Diarrhea in Dogs: Causes and Treatment

Dogs can have diarrhea from time to time. It often resolves itself, but it can also put a heavy strain on the organism and become a permanent problem. Read here about the causes and therapies for dogs with diarrhea!

Strictly speaking, diarrhea in dogs is not a disease, but a symptom. However, the symptom of diarrhea can also be dangerous. Severe diarrhea, especially when accompanied by vomiting or fever, can very quickly lead to dehydration and life-threatening circulatory failure.

Puppies or weakened dogs should be examined quickly by a vet if they have severe diarrhea with or without accompanying symptoms.

Diarrhea in dogs for cleaning

From an upset stomach to viruses, worms or simply “shit” out of fear: there are countless causes of diarrhea. It is often not even known what caused acute diarrhea, because fortunately the diarrhea is over before the veterinarian can seriously diagnose it. That’s because many diarrhea are self-limiting.

The intestine is irritated by pathogens or harmful substances and then reacts with diarrhoea. The diarrhea then flushes its own causes out of the intestine.

In order for the diarrhea to be able to carry out its function of cleaning up the intestines, it must not be suppressed by medication. Of course, this only applies if the causes of the diarrhea are actually in the intestines and can be flushed out. If this is not the case, it can be difficult and sometimes tedious.

Diarrhea in young dogs

In puppies and young dogs, general infections and stubborn parasites are the main causes of complicated diarrhea. Infections such as parvovirus, distemper and leptospirosis are particularly dangerous and can lead to serious general illnesses and sometimes death in the dog.

All three diseases, or at least a severe course of the disease, can be prevented by vaccination.

Diarrhea caused by Giardia

Giardia is a common cause of recurrent diarrhea in dogs under the age of one. These are single-celled intestinal parasites that dogs can get infected with anywhere. The intestinal mucosa of adult healthy dogs can usually keep Giardia in check so that the animals do not show any symptoms despite an infection. Young dogs, on the other hand, suffer from persistent diarrhea.

Apart from the diarrhea, the affected dogs are usually fit and alert. A veterinarian can diagnose Giardia by examining the feces. In addition to treatment with special antiparasitic agents against Giardia, strict hygiene is important to avoid re-infection with this disease, because these parasites can easily become regular guests and diarrhea a permanent problem.

In a Berlin study from 2017, Giardia caused six percent of chronic diarrhea. Diarrhea that lasts three weeks or longer or occurs repeatedly is called chronic.

Causes of diarrhea in dogs

A rough distinction is made between diarrhea caused by a disease of the intestines and those caused by diseases outside the intestines. The latter primarily include diseases of the pancreas, followed by hormonal disorders, liver, kidney, or heart diseases.

Reduced pancreatic function

If the pancreas function is restricted (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, EPI), the dog can no longer digest dietary fats. The fats stay in the intestines and lead to bloating and diarrhea. In addition, the fats in the intestines block the absorption of vitamins and other important nutrients.

Malnutrition occurs over time, which can cause food cravings and skin problems. The veterinarian makes the diagnosis of EPI with the help of special fecal and blood tests. The disease is treated for life by adding enzymes to the diet that take over fat digestion.

Intestinal diseases in dogs

In cases of chronic intestinal inflammation without a clear cause, diagnostic treatment attempts are carried out. The diseases are then differentiated according to the response to a specific therapy as:

Feed responsive enteropathy (FRE)
Antibiotic Responsive Enteropathy (ARE)
Inflammation of the bowel for no identifiable reason” (IBD)

The most common is food intolerance (FRE), which can be controlled with a special diet. It is crucial for the success of the therapy and thus also for the diagnosis that a dog suspected of having this disease actually only gets its diet food and nothing else. It can take two to four weeks for the animal to stop suffering from indigestion on the diet. Until then, it is not known whether the dog actually suffers from FRE.

If the diagnostic diet is unsuccessful, a trial with special antibiotics can be considered. This also applies if no infection was found in the dog. In dogs that are not responding to diet or antibiotics, vets diagnose IBD.

Diarrhea can also be a symptom of poisoning. If your dog has eaten food or plants that are poisonous to him, you should contact a veterinarian immediately, as this can be fatal! Poisoning is often accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, cramps, tremors, or salivation.

Individual therapy for dogs with diarrhea

In the case of intestinal inflammation without an identifiable reason, the veterinarian will try to relieve the inflammation with medication.

In order to keep the drug dose as low as possible and thus prevent side effects, the dog is given a low-irritant diet, usually an anti-allergy food. Selected dietary supplements, such as omega fatty acids, have an anti-inflammatory effect and thus also support the therapy. Since stress and fear can trigger or worsen diarrhea, it helps to identify sources of stress and eliminate them if possible, especially in nervous dogs.

Tip: Moro’s carrot soup can also provide a quick remedy against diarrhea. It is easily digestible and easy to cook.
In the case of intestinal inflammation without a determinable reason, you have to approach the right therapy in individual cases, because what works well for one dog does not help at all for another four-legged patient. Unfortunately, there are also cases in which no improvement can be achieved despite all efforts.

It is usually impossible to heal the intestinal inflammation without an identifiable cause and the dog must be treated for the rest of its life. But once the right individual therapy has been found, the symptoms can be effectively alleviated. Relapses can happen again and again, but they can also be brought under control. Many owners are able to control their dog’s illness so well that both dog and human can live with it.

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