With all the things to check off your list during the busy holiday season, the last thing you need is a dog with explosive diarrhea — yikes! Unfortunately, many dogs experience stomach upset around the holidays. Diarrhea can range from mild to severe, sometimes leaving you with a very sick pup who needs veterinary care. Of course, this usually occurs at night, on a weekend or — worse yet — right on the morning of the family holiday party. We outline some causes of diarrhea in dogs during the holiday season and some home remedies that will treat mild cases of it.
You can take some steps to prevent poop explosions during the most wonderful time of the year. First, know that the hectic nature of the holidays leads to diarrhea for many dogs, especially those who are naturally anxious or shy.
“The holidays are stressful for pet owners, and they’re stressful for pets,” explains integrative veterinarian Carol Osborne, DVM, of the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Dogs are creatures of habit. People coming and going, holiday parties and decorations, and changes in routine can throw dogs off, making them feel worried and uneasy. Such stress can lead to general stomach upset, including diarrhea.
Another big trigger of holiday diarrhea in dogs is eating too-rich foods or foods that your dog doesn’t usually eat. Although most people can indulge a little during the holidays, fatty, rich foods can really wreak havoc on your dog’s digestive tract.
“A lot of people are taking the scraps from everyone’s plates and throwing it into the dog’s bowl,” Dr. Osborne says. “If you’re not going to eat it, neither should your pet.” Don’t ever give your dog cooked bones, poultry skin, fat or grizzle from meat, or very buttery, greasy or rich foods. In some cases, too much fatty food can even cause pancreatitis, a serious and potentially life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting.
However, this doesn’t mean your dog can’t enjoy special treats during the holidays. Although some dogs seem to get the runs any time they eat something other than their dog food, many dogs have no problem eating small amounts of healthy “people” food.
“For most pets in general, there’s nothing wrong with having a nice piece of turkey breast, a little bit of mashed potatoes and some green beans,” Dr. Osborne said. “A meal like that would be as healthy for your pet as it would be for you.” Remember, though — snacks should always make up less than 10 percent of your pet’s diet and be served plain (free of spices, butter, onions, etc.).
Dr. Osborne recommends sticking to your pet’s normal routine as much as possible during the holidays. That means keeping regular mealtimes, usual walks, and as much attention and play as usual. Aim to stick to your dog’s normal diet and keep holiday foods and treats to a minimum. “Exercise your pets before the meal and after the meal, [and] make sure they rest for at least an hour to avoid many things, including bloat,” Dr. Osborne advises.
If your dog does get diarrhea, particularly if it occurs over a weekend, holiday or at night when your vet is closed, try feeding a bland diet for 24 hours to see if your dog’s symptoms improve. Think: boiled skinless chicken breast mixed with plain steamed white rice, or strained chicken baby food and rice. If you like, you can add a tablespoon of plain, organic yogurt for some added probiotics.
This type of diet is fine to feed your dog for a few days while he’s recovering from a bout of diarrhea or vomiting, but it’s not complete and balanced, so it won’t provide the essential nutrients your dog needs for the long term.
The most important thing to do to help a dog with diarrhea is to keep him hydrated by replacing fluids. “The problem with diarrhea is not the diarrhea itself, it’s the loss of fluids as a result of the diarrhea that can become a more serious issue,” Dr. Osborne says. “A nice bowl of low-sodium chicken soup is warm and the little bit of sodium in it encourages fluid intake. Or brew a cup of chamomile tea, let it cool, then put it in the water bowl.
Canned pumpkin is another great home remedy for diarrhea. It’s also incidentally helpful for constipation, so it’s a great thing to keep on hand. “Pumpkin contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, so, with diarrhea, it will help pull the water out of the stool and, if the animal is constipated, it can also loosen things up,” Dr. Osborne advises.
Give 1 teaspoon for small dogs, 2 teaspoons for medium dogs and 1 tablespoon for large dogs. Make sure to use plain canned pumpkin and not canned pumpkin pie mix, which contains added sugar and spices. Probiotics, which have friendly bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive system, might also help.
Keep a close eye on your dog to ensure the diarrhea is improving. If your dog won’t drink any fluids or can’t keep fluids down, it’s time for the vet. “Diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours, and/or occurring in a sick animal — which would be an animal who has lost his appetite, is depressed, lethargic and/or vomiting — is a situation that requires veterinary intervention,” Dr. Osborne advises.
Thumbnail: Remember! Dogs shouldn’t eat human cookies and cats should stay away from cow’s milk. Photography ©WebSubstance | Thinkstock.
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