Dog ownership isn't always a walk in the park. Sometimes our beloved pets are ill and dog diarrhoea is something that, as a pet parent, you'll probably have to face someday. In fact, most of us will at one time or another say, "my dog has diarrhoea".
Diarrhoea is not an illness in itself, but rather an indicator that something is wrong, but just like when we humans suffer from the runs, something your dog's eaten is normally the cause.
Happily, most cases are mild and with the right management resolve within 24/48 hours but diarrhoea can also be a telltale sign that your dog may be hypersensitive to something in their diet, or that there is something more complex going on that needs to be investigated by a vet.
The majority of cases of dog diarrhoea are caused by your four-legged friend swallowing something they shouldn’t, scavenging is often the culprit, maybe your pooch has eaten something rancid, been through the bin or been indulging in fatty table scraps.
He could have swallowed a foreign object such as a toy or your homework which could have blocked his intestinal tract, this can cause diarrhoea or constipation. Of course, we all do our best to discourage our pooches from putting everything but the kitchen sink in their mouths, but dogs are dogs, and this is easier said than done!
So, don’t feel guilty if your four-legged friend has got his paws on something he shouldn’t.
Stress and anxiety can be a contributing factor, things like a house move or the introduction of a new pet can set these things off. Sensitivity to antibiotics can also be a contributing factor, if you suggest this is the case consult your vet immediately, don’t stop your pet’s medication without consulting your vet.
A sudden change of diet is also a common reason for a dog’s upset stomach and many pooches routinely suffer from loose stools due to being fed a dog food that they can’t cope with due to having a sensitive tummy or dietary intolerance.
Most dogs need time to transition from one dog food to another, instead of completely switching from one dog food to another slowly introduce the new dog food into their diet incrementally increasing the amount you feed your dog of the new dog food while slowly decreasing the amount of the old dog food. This will allow your dog to get used to the new food and avoid stomach issues.
However, diarrhoea could also be the symptom of a more serious and complex underlying condition such as a bacterial or viral infection, ingesting a toxic substance or parasites. Loose stools could also be a sign that your dog is suffering from colitis, pancreatitis or IBS/IBD.
Remember diarrhoea is just an indicator that something’s wrong, and as you can see there are so many different things it could be so it’s vitally important to get to the root of the problem. Take a trip to your local vet and get your pooch checked out, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Clearly the most obvious symptom of diarrhoea is loose stools. Make sure you take notice of the colour and odour as this might be a clue for your vet as to what's going on.
This chart will help you understand and explain your dog's stools to a veterinary professional.
Sometimes you might also notice that your dog is very lethargic, and/or is suffering from a loss of appetite or be vomiting.
Bloody diarrhoea in dogs is a cause for concern as are black tarry stools, fever and diarrhoea accompanied by seizures. It is especially important to closely monitor puppies with diarrhoea as they can dehydrate very quickly and diarrhoea can also be the first indicator of parvovirus, a serious life-threatening infection that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
If your pooch is presenting with any of these other symptoms, it's wise to get them straight to the vet, just in case.
If your dog has diarrhoea but acts fine otherwise without any other symptoms you can try withholding their meals and treats for 12 hours. Always make sure they have access to freshwater though as you don’t want them to become dehydrated.
When you reintroduce your pooch to food, keep it to something bland such as small portions of lean boiled chicken or white fish and rice, you might find that the cause of the diarrhoea is an allergy to certain foods such as grains, beef or potato.
Because many of the causes of diarrhoea in dogs are diet-related, it’s important to give your dog a dinner that won’t upset their stomach. This means finding a food that avoids artificial additives, common allergens, and has a low fat content.
Pure is made using simple, natural ingredients without any nasty additives or preservatives that could upset canine stomachs. It avoids common allergens, and the range of recipes and plans are tailored to your dog’s individual needs so it won’t trigger any allergies or aggravate existing conditions that could be causing diarrhoea.
Be extra vigilant when treating mild diarrhoea at home with puppies and small dogs that they are taking in fluids, as they can become dehydrated and lose weight very quickly. In any case, if the problem persists for more than 24 hours it’s best to take a trip to the vet.
A dog that is exhibiting any other symptoms and/or has bad diarrhoea should be seen by a vet as soon as possible, once the cause is diagnosed, they will be given the correct treatment.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.