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How Long to Withhold Food From a Dog With Diarrhea: Vet-Approved Guide

Written by: Luxifa Le

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

a border collie dog looking sick covered with blanket on couch

How Long to Withhold Food From a Dog With Diarrhea: Vet-Approved Guide


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg  Photo


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If your dog has diarrhea, how should you prevent it from worsening? You may have heard that you should withhold food from your dog if they’re experiencing diarrhea, and this recommendation is an excellent start for relieving your dog’s discomfort. Fasting a dog for 12 to 24 hours can certainly help the GI tract settle. Whether your dog needs more treatment than fasting will be determined by what’s causing your dog’s diarrhea.

Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

Dogs explore the world with their mouths, which can unintentionally ingest toxic substances. Dietary indiscretion, or “garbage toxicosis,” as vets call it, is toxicity from eating garbage. Whether it’s actual garbage or some other non-edible substance, it’s dogs’ most common source of diarrhea.

Another common cause of diarrhea in dogs is a diet change. If you’ve recently changed your dog’s food, you’ll want to give your dog’s stomach a few days to adapt to the new food composition. Vets recommend slowly introducing your dog’s new food by mixing it with their old food, but this isn’t always possible when you run out unexpectedly. Dogs are also susceptible to food intolerances and allergies.

Parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia can all cause gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. Parvovirus, Distemper, and Coronavirus are all viral culprits in diarrhea, while Salmonella is a common bacterial infection that causes diarrhea.

Sick mastiff dog sitting on table in a vet clinic
Image Credit: UfaBizPhoto, Shutterstock

How to Fast Your Dog

When you fast your dog, you want to do it correctly. You should first ascertain whether your dog has an infection or parasites and should have him seen by a vet to run fecal tests and possibly blood work, depending on the severity of the condition. These causes mentioned above will not clear up from fasting alone, and diarrhea will continue until the disease has been cleared from the body, often with the help of medication.

You’ll want to fast your dog for 12 hours. A dog’s digestion cycle is about 10 hours. So, giving your dog’s digestive tract at least 12 hours to clear itself out can help relieve your dog of its diarrhea.

Make sure you give your dog water while you fast them. Diarrhea can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, dehydration. If your vet recommends it, you can also offer your dog unflavored Pedialyte to maintain good electrolyte levels.


Final Thoughts

It can be hard to see your dog going through something painful. Luckily, fasting your dog is an effective first step for many cases of diarrhea, specifically those caused by garbage, gut issues, or a change in food routines.

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Featured Image Credit: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

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