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Dog Diarrhea: Here's What You Need to Know

Tips, causes, and treatments for this common problem that often lasts only a day or two.

 |  Jan 9th 2014  |   1 Contribution

If you regularly observe your dog defecating, you will develop a sense of her regular pooping habits, especially what the end product looks like under normal circumstances with regard to both texture and consistency. I doubt you need a particularly detailed rundown of what diarrhea is or looks like, but one must cover all the bases. You’ll often notice that a dog with diarrhea may squat several times in succession, when normally once would be adequate. Dog diarrhea itself can be described as watery, loose, malformed, or inchoate feces that emerge rapidly from a dog's anus.

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Part of knowing your dog is becoming familiar with her poop. A girl relaxing outside with her dog by Shutterstock.

We call normal passage of stool "regularity" for a reason; it is a process that we are familiar with. Dogs are no different. If you are on a walk and your dog has diarrhea, you may see her assume the position repeatedly. The sensation of dog diarrhea is so unfamiliar, a dog may feel a continued need to poop even if she's already defecated. This is one reason why being observant is key, since the look of a dog straining to evacuate her bowels may resemble constipation in terms of effort being expended.

Causes of dog diarrhea

The most common causes of dog diarrhea are diet and stress. In these cases, the dog will become regular again when she becomes accustomed to new food, passes something that has momentarily irritated her bowels, or when the dog is able to relax. Diarrhea can also be a symptom of a parasite or an infection, either bacterial or viral. Where the latter group is concerned, dog diarrhea may be accompanied by blood or mucus. Other symptoms like lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite are often clearer signs of serious issues than the diarrhea itself. In the majority of instances, dog diarrhea is temporary, and is simply the digestive system's way of saying, "I have ingested something insalubrious, and I must expel it with haste."

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Get into the habit of watching your dog poop so you can tell when something is amiss. Pug, defecating against in nature by Shutterstock.

A change in diet, particularly when a dog is starting a new brand of food or is exposed to something out of the ordinary, can cause diarrhea in dogs. Based on our research, it's recommended that dogs, puppies in particular, be transitioned to a new brand of food over the course of a week. Puppy diarrhea can sap energy quickly and lead to dehydration. A transitional occurrence of dog diarrhea can be mitigated by mixing the customary food with the new food to give her digestive system time to adjust, rather than abruptly switching one kind of food for another.

Dogs are scavengers and omnivores by nature, and their tendency to eat whatever they can find is also a frequent cause of dog diarrhea. This includes dogs who are nocturnal foragers, dogs who get into something they wouldn't normally eat when it's left within reach, or dogs who manage to get into the trash.

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A regular and varied diet, along with restricting your dog's access to the table and litter bin can help prevent dog diarrhea. Raiding the Dinner Table by Shutterstock.

Stress is also a leading cause of dog diarrhea. As we've all experienced at one time or another, any kind of startling change can have a variety of physical effects on us. For dogs, one of the most notable reflections of sudden change is seen in their defecation habits. Travel, boarding in shelters or kennels, or moving into a new home are all stressors that can cause irregularity, which can express itself through the digestive system as either constipation or dog diarrhea.

A variety of intestinal worms, like hookworms or roundworms, can cause dog diarrhea, as can parasites, viruses, and bacteria, such as coccidia and giardia. Since worms, bacteria, and viruses can spread through excrement, diarrhea may also show up if your dog eats poop. Physical contact with poop can also lead to parvo in dogs, which usually presents with intense and frequent dog vomiting and diarrhea, which is foul-smelling and bloody. Bacterial or viral agents are less likely to strike when dogs are vaccinated and their living spaces, toys, and dishes are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

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Bloody diarrhea may indicate a viral or bacterial condition. The man is holding a plastic poop bag for pet litter control by Shutterstock.

What can I give my dog for diarrhea

If diarrhea persists for more than a day, or seems particularly acute, the sources we've consulted recommend that your dog go without food for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to allow her intestines to recover. During that time, the dog should have easy access to clean water.

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Clean water and a brief alteration to diet can help this dog become regular again. Labrador retriever pooing with sad eyes by Shutterstock.

Small tweaks to her diet if your dog has diarrhea may solve the problem. Many sites suggest meats like boiled turkey, ground beef, or chicken as foods that may help end a bout with dog diarrhea. Some recommend onion-free vegetable broth or chicken broth, while still others point to canned pumpkin or sweet potato as possible dietary remedies for dog diarrhea. Sweet potato and pumpkin are also frequently recommended as dietary solutions for constipation in dogs. The fiber content of the tuber and the gourd seem to have general cleansing properties for the digestive system.

In most cases, dog diarrhea is only temporary

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Make sure your dog has ready access to fresh, clean water, and deny access to questionable sources. a tiny chihuahua in a toilet (THE WATER WAS DRAINED OUT) by Shutterstock.

Dog diarrhea is a common problem and in most cases may last no longer than a day or two. If the cause is stress-related or arose because of something the dog ate, once the dog is comfortable or the unusual foods have cleared the system, the dog diarrhea tends to disappear as well. If dog diarrhea persists for more than three days, especially in cases of puppy diarrhea where dehydration can become a serious problem, a visit to the veterinarian is highly recommended. The more familiar you are with your dog's pooping habits, the easier it will be for you to determine the proper course of action.

Has your dog had dog diarrhea? How did you treat it? Let us know in the comments.

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