could account for your dog’s loose stools. Luckily, there are tried and true methods for treating each issue and restoring your pup to full health.

Note: Holistic veterinarian, Dr. Ihor Basko recommends that all dogs with diarrhea undergo fecal testing prior to being given an antibiotic or dewormer to ensure these drugs are truly necessary. A fecal flotation can reveal if your dog has been exposed to parasites and a culture can reveal if abnormal bacteria is present so antibiotic treatment can be targeted to the specific pathogen.

Dr. Basko feels that any dog experiencing diarrhea, regardless of the cause, should be given a probiotic to replenish the “good” bacteria in the gut and kill off the “bad”. He also encourages a prebiotic-rich diet to battle dehydration and help re-balance the GI tract. His recipe and instructions can be found here.

1. Dietary Indiscretion

Image Credit: Flickr/OtterBox

The Cause: Dogs will put almost anything in their mouths, snatching up garbage, roadkill, discarded food, or the waste of other animals before you can holler “LEAVE IT!”

The Cure: Diarrhea caused by scavenging behavior may require several different treatment methods depending on what the dog ingested. “Garbage gut” from rooting in the trash often resolves itself with a few days of rest, hydration, probiotics, and bland food, but if the dog has eaten spoiled food or non-food items, the problem may be more serious and require prompt veterinary attention.

2. Stress

Image Credit: Flickr/jmcmichael

The Cause: When a dog experiences severe stress, the colon may become inflamed, reducing water absorption and decreasing the ability to store feces. The result is frequent loose stools, often with blood or mucus.

The Cure: Vets sometimes recommend withholding food for 12 – 24 hours to allow the dog’s system to “reset,” but Dr. Basko suggests offering an easy-to-digest, prebiotic-rich diet on their regular feeding schedule. In addition, probiotics and relief from the source of stress are often enough to resolve stress-related colitis. If the problem persists or includes vomiting, see your veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment.

3. Sudden Diet Change

Image Credit: Scott Spaeth

The Cause: Rapidly introducing your dog to a new food can “shock” the digestive system by not allowing it adequate time to adjust to the new protein sources.

The Cure: In order to give your dog’s sensitive system time to adjust, slowly introduce the new diet on the following schedule:

  • Day 1: Feed 75% original diet and 25% new
  • Day 2: Feed 70% original/30% new
  • Day 3: Feed 60% original/40% new
  • Day 4: Feed 50% of each
  • Day 5: Feed 40% original/60% new
  • Day 6: Feed 25% original/75% new
  • Day 7: If no problems, feed 100% new diet from this point on

A digestive aid can also help.

4. Viral Or Bacterial Infections

Image Credit: Flickr/Sarah_Ackerman

The Cause: Viral or bacterial infections cause an immune system response which results in inflammation of the colon.

The Cure: Depending on the pathogen and your dog’s age and overall health, these infections can be quite serious. If your dog is vomiting, lethargic, depressed, or in pain, see your vet immediately. Puppies, seniors, and dogs with existing health conditions are even more fragile and should receive prompt treatment.

5. Parasites

Image Credit: Flickr/dave.see

The Cause: While any dog can contract intestinal parasites, they are most common in puppies and those not receiving adequate care. While some parasites absorb nutrients through their skin, others chew through the lining of the intestines, causing discomfort, poor nutrient absorption and diarrhea. Depending on the type of parasite, the extent of infection, and the age and size of the dog, serious problems like anemia and malnutrition may occur.

The Cure: Based on the results of your dog’s fecal analysis, your veterinarian will prescribe the necessary medications to kill off the parasites and treat the physical symptoms.

6. Food Intolerance

Image Credit: Flickr/Lee Haywood

The Cause: Sensitivities to certain ingredients in food can potentially cause diarrhea. Some breeds, like the Irish Setter, are prone to gluten intolerance, which is similar to a food allergy, but does not cause an immune response.

The Cure: Helping your dog avoid food intolerances sounds easy, but can actually be quite complicated. The key is to identify and avoid the offending substance(s), which can involve expensive testing and a whole lot of trial-and-error before a proper feeding routine is pinpointed.

7. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Image Credit: Flickr/cuatrok77

The Cause: Inflammatory bowel disease is characterized by an abnormally high amount of inflammatory cells within the stomach and/or intestine. The exact cause of IBD is not known, but genetics, food allergies, parasites, bacteria, or an abnormal immune system may play a role.

The Cure: Unfortunately, the only way to definitively diagnose IBD is with an intestinal biopsy. Once the disease is confirmed, it is usually controlled with medications and modifications to the diet.

Our Recommendation For Maintaining Healthy Digestion:

Providing a probiotic supplement is the easiest way to ensure that your pup is getting the microflora he or she needs to encourage an optimally functioning GI tract. Happy, Healthy™ 3-In-1 Probiotic Dog Chews not only contain pet-specific probiotics, but they also boast prebiotics (food for the good bacteria), digestive enzymes, and natural pumpkin, all in a tasty, easy to administer chew!

Learn more about Happy, Healthy™ 3-In-1 Probiotic Dog Chews with Pumpkin for Improved Digestion and Gut Health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional.


Featured Image via Flickr/Megan Coughlin

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