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Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs & How to Stop it

Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs & How to Stop it

Dog diarrhea can be caused by a number of issues ranging from mild stomach upset to serious diseases. No matter the cause, the symptoms can make your pup quite uncomfortable and should be addressed by a vet. Today, our Killen vets share some information about diarrhea in dogs, the typical causes and what can be done to treat it.

Diarrhea in Dogs

Our Killen vets see a lot of dogs suffering from diarrhea for a wide variety of reasons. But you may be wondering what is the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs or how to treat diarrhea in dogs. In this post, our vets go into more detail and answer these common questions.

Mild bouts of diarrhea are very common in our canine companions and can be caused by mild intestinal distress due to your dog eating a small amount of something that doesn't agree with them, such as table scraps, or just from the simple act of switching to a new brand or flavor of food. Persistent diarrhea on the other hand, otherwise known as chronic diarrhea in dogs, can indicate a larger more serious concern.

Nonetheless, there are a number of potential causes of diarrhea in dogs. Your vet will use various diagnostic tests along with physical examinations to get to the bottom of your dog's symptoms.

Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

When looking at what causes diarrhea in dogs there can be many different causes but some are more common than others. Here are some of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Change in diet or treats
  • Eating garbage or spoiled food
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones and fabric
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons
  • Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus
  • Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia or Giardia
  • Bacterial infections - such as salmonella
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Medications such as antibiotics

But how do you know whether your dog's diarrhea requires a visit to the vet?

When should you bring your dog to the vet?

If your dog only has a single spontaneous episode of diarrhea then they will likely have only experienced some gastrointestinal discomfort and will be just fine. However, you should continue to monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if things clear up. If your dog has a second or third bout of diarrhea then you should definitely reach out to your vet.

If your pup is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away. Contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care. 

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your pup is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious and life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your pooch is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your dog has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your pooch is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.

What are the Different Types of Diarrhea in Dogs?

There are two main types of diarrhea experienced by dogs. These are small-bowel and large-bowel diarrhea.

Large-Bowel Diarrhea

The signs that your dog may be experiencing large-bowel diarrhea are:

  • Increased frequency
  • Small amounts of stool
  • Straining while attempting to defecate
  • Blood and mucous in stool

Blood in your dog's stool can be quite alarming. While small amounts of blood are perfectly normal to see within the stool it is a sign of inflammation in the colon and you should contact your vet.

The colon serves two main purposes:

  • containing the stool until the body is ready to expel
  • Preventing dehydration through the resorption of water

The reason why small amounts of blood in the stool is normal is due to the blood vessels being close to the surface and so with any straining and inflammation blood can easily be found in the stool. Mucous is also common as it is produced by the body to assist in the passage of stool through the colon.

If you notice that there is a large amount of blood in the stool or that the blood is quite thick then you should treat the situation with more urgency and bring your dog to visit an emergency animal hospital as soon as possible. 

Small-Bowel Diarrhea

The signs that your dog may be experiencing small-bowel diarrhea:
  • The stool may be large and goopy
  • The stool may take on a fatty or frothy appearance
  • Occasionally  red blood or mucous
  • There is typically no straining involved

The job of the small intestine is the absorption of nutrients. When there is inflammation or dysfunction, there can be a lack of absorption, resulting in fatty stools.

We can also see signs of malnutrition in dogs with small-bowel diarrhea:

  • Increased weight loss
  • Poor appearance of fur
  • Insatiable appetite
  • Sudden acute diarrhea

It is common for acute diarrhea to ease on its own without intervention from your regular vet or an emergency veterinarian.

If your dog's symptoms worsen or continue for more than 48 hours you should contact your primary vet or nearest emergency animal hospital as soon as possible.

Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs

Chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that occurs often and is usually caused by an underlying condition that requires veterinary care.

Some of the common causes of diarrhea in dogs are:
  • Parasites such as whipworms
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Hyperthyroidism or other metabolic condition
  • Cancer
  • Dysbiosis

Chronic diarrhea in dogs can sometimes lead to weight loss, a dry and unthrifty hair coat, and lethargy.

Treating Diarrhea in Dogs

When considering how to stop diarrhea in dogs it's essential that you never give your dog medications formulated for people before consulting your vet. Many human medications are toxic to dogs and could cause further health complications for your pooch. 

If your pup has had one or two runny or soft stools, you may want to give your dog some time to recover by simply fasting for 12 - 24 hours.

A bland diet for 24 - 48 hours may help to resolve your pup's issue. Plain-cooked white rice with a little chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) may help to make your pup's tummy feel better. Once your pooch feels better gradually reintroduce their regular food.

Other things that might help to soothe your dog's upset tummy include natural yogurt, probiotics, peeled boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, egg with no oil added, specially formulated dog foods, and medications prescribed by your vet.

When it comes to your pup's health it is always best to err on the side of caution. By taking your pooch in for an examination you give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your pup's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Ongoing diarrhea can indicate a serious concern. If your canine companion is suffering from diarrhea contact the vets at our clinic in Killen today to schedule an examination.

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Center Star Veterinary Services offers walk-in veterinary services. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Killen companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services.

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