One of the most common problems to walk through the door of the vet’s office is a dog with diarrhoea. In fact, about 1 in 15 dogs will get diarrhoea each year, and it’s the sixth most common problem presented to vets. Dogs often have poop problems brought about by diseases, parasites, intolerances and even ‘dietary indiscretion’ – in other words, eating things they shouldn’t. Either way, dogs with diarrhoea are often uncomfortable and you’re probably wondering how you can stop your dog’s diarrhoea quickly – before it gets worse. If you think it might be the result of a food allergy take a look at our guide to three common food allergies in pets, before consulting your vet. We’ve also compiled a list of the best dog food for allergies which might prove some help in cases like these.
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What causes diarrhoea in dogs?
Dogs can have diarrhoea for a number of reasons. Usually the diarrhoea resolves within a couple of days, before testing has been carried out, making diagnosis difficult. These cases of diarrhoea are generally thought to be caused by dietary indiscretion. Often, these dogs are known to scavenge from bins or dive into bushes and come out with half a sandwich hanging from their mouths. Sometimes, intolerances to food play a part as well – dogs given certain treats may have flares of diarrhoea, or dogs may have longstanding low-grade diarrhoea that resolves if the diet is changed. Changes in diet cause diarrhoea too, especially if the diet is changed quickly.
Diarrhoea can also be infectious. Although parvovirus is regularly vaccinated against, other, less deadly, infectious causes of diarrhoea exist. These cases often have a history of staying in kennels or going to the dog park, and several animals in the house will have the problem at the same time. A virus is often to blame, but most cases resolve quickly with some supportive care. Of course, parasites such as worms can also cause diarrhoea. This is less common in adult dogs but should be considered when a worming schedule has not been followed. Stress can cause diarrhoea, but it can also make a dog more vulnerable to these infectious causes.
Lastly, diarrhoea can be a manifestation of another disease. Some cancers cause diarrhoea, and liver disease, pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease are all things to consider. These are much more likely in dogs that have recurrent diarrhoea or diarrhoea that doesn’t go away.
When should I take my dog to the vet with diarrhoea?
Many causes of diarrhoea do not need veterinary intervention and will get better with some simple home care. However, there are some things you need to be on the lookout for. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, it’s time to get a vet appointment:
- Diarrhoea with blood
- Diarrhoea if your dog is not up to date with his parvovirus vaccinations, or if your dog is very young and is yet to get vaccinated
- Black, tar-like diarrhoea
- Diarrhoea going on for more than 3 days
- Diarrhoea with vomiting lasting more than 24 hours
- Diarrhoea in puppies, old dogs, and dogs with other illnesses that will make them more vulnerable
How to stop dog diarrhoea at home
As we’ve said, most cases of diarrhoea will stop with some simple home care. It’s very important that you follow these tips to ensure your dog recovers as quickly as possible.
1. Allow your dog to rest so they can heal
Sometimes we think that going for a walk is the most important thing for our dogs. And whilst they need the exercise and enjoy their outings, there are times when they can take a break. If you’ve ever had vomiting and diarrhoea, you’ll understand that sometimes you just want to curl up and sleep. Don’t drag your dog out for a walk unless they are likely to get more upset without one – instead, short trips out for toilet opportunities are best. Remember, some types of diarrhoea mean your dog needs to go more frequently, so give them plenty of opportunity to go outside, and don’t punish them if they have an accident.
2. Don't mess with your dog's diet
You might have heard that you need to feed your dog chicken and rice to make their diarrhoea go away. Or that you should give pumpkin for diarrhoea. You may even be recommended this by a vet. But research has shown that changing your dog’s diet can do more harm than good. In fact, chicken and rice is deficient in a whole range of important vitamins and nutrients, so not only is your dog struggling with digestion, you’re also making their life harder by preventing them from getting the nutrition they need. Instead, you can feed a sensitive digestion food that’s specifically designed to help your dog with diarrhoea. Royal Canin Gastrointestinal and Hill’s i/d are two canned diets that are great for dogs with diarrhoea.
3. Increase water intake
Every time your dog goes to the toilet and has diarrhoea, they lose water from their body. It’s easy for dogs with diarrhoea to get dehydrated, so try to encourage water intake. Make sure your dog’s water bowl is full. You may also find that a small amount of flavouring helps them to drink it – the water from a tin of tuna in spring water or the cooled boiled water left after cooking up a small piece of chicken can both be added to your dog’s water bowl to encourage them to drink.
4. Give electrolytes
Just as with us, diarrhoea robs your dog’s body of important electrolytes. Replacing these will enable your dog to rehydrate more effectively and feel better. Rehydration solutions for pets are available – they’re generally flavoured to encourage your pet to drink. Oralade is a premixed solution, but powdered solutions are also available. Your vet will be able to advise on the best product for your pet.
5. Add probiotics and prebiotics
Evidence is mounting that the bacteria living in our guts are important, and the idea of feeding those ‘good’ bacteria, and topping them up from time to time, is becoming more popular. In fact, the first thing your vet is likely to recommend for a case of simple diarrhoea is some gut support in the form of prebiotics and probiotics.
For dogs that have regular upset stomachs, adding a daily prebiotic is helpful. For those that only have the occasional upset, it usually works best to use a prebiotic with added clay to help absorb water and replace the good bacteria. YuDigest Plus is a powdered clay with added prebiotic that helps to support the gut and firm the faeces. It’s not a prescription product, but should be used under veterinary guidance. If your dog is a regular sufferer, your vet will likely recommend you keep a sachet (or a tube of something like ProKolin) in the cupboard to give for simple cases of diarrhoea. Don’t give your pet yoghurt – as pets are often lactose intolerant, it’s just as likely to cause problems as it is to fix them.
How to cure a dog with diarrhoea: The conclusion
97% of diarrhoea cases resolve with simple care, either at home or with a little help from the vet. Remember to keep a close eye on your dog, and call the vet for advice if they get worse, display severe symptoms, or don’t improve within a couple of days.
A powdered probiotic containing montmorillionite and kaolin clay. It binds toxins in the gut, absorbs excess water, and replaces ‘good’ bacteria. Mix with food.
A paste containing beneficial micro-organisms and prebiotics, as well as kaolin clay to bind water and toxins and support gut health.
Oralade GI Support
A rehydration solution for cats and dogs. It’s highly palatable to encourage ill animals to drink, and contains probiotics and amino acids to keep the gut healthy.
Dr Joanna Woodnutt is an experienced vet with an interest in companion animals. She recently left full-time practice to work as a relief vet and write articles about pets.
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