“Oh dear, my dog has diarrhea!” This statement frightens many dog owners – and rightly so. If your dog suffers from diarrhea, this is a sure sign of a disturbed gastrointestinal function. The reasons for this are very diverse. If diarrhea stops quickly, a special diet that is gentle on the stomach and intestines, restorative preparations, and rest are often sufficient. But diarrhea rarely comes alone – many other complaints can accompany it. Read here how you can best deal with your dog’s diarrhea and find out how you can prepare the right bland diet.
Diarrhea in dogs: what exactly is it and what are the causes?
Diarrhea is the excretion of runny or mushy feces, referred to as diarrhea in medical jargon.
Diarrhea can be accompanied by other gastrointestinal problems, such as abdominal pain, tummy rumbling, or vomiting, and can also be accompanied by fever (higher than 40 °C).
If a dog has diarrhea, it lasts one to a maximum of three days in the uncomplicated case. During this time, your dog may behave calmer or appear a little listless, may have no appetite, or may even be lethargic. If the diarrhea is acute, there is frequent defecation. You should be prepared for this and take your dog out immediately if there are any signs.
How severe the symptoms of diarrhea depend on the individual case. Observe particularly intense symptoms in your dog. If your darling suffers disproportionately, the veterinary team at Dr. Fressnapf quickly and, above all, stress-free. Before the symptoms of diarrhea worsen, the experienced veterinarians differentiate between a supposedly harmless gastrointestinal disease and cases that need treatment, which can be life-threatening. If necessary, our veterinary team will also advise you online on nutrition-related diseases or the individual feeding of your animal in the various phases of life.
The most common causes of diarrhea in dogs include:
- Wrong food: spoiled food, e.g. carrion, something from the garbage can or infested with maggots, fresh food that is too old (meat, bones).
- Wrong nutrition: spicy food, dairy products, intolerable foods such as tomatoes, onions, avocados, and many more; low-quality dog food, for example with too many carbohydrates and bad proteins.
- Animal feed allergies or intolerances: for example wheat, certain types of meat, preservatives.
- Diet change: for example from dry food to BARF.
- Toxic substances/harmful substances: Poisonous baits, plant poisons, fertilizers, animal poisons such as slug pellets or antifreeze.
- Medications: In some cases, antibiotics or certain painkillers, for example, can cause diarrhea as a side effect in dogs.
- Gastrointestinal diseases: Infectious causes such as bacterial or viral gastrointestinal infections, more rarely also fungal infections, intestinal inflammation caused by parasite infestation with worms (helminths) or protozoa (protozoa, e.g. giardia), other intestinal diseases such as chronic intestinal inflammation (“Inflammatory Bowel Disease”, abbreviated IBD) without a known cause.
- Other underlying diseases: inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), kidney or liver weakness, autoimmune diseases, or hormonal diseases. If an underlying disease outside the intestine is the cause of diarrhea, there are usually additional symptoms that are characteristic of this disease.
If this is accompanied by a fever of over 40 °C and/or your dog vomits, please visit the veterinarian or a veterinary emergency room immediately.
Only your veterinarian can do tests to rule out poisoning, a serious infection, or serious organ disease as the cause of your dog’s diarrhea.
My dog has diarrhea – what to do?
If your dog has acute diarrhea with no or only slight accompanying symptoms such as a slight fever (maximum 40 °C) and it only seems a little calmer than usual, then it is sufficient if you keep a close eye on it and support it it it its self-healing powers.
Be sure to offer him fresh, clean water and try to encourage him to drink. Because the dog loses a lot of fluids due to diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration of the body. If your dog loses more fluid than it takes in as a result of diarrhea, this can, in extreme cases, lead to a circulatory collapse. Pay attention to your dog’s mucous membranes, for example in the mouth: If they are dry or look pale, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Put your sick four-legged friend on a strict diet and do not give him any food for 24 hours. This should relieve the irritated intestines and prevent the intestines from withdrawing water from the body and increasing diarrhea. Then prepare your pet a special diet – see the section ” How long should you feed it when you have diarrhea?” “.
If the general condition worsens or if diarrhea does not stop after three days, you should visit the vet immediately. Please take puppies with diarrhea to the vet the same day, as there is a risk of rapid dehydration, which can also be life-threatening.
What to do if the dog keeps having diarrhea?
While acute diarrhea in dogs is limited to just a few days, dogs can also have chronic diarrhea: the symptoms then persist over a long time. Depending on the cause, it is also possible for a dog to have diarrhea again and again.
If your dog has persistent diarrhea, you should discuss this with your veterinarian. There can be various causes behind this, such as food intolerances, but also organic diseases.
You can help your vet make a diagnosis by providing important clues about the symptoms. Notes on the type of food, feeding times, and when diarrhea occurs can be very useful.
Incidentally, certain characteristics can be used to distinguish in which section of the intestine – in the small or large intestine – your dog’s diarrhea originates.
Examples of differences between diarrhea in the small intestine and diarrhea in the large intestine are:
- Large amounts (small intestine), normal amounts (large intestine)
- Defecation is 2 to 3 times more likely than normal (small intestine), 4 to 6 times more likely (large intestine)
- Rare diarrhea with mucus (small intestine), mucous diarrhea (lots of mucus) (large intestine)
- Diarrhea with blood: Red blood mixed with diarrhea (small intestine), blood overlying feces (large intestine)
- contain undigested feed components (small intestine), but are absent in large intestinal diarrhea
If a dog’s diarrhea is yellow, the cause may be in the liver or pancreas. If your dog keeps having diarrhea, it is also a good idea to take a stool sample to the vet. In the laboratory, this can be examined for various pathogens and parasites.
If you have these symptoms, go to the vet immediately:
- bloody diarrhea
- Frequent watery diarrhea
- Abdominal pain (dog in “prayer position” ie lying on the chest on the floor, standing on hind legs, or adopting other unfamiliar positions)
- dog is restless
- Dog is lethargic
- Dog does not eat and/or drink
- dog vomits
- The dog has a fever of more than 40 °C
How long to feed bland foods with diarrhea?
After overcoming or still existing diarrhea, many dogs have an attacked intestine and a sensitive stomach.
Therefore, the food you now offer the animal should soothe the affected organs and support their healing powers.
Offer your four-legged friend only small, easily digestible amounts of food and feed them several portions throughout the day. The division of the feed ratio is intended to relieve the gastrointestinal tract and help it with digestion. How long your dog needs a bland diet for diarrhea can vary from person to person, but the symptoms should have subsided after around five days (after a week at the latest). Once your dog begins to defecate again, you can gradually return to his usual diet.
Light diet recipe for a 10 kg dog:
- 125 grams chicken, cooked until soft and cut into small pieces (white boneless meat!)
- 300 grams of very soft boiled rice
- 125 grams cottage cheese (optional, omit if intolerance)
Since this bland diet does not contain enough vitamins and minerals, you need to start adding supplements after five days.
After diarrhea and also during the “fasting period” you can offer your dog preparations that on the one hand provide energy (through the sugar compounds they contain) and on the other hand compensate for the loss of minerals. Depending on the preparation, you can either give this to your dog as a ready-to-use solution or offer it as a powder dissolved in drinking water. This makes sense to protect the emaciated dog organism from further organ damage. This is especially true for weak, old animals and puppies.
At the veterinarian and in specialist shops, you can get ready-made light food for dog patients suffering from diarrhea as well as preparations with substances that build up the intestines, such as prebiotics, probiotics, roughage, or tannins. Charcoal tablets help some dogs with diarrhea, they act as toxin binders, i.e. they bind toxins. All these remedies work with active ingredients from naturopathy.
Is your dog dependent on certain animal feed, for example, due to certain organ diseases or diabetes, and does it also have to take special medication? Then talk to the vet beforehand.
What to do if the dog patient is already allergic?
If your allergic dog or dog suspected of having an allergy has acute diarrhea, then its allergy risk increases due to the disrupted barrier of the intestinal walls.
Therefore, you should offer him so-called sacrificial protein food for a while after diarrhea. This is what is called allergy food with only one source of protein that the animal has not received before, for example, horsemeat or duck. Or you give him hydrolyzed diet food.
If your dog develops another allergy to this new food, it is not so serious, because after the diarrhea-related diet you can switch back to the allergy food you are used to.
Can a dog get diarrhea?
Basically, it is advisable to pay attention to good hygiene when your dog has diarrhea. This includes careful handwashing after extensive animal contact, cleaning and disinfecting excrement-stained textiles or surfaces, and rinsing out food and drinking bowls with hot water.
In principle, intestinal bacteria can make us ill if they get into our bodies through impurities. This also applies if your dog is healthy.
There are also diarrhea-causing bacteria and parasites that can also be transmitted from dogs to humans. One example is Giardia, a protozoan parasite that infects the intestines of dogs.