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Oh, No! Doggy Diarrhoea: A Guide for Worried Dog Owners

A dacshund looking at a poop emoji

Dog diarrhoea: It happens. While it’s not the most pleasant subject, loose stools are a reality of dog ownership. Every dog parent has had to clean up a puddle of poop at some point in their dog ownership journey…. And there are always two things that cross your mind as you do so: 1) Does my dog need to go to the vet and 2) How can I help my dog feel better? 

If you’ve found yourself in a poopy situation and you’re worried about your dog, this guide is for you. It will also help you better understand the causes of loose poop to help you prevent future incidents of doggie diarrhoea.

What Causes Dog Diarrhoea?

The first step to dog diarrhoea prevention is understanding what causes your dog’s tummy trouble. Determining the exact cause of your dog’s diarrhoea will depend on the circumstances that led up to their loose stools. 

To help you pinpoint the cause of your doggo’s poop problem, here are the most common factors that result in dog diarrhoea:

1. A Change in Diet

Sudden changes in your dog's diet can disrupt their digestive system. This can lead to diarrhoea. 

What changes can cause your dog to experience an upset tummy? The most common is an abrupt switch to a new brand of dog food. However, introducing new treats, or giving your dog human foods that they're not used to can also do it.

2. Eating Non-Food Objects

Some dogs are notorious for chewing on and swallowing things they shouldn't. Whether it be goodies found in the garbage, socks, dirt, or even their own toys, these items can be rough on the digestive tract, causing irritation and ultimately (you guessed it) diarrhoea.

3. An Infection

Just like us, our dogs can suffer from bacterial or viral infections that cause diarrhoea. We often refer to these infections as “food poisoning” or “the stomach bug.” The most common culprits include salmonella, E. coli, and parvovirus. 

These bacteria and viruses can be spread by contaminated food, water, or exposure to infected dogs.

4. Stress and anxiety

Yes, dogs can get ‘the stress poops.’ Changes in a dog’s environment, routine, or even their owner’s mood can cause an upset tummy and diarrhoea.

This is often the case when a dog gets diarrhoea on a trip.

5. A side effect of medications

Certain medications, especially antibiotics, can alter the balance of gut bacteria in dogs. And when their gut bacteria is off, it doesn’t process food the way it should. This leads to the unfortunate and uncomfortable side effect of diarrhoea.

The Doos and the Don’ts: How to Prevent Loose Poops for Your Pup

In a perfect world, our dogs would never get diarrhoea. Unfortunately, we’re quite a way away from that. However, these tips can help you get a bit closer to pawfect by preventing some cases of diarrhoea. 

      1. Change your dog’s diet gradually. When transitioning your dog to a new food, do so slowly over a period. Ideally, this should happen over the course of 7 to 10 days to allow their digestive system to adjust.
      2. Be cautious about what you feed your four-legged friend. Avoid giving your dog any table scraps, extra fatty (or greasy) foods, or foods that dogs struggle to digest, such as dairy [1].
      3. Clean up any potential digestive blockages or toxins. If your dog has a knack for eating odd objects or substances, take the extra step to clean up anything that they may want to consume. Always store these items in dog-proof containers. It’s also a great idea to keep your trashcan in a secure spot that your dog cannot access.
      4. Keep your dog’s bowls clean and BYOBowl. Dog bowls can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Get in the habit of washing your dog’s bowl after every meal if your dog eats a raw diet or canned food. Wash their food bowl each evening with a kibble diet.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to bring your own bowl and water to the dog park to prevent your dog from sharing a water bowl with other dogs that could pass along a bug. And never let your dog drink out of puddles, communal bowls that rodents can access, or any standing water. 

What Should You Do When Your Dog Gets Diarrhoea?

Your dog’s poop is often an indication of their health. And diarrhoea is never a good sign. Diarrhoea can lead to dehydration or be a sign that your dog is ill. To help your dog feel better and get their gut back on track, you want to:

1. Assess the severity

There’s a difference between having one evening with an upset stomach and suffering from diarrhoea for days. The first is simply uncomfortable for your dog while the latter can result in a trip to the vet (and be fatal if left untreated).

Additionally, blood in the stool can indicate a serious health issue.

So, it’s vital that you observe the frequency, consistency, and color of your dog’s diarrhoea. If it's mild and your dog is otherwise acting normal, you can try some home remedies (we'll get to that in a bit!). However, if the diarrhoea is severe and accompanied by vomiting, lethargy, or dehydration, call your vet.

2. Provide your dog water

Diarrhoea can cause dehydration. So, make sure your dog has clean water available at all times to prevent further complications. If your dog is not feeling well and struggling to get around, be sure to place their water bowl close by for easy access.

3. Give their gut a break

Withhold your dog’s food for 12 to 24 hours (but make sure your dog still has access to water). This break gives your dog’s gut some downtime and allows it to recover.

Once your dog starts to feel better

After your dog begins to recover, you want to continue to provide them plenty of water to help them rehydrate. You also want to only feed them plain, bland foods like white rice, brown rice, or unseasoned, boiled chicken. Avoid any fatty foods.

When should you call your vet for your dog’s diarrhoea?

A dog at the vet after having diarrhea for too long

Most cases of doggy diarrhoea are temporary and can be managed at home. However, there are times when diarrhoea requires veterinary care immediately. 

These are the signs that your dog's diarrhoea may be an emergency:

1. The diarrhoea is severe: Withholding food should stop the flow of diarrhoea. If it doesn’t, then your dog may be becoming dehydrated to the point of becoming a health danger. 
If your dog shows these signs of dehydration, call your vet immediately:
  • excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • sunken eyes
  • dry gums
2. Blood in your dog’s diarrhoea:  Blood in your dog’s stool is never a good sign. Mucus can also be a symptom of more serious issues, including parasites, colitis, or a blockage or tear in the digestive tract. So, if you notice blood or mucus in your dog's diarrhoea, contact your vet.
3. Persistent diarrhoea: If your dog's diarrhoea persists for more than 24-48 hours despite home remedies, it's time to consult your vet, as it could be a sign of an underlying condition that needs medical attention.
4. Other symptoms: If your dog is vomiting, has a fever, abdominal pain, or shows signs of discomfort such as frequent licking of the rear end or straining to defecate, it's best to consult your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Remember, when it comes to your dog’s health, it's always better to be safe than sorry. So, seek medical advice if you have concerns, questions, or suspect your dog’s condition cannot be managed at home.

A closer look at the causes of bloody diarrhoea

Bloody in your dog’s diarrhoea isn’t always a sign that there’s something serious going on. However, it could indicate an underlying condition that does need to be treated by your veterinarian. Dogs with persistent blood in their poop or a large amount of blood could be suffering from:

      1. Colitis: This disease refers to inflammation of the colon. It can be triggered by a variety of factors, including dietary changes, stress, infections, or even certain medications.
      2. Gastrointestinal parasites: Hookworms, whipworms, or coccidia can wreak havoc on your dog's digestive tract and overall health. Luckily, that can be easily prevented and are readily treatable.
      3. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD occurs when the immune system attacks the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This attack results in discomfort, inflammation, and often bloody diarrhoea.
      4. Infection: Bacterial or viral infections can cause blood in the stool. 
      5. Trauma to the gut or ingestion of an object: Swallowing a sharp object could cause a tear in the intestinal lining or another injury to the digestive tract. Experiencing a hard blow, such as from a baseball, can also result in bloody diarrhoea in dogs.

Dog Diarrhoea: A Messy Situation

An Akita pooping in a field

Don’t let doggy diarrhoea catch you by surprise. Prevent your dog from suffering from a loose caboose with the right diet, keeping them parasite-free, maintaining a clean food bowl, and keeping your regular vet visits. Should your dog get diarrhoea, remember to keep a watchful eye on the situation and contact your vet if things get a little too messy. Dog diarrhoea isn’t fun for pups or their pawrents. Luckily, most cases pass quickly by withholding food and keeping your dog hydrated.