dog sick

Find Some Firmer Ground: What to Do When Your Dog Has Diarrhea

15% of puppies exposed to parvo will die. Diarrhea in dogs is a symptom of parvo and causes some pet parents to think the worst.

Diarrhea in dogs is a common ailment and not always a reason to panic.

The severity of diarrhea and the presence of other symptoms is the best way to evaluate whether you can treat your dog at home or whether veterinary intervention is needed.

If your dog is a puppy, elderly, has a serious medical problem, or is experiencing diarrhea for the first time you should call your vet

If your dog simply has diarrhea, you may be able to treat him at home. Your dog depends on you with his life and you are responsible for taking care of him.

Don’t let him down.

Keep reading to learn more about why your dog has diarrhea and how to stop diarrhea in dogs.

What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs?

Just like us, dogs can sometimes eat something that simply doesn’t agree with them.

Dogs are notorious for eating things they shouldn’t. If you know for a fact that your dog ate something it shouldn’t have, you should call your vet right away.

Some foreign objects can be digested depending on the size of your dog, but some things can be toxic or cause an obstruction.

If your dog is obstructed by an object he ate, diarrhea may be one of the symptoms. If this is the case, you will probably also see vomiting and lethargy.

If your dog seems quite sick overall, you should call your veterinarian. 

Dogs can also experience changes in bowel habits from stress or changes in their environment. Some dogs are more sensitive than others and stressful situations can cause them to have diarrhea.

A common and benign cause of diarrhea is a change in food or an unusual treat.

If you are switching your dog to a new food, this transition should be down slowly by mixing the two foods together and gradually eliminating the old food.

Even when done right, changes in pet food can cause digestive upset for a few days. This should resolve on its own and if not, you should call your vet.

Similarly, if your dog is fed an unfamiliar treat or a treat that is too big for them, they may get diarrhea. This should pass on its own in a day or two. 

What Should You Do if Your Dog Has Diarrhea?

Rule Out A Serious Cause

If your dog has free roam of the house or yard, look around and see if there is any evidence that your dog consumed a foreign object. If this is the case, you need to call your vet as soon as possible.

If there is no evidence that your dog ate anything unusual you can treat your dog at home and watch him closely for any other symptoms. 

If your dog begins vomiting he is more likely to become dehydrated. This is also a sign that there may be a more serious cause and he should see the vet sooner rather than later.

If your dog begins acting lazier than normal or lethargic, meaning he is not interested in food or toys, call the vet right away.

If you notice any blood in his stool or his vomit, call the vet immediately.

Watch For Dehydration

The most important thing to watch for in your dog is any signs of dehydration. If your dog is having frequent or large bouts of diarrhea he may become dehydrated.

Make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times. Watch him closely to see if he is drinking. If he is not drinking enough, he may become dehydrated.

You can check for dehydration in your dog by examining his gums. They should be a healthy pink color as well as moist and when pressed with your finger, should return to their color very quickly.

You can also check the dogs’ skin under his fur on his neck and shoulders. If you pinch the skin, it should return to normal very quickly.

If you think your dog may be dehydrated, please call your veterinarian as soon as possible. While you can give your dog subcutaneous fluids at home, this is best left to experienced professionals.  

Start a Bland Diet

If your dog has diarrhea you are going to want to feed him a bland diet at home.

It is recommended to withhold food for 2-3 hours after the last time your dog has diarrhea. This makes it more likely that he will be able to tolerate the food.

Once this time has elapsed, slowly introduce the bland diet foods. This is easier on his digestive system than kibble and will help prevent further diarrhea and keep him hydrated.

The best bland food to feed him include:

  • Ground lean beef with no spices or oils
  • Cooked turkey or chicken prepared with no spices or oils
  • Plain white rice
  • Sweet potato
  • Cottage cheese

When offering him these foods, you will want to start very slowly.

Start with a small amount like a teaspoon and slowly increase the amount you are feeding if he tolerates it well. You should offer a teaspoon every 2 hours and then increase to 1/2 cup every 3 or 4 hours.

Once his symptoms have stopped, you should stick with the bland diet for an additional 2-3 days. After 3 days, start gradually mixing in his regular food for up to 5 days.

If you do not have time to prepare these foods for your dog, your local pet store may sell a pre-made frozen option that you can purchase.

Do not leave your dog on this diet longer than necessary as it does not provide the whole nutrition that your dog needs. 

Ask Your Vet About Medications

If your dog is having diarrhea in the house or has severe symptoms, you may be able to give your dog over the counter or prescription medications to alleviate his symptoms.

Before giving your dog any medications, consult your veterinarian.

They will help you determine what medications and at what doses might be right for your dog based on his symptoms, age, and weight. 

When in Doubt, Call the Vet

This article has provided some basic information for pet parents on what to do if your dog has diarrhea, but this does not replace the expertise of your veterinarian.

Your dog is your best friend and he deserves the best.

If you are ever unsure, a call to your vet will not hurt. They will most likely provide advice over the phone and you will not even need to come in unless symptoms worsen. 

 For tips on choosing the best vet, check out this blog post.


3 thoughts on “Find Some Firmer Ground: What to Do When Your Dog Has Diarrhea

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