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Diarrhea in Dogs — Causes, Treatments & Prevention

Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Saturday 15 July 2017
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Diarrhea in Dogs
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Diarrhea in dogs is one of the most serious health issues they can go through. Although dog diarrhea is not the kind of topics dog owners like to bring up and discuss, it’s one that needs to be addressed if the issue is persistent.

Dog diarrhea can vary in frequency, duration and severity depending on each individual dog and what is causing the issue. Along with vomiting, it’s one of the toughest problems to understand and fix because unlike humans, dogs cannot talk to us.

Indeed, dog diarrhea can range from a simple case of upset stomach or virus to something more malignant such as kidney or liver disease. While it may not be a fun topic to read about, it’s important to know the different issues that can cause diarrhea and the dog diarrhea remedies available to help cure or prevent it.

Diarrhea May Be Symptom of a Serious Problem

It’s very important to look out for other symptoms, along with diarrhea, that could hint at a more serious problem. For example, pancreatitis is a common cause of diarrhea in dogs.

A one-off diarrhea on its own is not very worrisome. However, if the diarrhea is caused by something more serious, there are certain signs you should watch out for:

  • Lethargy — is you dog laying around instead of running around and playing like he normally does?
  • Lack of Energy — does he seem to have a lack of energy?
  • Loss of Appetite — perhaps the most obvious indication of a bigger concern is a dog stopping eating and/or drinking.

About the last point, if your dog isn’t eating or drinking enough that’s a good hint that you should take him in to see your veterinarian. This is because of a simple mechanical deduction. Diarrhea in dogs means a big sudden loss of water and nutrients; while too small food or water intake means the dog gets weaker and more at risk to complications.

Other symptoms that indicate you should get your pet seen can include abdominal bloating, dehydration, vomiting, pain and evidence of blood in your pet’s stool. The colour is also a good way to tell what’s going on:

  • If your dog’s diarrhea is black and tarry, it’s a sign of intestinal bleeding.
  • Yellow or orange is a strong indication of liver or biliary (bile) issue.
  • Green can show that the dog has eaten too much grass or show an issue with the gallbladder.

These are guidelines but each diarrhea should be reported back to your vet, at least over the phone.

Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

The best way to prevent a dog from having diarrhea is to be aware of the most common causes of diarrhea in puppies and dogs. Obviously, dogs have a very resistant digestive system but they can still, at times, eat something they shouldn’t. Diarrhea, like vomiting, isn’t always a sign of a big health issue — it is also a way for the dog’s body to get rid of something that shouldn’t be in it!

Let’s go ahead and list the most common causes of dog diarrhea.

Change in the dog’s diet

The dog’s digestive system gets used to breaking down the food you feed him with; the same for humans. When, by error or purposefully, the dog eats different ingredients or a new type of food, the gut flora (also called the gut microbiota, or gastrointestinal microbiota) gets disturbed. Diarrhea is the common response to a sudden change of diet in dogs.

If you are changing your dog’s food, you should not instantly change it from one diet to the next. Instead, it’s easier on your pet’s stomach if you slowly introduce the diet. Start by mixing in the new food in a ration of one part new to three-part old. Each day increase the ratio of the new food until your pet has successfully transitioned to his new diet.

If your dog has gotten into something he shouldn’t have such as the garbage, you can try fasting him for 24-hours, providing plenty of fresh water to stave off dehydration. Be aware of what your dog has gotten into. If he has consumed anything that can be toxic to a dog, such as chemicals, a poisonous plant, etc., it’s important that you get him seen right away!

Stress and anxiety

Stress often happens with a change in living areas, a big move, loud noises, a change in owners, or many other factors. It can even happen when a new animal is introduced to the dog.

Stress-induced diarrheas normally go away once your pet has gotten used to change or the stressor (loud noises, crowded places, etc.) has abated. Until the issue goes away, you can fast your dog for 24 hours and provide plenty of vitaminized water to help wash out the problem. If diarrhea has not abated after the 24-hour fast, a bland diet of boiled rice and chicken can help with your dog’s issue, and lots of petting and attention will help him to feel safer!

On a similar note, when female dogs go into season, hormonal changes can be a strong stressor and may result in an upset stomach and diarrhea. Make sure you read our article on how to calm a bitch in heat.

Allergies, illnesses, bacterial and viral infections

Another common cause of dog diarrhea is an illness such as a bacterial or viral infection. Some common forms of these ailments are parvovirus, distemper, and coronavirus. An easy way to prevent your dog from becoming ill with these infections are to keep your pet updated on his yearly vaccines! These vaccinations are given at all veterinary clinics and are available at some outpatient clinics at pet stores.

However, it’s very important to keep a record of all of your pet’s vaccines to make sure he’s not getting multiple doses of the same vaccine in one year. Titer tests are the best way to avoid giving a useless booster.

It is also common to have diarrhea is your pet has intestinal parasites, such as:

  • worms — roundworm, hookworm, whipworm (three common intestinal worms)
  • endoparasites — giardia or coccidia (two common intestinal parasites)

If your dog develops diarrhea because of a viral or bacterial infection, or as a case of internal parasites, it is important to have your pet seen at your local veterinary clinic. The vet will be able to prescribe the correct antibiotic or deworming medication to help your pet become healthy again. Many flea, tick and heartworm prevention products also offer protection against internal parasites.

If you are a big advocate for more natural remedies, you should most definitely have some Diatomaceous Earth at home at all times.

Side effects of medications

As we all know, medications can come with many side effects. One of the most common side effects of medications for dogs is diarrhea. If your dog is experiencing diarrhea and was recently put on prescription dog food or medication from your veterinarian, it’s a good idea to check and see if this problem is one of the listed side-effects. If it is, there are a few options you have to choose from.

One of the most common remedies that vets will try is a probiotic to help firm up your dog’s stool. At our clinic, we use a probiotic made by Purina called Fortiflora. It’s a powder that comes in a small packet that you sprinkle on your dog’s food once or twice a day. You can also mix in boiled rice and chicken into your dog’s food to see if that will help clear things up.

If the medication your dog is using is a long-term treatment, your vet may want you to change your dog’s diet to a specially formulated feed for gastrointestinal issues. These special diets are formulated to keep your dog’s digestive system happy and healthy and help relieve symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach. Remember, if your vet wants you to switch diets, slowly mix in the new food with the old food so your dog’s system has time to adjust!

Serious health problems

If your dog has diarrhea for 3 days, it could be a sign of a much more complicated and severe illness. Some examples of illnesses that can cause diarrhea include inflammatory:

  • bowel disease,
  • kidney or liver disease, and
  • tumors (malignant or benign) in the digestive tract.

It is very important to look for other signs that could point to an illness causing your pet’s diarrhea. As stated earlier in this article, some accompanying symptoms may include vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of weight, a change in the color of your dog’s stool and lethargy.

If your dog is diagnosed with an illness, the treatment for both the illness and diarrhea can vary depending on the severity of the illness.

If the illness is minor, such as inflammatory bowel disease or a virus, your vet may prescribe antibiotics and a probiotic for diarrhea while your dog gets better and recommend a diet of boiled chicken and rice until your dog feels better.

If the illness is more severe, such as kidney or liver disease or intestinal tumors, the treatment can be much more complex. As your dog goes through the treatment for his illness, your vet may want you to start a medication to help with your dog’s diarrhea or switch your dog to a gastrointestinal food, either long-term or permanently as well as starting a probiotic alongside.

Using boiled chicken and rice long-term is not recommended as it does not have all the nutrients your dog needs and can lead to malnutrition. It’s a great solution for one-off issues but is not sustainable over the course of a week or more.

5 Best Dog Diarrhea Remedies

If you are wondering how to treat dog diarrhea, and you don’t have any Imodium at home, here are the five best remedies for dogs with diarrhea.

Obviously check with a vet especially if the diarrhea is dragging on for too long, or if it is bloody dog diarrhea.

1. ProPectalin Anti-Diarrheal Gel for Dogs

The issue with most digestive support supplements on the market is that they tend to be great at preventive dog diarrhea, but less efficient when the diarrhea is right here, right now.

Worry no more. ProPectalin Anti-Diarrheal Gel for Dogs is the best solution to treat and cease diarrhea in dogs caused by non-threatening reasons such as stress, change in diet, side-effects of some medications, and so on. It’s really efficient but does cost a little more per dose. We recommend having a few of these syringes always available so you can stop diarrhea as early as possible!

ProPectalin is an anti-diarrheal gel that soothes irritated intestines while also restoring a balanced intestinal microflora. It’s main active compounds are:

  • Enterococcus Faecium — probiotic enzyme reducing episodes of acute infectious diarrhea
  • Kaolin — clay found in nature used to treat mild diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera
  • Pectin — boosts the anti-diarrheal properties of kaolin

The administration is easy as most dog owners squeeze the gel out on their own finger so the dog licks it off. Otherwise, if your dog isn’t appealed by it, simply put the whole dose in their mouth, or mix it with their food.

2. Purina Fortiflora

Created with a high level of palatability, Purina Fortiflora is a nutritional probiotic supplement for dogs suffering from gut microbiota issues. These gastrointestinal problems include diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, and gas.

As a probiotic dog supplement, Fortiflora promotes a stronger immune system by stimulating the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties found in the digestive system. There is also great levels of vitamins A, E, and C, as well as antioxidants and a guaranteed amount of live active cultures, such as Enterococcus Faecium.

3. VAN BEEK Synacore Digestive Support for Dogs

Van Beek is a great brand offering healthier supplements for dogs, and the Synacore Digestive Support for Dogs is another great example. It is a daily synbiotic supplement that contains probiotics, enzymes, prebiotics, and vitamins. All of them working hard to support your dog’s gastrointestinal tract at various stages (before, during and after digestion.)

The list of active compounds is wonderful and includes fermentation extracts, fructooligosaccharide, and aspergillus niger. These, and many more active enzymes, are helping the dog’s natural microflora in an effort to help break down the ingested dog food and retrieve more nutrients than ever.

Since the observed price increase of Purina Fortiflora, Synacore has gained traction within the dog breeding circles. Indeed, dog breeders often own several dogs and diarrhea is rather common, so a higher price tag is a massive hindrance.

4. Pet Ultimates Probiotics for Dogs

pet ultimates probiotics for dogs
Check out Pet Ultimates Probiotics For Dogs

This is the probiotic dog supplement with the highest species count out there, and it’s most definitely going to make a huge difference to your dog’s overall health, and gastrointestinal efficiency. A species is one type of enzyme, probiotic, or prebiotic; with one species usually being good at one particular mission. By formulating a dog supplement with 22 carefully selected species, Pet Ultimates Probiotics is making a real difference versus the competition.

Inulin (prebiotic), Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. brevis, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. cellobiosus, L. delbrueckii, L. fermentum, L. helveticus, L. lactis, L. plantarum, L. reuteri, Bifidobacterium adolescentis, B. animalis, B. bifidum, B. infantis, B. longum, Enterococcus thermophilus, Pediococcus acidilactici, P. pentosaceus, Propionibacterium freudenreichii, P. shermanii, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Alpha-Galactosidase, Magnesium Stearate.

Although this may be a little bit of an overkill for everyday digestive support, it’s a wonderful supplement for dogs having a real health weakness, especially relating to their gastrointestinal tract. Some dog owners have reported that their veterinarians are recommending this supplement for dogs having long-term treatment incurring severe diarrheas (bowel, liver and kidney diseases.)

5. Diggin Your Dog Firm Up Pumpkin Supplement

Pumpkin and apple fiber both have natural anti-diarrheal properties so it would be unwise not to mention them in an article about the best dog diarrhea remedies. The above supplements are the ones needed when a dog owner is wondering how to treat dog diarrhea, while this is more of an everyday supplement to facilitate better digestion, especially in more senior and fragile dogs.

Grown and harvested in the United States, this pumpkin supplement for dogs is the best add-on while transitioning to new dog food, or when going on stress-causing destinations (camping, traveling, car journeys, etc.) Just give a couple of teaspoons daily and you should notice the difference in your dog’s stools after a few days.

This pouch is roughly equivalent to twelve cans of pumpkin, so you’ve got plenty!

3 Best Food For Dogs With Diarrhea

When your dog is affected by a severe illness, chances are he is going through a very long course of medication causing episodes of diarrhea as a side effect. Switching to a digestive support dog food should help keep strengthen the dog’s gastrointestinal health over time.

Quick warning, though! These specially-formulated dog foods are often coming at a high price tag. This is why most dog owners prefer to use one of the abovementioned supplements along with more regular dog food. If you are happy with more premium dog food, you should be interested in the following anti-diarrheal dog foods:

1. ProPlan EN Gastroenteric Dog Food

Perhaps my favorite dog food for dogs with diarrhea, the Purina ProPlan EN Gastroenteric Kibble is a wonderfully-prepared formula that is highly digestible. It contains moderate levels of fat but the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids included are great for skin and digestive health. Additionally, there are great levels of prebiotics and lower fiber content to support the gastrointestinal digestive process.

So many veterinarians are promoting and recommending this particular dog food and it makes total sense: it’s very palatable and ideal for dogs suffering from bloody diarrheas.

2. Royal Canin Canine Gastrointestinal

Formulated with less fat and fewer fibers than most dog foods, Royal Canin Canine Gastrointestinal is a dry dog food that is purposefully easy to digest. To date, this is the lowest-fat dog food available on the US market, at a level between 4.5 to 8.5% crude fat. The recipe has been conceived for dogs suffering from gastrointestinal complications such as:

  • pancreatitis,
  • enteropathy,
  • bacterial overgrowth, or
  • bile acid deficiency.

Therefore, such high-quality specialized kibble should be helpful in restoring a healthier gut microbiota as well as improving the quality of your dog’s stools.

3. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach

Formulated with high-quality ingredients and whole grains, this healthy dog food offers ideal levels of fibers, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids. Many owners of dogs often having diarrheas have reported clear improvements after a couple of weeks. For the dubious dog owners, there is a 100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

If you have a puppy, you need to make sure your puppy’s newly formulated food is providing enough calories and proteins for them to grow steadily.

How To Avoid Puppy Diarrhea

It’s important to remember that even healthy dogs can get diarrhea from time-to-time. You can help your dog avoid this problem with a few tips in mind:

  • Keep your dog up-to-date on all of his vaccinations and intestinal parasite screens.
  • Make sure your dog does not have access to garbage or spoiled food.
  • While your dog is outside, make sure he doesn’t eat any trash and doesn’t drink from puddles on the ground.
  • Don’t let your dog eat any stool, whether from himself or from other animals.
  • Keep your dog’s environment as stress-free as possible.
  • When switching your dog’s diet, be sure to do so gradually so it doesn’t upset his stomach.

Here is a final bit of content, a great video, on treatments for dog diarrheas.

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