The Scoop on Dog Diarrhea: Causes, Treatments, and When to Worry

Apr 29, 2024 | Dog Safety

Dog owners know that few things can unsettle our furry friends — and, in turn, us — quite like the dreaded ‘runs.’ Dog diarrhea is a ubiquitous canine health issue that can stem from a myriad of causes, some of which are benign and manageable at home, while others may require immediate professional help.

In this comprehensive guide, we pore over everything you need to know about dog diarrhea, equipping you with the knowledge to keep your pup comfortable, your floors clean, and your worries at bay.

Ensuring Health Standards at Snouts and Stouts Indoor Dog Park

At Snouts and Stouts Indoor Dog Park, we are committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for all our furry visitors. Ensuring the well-being of every dog that comes through our doors is a top priority. To mitigate the risk of illness and maintain a high standard of health, we have implemented a strict health check policy for all dogs visiting our facility.

Upon arrival, each dog undergoes a thorough health screening. Our protocol ensures that only healthy dogs who are not exhibiting symptoms of common illnesses associated with dog diarrhea, infections, or other contagious conditions are allowed to enter the park.

Additionally, we regularly educate our pet parents on the importance of parasite control and keeping up with their dogs’ regular deworming schedules. By taking these proactive steps, we not only safeguard the health of individual dogs but also protect the overall well-being of our canine community at Snouts and Stouts.

Understanding the Runs

Dog diarrhea is more than just an inconvenience; it’s often a sign that something isn’t quite right within your pet’s digestive system. Similar to humans, cases of dog diarrhea in puppy and adult dogs involve an increased frequency and liquid consistency of their bowel movements. But why does it occur, and when should you start to worry?

Dietary Indiscretions

While we love to spoil our four-legged companions with table scraps, sudden access to human foods can throw off your dog’s tummy balance, leading to an upset stomach and, consequently, dog diarrhea.


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Bacterial and Viral Infections

Parvovirus, distemper, and salmonella are but a few of the pathogens that can lead to diarrhea in dogs. Infections can also be due to consuming contaminated water, or even just from contact with an infected animal’s stool or saliva. We will take a deeper dive into the common illnesses associated with dog diarrhea later on in the blog.

Parasites

Internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and giardia can all cause gastrointestinal distress in dogs, often manifesting as dog diarrhea from spoiled food.

Stress

Stress, anxiety, or changes in routine can influence your dog’s digestive health just as much as their mental well-being.

Allergies and Intolerances

Some dogs may be allergic to certain ingredients in their food, while others may have an intolerance to common dog food components, both of which can manifest in dog diarrhea.

Serious Health Conditions

Acute dog diarrhea can also be a symptom of more serious issues like pancreatitis, liver disease, or cancer.

Common Illnesses Associated with Dog Diarrhea

Diarrhea in dogs is not only a symptom of digestive upset but can also be associated with several common illnesses that affect our canine friends. Here’s a quick look at some prevalent health issues that might manifest through dog diarrhea:

Gastrointestinal Infections

Infections caused by bacterial or viral infections and viruses (like parvovirus), or parasites (such as giardia) are frequent culprits behind dog  diarrhea and runny dog’s poop. These infections disrupt the normal function of the digestive system, leading to an upset stomach and loose stools.

Food Sensitivities and Allergies

Just like humans, dogs can develop sensitivities or allergies to certain food ingredients. Common allergens include beef, dairy, wheat, chicken, and soy. Dog Diarrhea resulting from these sensitivities can be a dog’s body trying to rid itself of the offending substances, and specially formulated dog foods may be required.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD in dogs is a group of disorders causing inflammation in the lining of the dog’s digestive system. This condition can lead to chronic diarrhea and, in some cases, may require lifelong dietary management and medication.

Pancreatitis

The inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain in dogs. This condition can be triggered by high-fat diets, obesity, or as a side effect of certain medications.

Intestinal Blockages

Foreign objects, tumors, or severe worm infestations can block a dog’s digestive tract, leading to diarrhea, among other symptoms. This situation is urgent and may require surgical intervention.

Recognizing the connection between diarrhea and these illnesses is vital for early detection and treatment. Always consult a veterinarian when you notice persistent diarrhea in your dog, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, to ensure a timely and accurate diagnosis.

The Color Guide to Canine Diarrhea

The color of your dog’s diarrhea can serve as a clue to the underlying cause. Here are some color-coded insights:

Yellow or Green Diarrhea

This may suggest a rapid transit through the digestive system, potentially caused by stress, dietary change, or a bacterial or viral infection.

Black or Tar-like Diarrhea

Can signal internal bleeding, which can be an emergency. This can be caused by a bleeding ulcer or ingestion of blood, often due to older blood in the stomach.

Red Diarrhea

Likely the result of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract and must be evaluated by a vet immediately. It could indicate an injury, poisons, or diseases such as parvovirus.

Orange Diarrhea

Can be caused by pancreatitis, or the rapid transit of food through the intestines, which can occur with conditions like parvovirus.

Gray Greasy Diarrhea

This color may indicate a biliary or liver problem and requires a vet visit.

What’s Normal & When to Worry

In many cases, a bout of diarrhea in dogs can resolve itself within a day or two. However, there are signs that indicate a more serious problem requiring urgent veterinary attention:

Persistent Diarrhea

If your dog’s bowel habits aren’t back to normal after two days, it may signal a more serious health issue.

Other Symptoms

Diarrhea accompanied by other symptoms, such as vomiting, lethargy, blood in the stool, or a loss of appetite, may mean your dog has a more complex problem.

Puppies and Older Dogs

Always err on the side of caution with very young and elderly dogs, who are more susceptible to health issues associated with diarrhea.

Dehydration

Look for signs of dehydration like a dry mouth, sunken eyes, or lethargy; these can develop quickly and need immediate attention.

Chronic Diarrhea

If your dog experiences diarrhea regularly or it lasts for weeks or months, this could be a sign of a chronic condition that needs a vet’s diagnosis and management.

First-Aid at Home

There are several measures you can take at home to manage your dog’s diarrhea, provided it is not severe and the dog is otherwise doing well.

The Bland Diet

Feeding your dog a bland diet, such as boiled rice and chicken, can help rest their digestive system and ease symptoms.

Probiotics

Administering canine-specific probiotics can aid in restoring the balance of good bacteria in your pet’s gut.

Hydration

It’s crucial to keep your dog hydrated when they have diarrhea. Offer small, regular amounts of water or an electrolyte-balanced solution to prevent dehydration.

a dog laying on the floor with a person holding a stick

Treat Diarrhea Under Vet Care

If at-home remedies don’t cut it, it’s time to consult your veterinarian. They’ll help identify the cause of the problem and may recommend clinical treatments such as:

Prescription Medications

Antidiarrheal drugs and antibiotics can help manage and eradicate the underlying cause of diarrhea.

Fluid Therapy

For moderate to severe cases of diarrhea, especially those which risk dehydration, your veterinarian might recommend IV or subcutaneous fluid therapy.

Nutritional Support

In severe cases, your vet might recommend a special diet or tube feeding to provide your dog with the essential nutrition necessary for recovery.

Additional Testing

If the cause is not readily apparent, your vet might run further tests such as blood work, fecal examination, or imaging studies to provide a diagnosis.

Dogs Eating Grass Outside

Many dog owners have observed their pets occasionally eating grass outside, a behavior that has puzzled pet parents and veterinarians alike.

There are several theories behind why dogs might do this. Some suggest that dogs eat grass to induce vomiting when they feel unwell, as a way to relieve stomach distress or eliminate something unpleasant from their stomachs. Others argue it could be due to a nutritional deficiency, where dogs instinctively seek out grass to supplement their diet with more fiber or nutrients.

However, it’s also possible that dogs simply enjoy the texture or taste of grass and eat it as part of their natural curiosity and exploration of their environment. Importantly, eating grass is generally considered normal behavior for dogs, but pet owners should ensure the grass their dogs have access to hasn’t been treated with pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals that could be harmful. If a dog is eating grass excessively or shows signs of illness after eating grass, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

Preventing the Runs

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to minimize your dog’s risk of getting diarrhea:

Stick to a Consistent Diet

A consistent, quality diet can help avoid many instances of dietary-related diarrhea.

Be Mindful of Changing Foods

If you must change your dog’s diet, do so gradually over the course of a week to allow their digestive system time to adjust.

Keep Your Pup Hydrated and Active

Regular bowel movements are an essential part of maintaining digestive health, and staying active can help in this regard. Adequate hydration also helps keep things moving regularly.

Parasite Control

Keep up with your dog’s deworming and parasite prevention measures as recommended by your vet.

Boston Terrier inside a vehicle

In Conclusion

Dog diarrhea is a common and often manageable issue. However, it serves as an important barometer for your pet’s health. By understanding the potential causes, knowing when to intervene at home, and recognizing serious signs that warrant a trip to the vet, you can ensure your dog’s well-being is in good — and clean — hands. Remember, just like for humans, an attentive approach to digestive health can lead to happier, healthier days for your furry companion.

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