My Dog is Having Diarrhea…What Can I Do?

Diarrhea is a common problem we see in dogs. It is never normal for a dog to have diarrhea that lasts more than one or two days. When you bring your dog in to be evaluated for it’s loose stools, your veterinarian will try to determine the following: is it acute or chronic, is it small intestinal origin, large intestinal, or mixed. We consider acute diarrhea as lasting for less than one week and chronic as persisting for more than one week.

Your vet will ask you to describe the consistency/quality of the feces your dog is passing. Typically, small intestinal diarrhea is very watery, large volume but infrequent (1-2 episodes per day), usually never has blood or mucous. Large intestinal diarrhea is typically small volume, thick, very frequent or urgent (3 or more times per day), has mucous or gelatinous quality and often has fresh blood clots or streaks of blood.

What can I do? The most common type of diarrhea we treat is caused by “dietary indiscretion”, meaning your dog ate something that disagreed with it’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The best thing to do in this case is offer a bland, very basic diet like a 50/50 mixture of plain boiled chicken breast and white rice. If you suspect large intestinal diarrhea, sometimes adding some healthy fiber like canned pumpkin can help. Over the counter anti-diarrheal medicines like Immodium AD can be used, but never for more than one or two days. The reason for this is if the diarrhea is actually caused by something like a parasite, bacteria or virus, and the body is trying to expel it for a reason, trapping it inside may cause your pet to become very sick.

What will we do? If your pet is having diarrhea for more than one or two days, we recommend calling to schedule an exam with one of our veterinarians. After bringing your dog in, we will record its weight, body temperature, and other vital signs. In addition to listening to a detailed history, the veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam which may include a rectal exam. We may recommend a fecal parasite test, or in more severe cases blood work, viral testing, or imaging such as an x-ray or abdominal ultrasound. Depending on the severity of the diarrhea, we may recommend treating your dog with antibiotics, fluids, a special diet, probiotics and more.

There are many causes of diarrhea in dogs. These include dietary indiscretion, parasites, food allergies, infections, viruses, systemic illnesses (liver disease, kidney disease), cancer and more. If you are concerned about your dog’s diarrhea, please don’t wait to have it evaluated by a veterinarian—early detection is often the key to successful treatment outcomes. Call for an appointment today!

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