As a pet parent, few symptoms are more distressing or harder to deal with than diarrhea in dogs. Below, our Berkeley vets share some causes of diarrhea, what to do if your dog's stool is bloody, and when it's time to call your vet.
What causes dog diarrhea?
Our vets at Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital treat often see dogs suffering from diarrhea.
The truth is, mild bouts of diarrhea are very common in dogs and can be caused by mild intestinal distress. In some cases times intestinal distress is directly tied to food: whether it be an adverse reaction to your dog eating a small amount of something that doesn't agree with them, such as table scraps, or from switching to a new brand of dog food that isn't right for them.
That said, there are also a number of more serious reasons why your dog could have diarrhea, some of which require immediate veterinary care.
What are the more concerning causes of diarrhea in dogs?
Below are some of the most common reasons for diarrhea in dogs:
- Stress or anxiety
- Change in diet or treats
- Eating garbage or spoiled food
- Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones, and fabric
- Ingesting toxins or poisons
- Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus
- Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia
- Bacterial infections - such as salmonella
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Liver or kidney disease
- Intestinal cancer
- Medications such as antibiotics
With such a wide array of potential causes, it can be difficult to know when your dog's symptoms are reasons to contact your vet, read on for advice to help you decide when a case of diarrhea is worth a visit to the doctor.
What should I do if my dog has bloody diarrhea?
One clear indication that it's time to contact your vet is if your dog has bloody diarrhea. There are two types of bloody stool to look out for when your dog is experiencing diarrhea
- Hematochezia results from bleeding in the lower digestive tract or colon. It is bright red in color and indicates certain potential medical complications.
- Melena is blood that has been digested or swallowed. This dark, sticky, almost jelly-like blood indicates that a serious problem in your dog's upper digestive tract might be to blame.
Singular streaks of blood are often a fluke. However, if the bleeding is consistently present or if the bleeding is in larger amounts, that is a clear indicator of a much bigger problem, such as a viral or bacterial infection, parvovirus, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and even cancer.
If you find blood in your dog's stool, in any amount, contact your vet right away. Describe exactly what you have observed so that your vet is able to get an understanding of your dog's condition, and decide whether a veterinary examination is called for.
When should I call a vet about my dog's diarrhea?
If your dog has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your pooch has two or more bouts of diarrhea.
If your dog is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.
Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your dog is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious, and life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your dog is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.
Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your dog has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:
- Blood in stool
- Unusual drooling
- Lack of Appetite
- Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)
If your dog is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.
How can I stop my dog's diarrhea?
Never give your dog human medications without consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to dogs.
If your dog has had one or two runny or soft stools, you may want to give your dog some time to recover by simply fasting for 12 - 24 hours.
A bland diet for a day or two may help to resolve your dog's issue. Plain-cooked white rice with a little chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling) may help to make your dog's tummy feel better. Once your dog feels better gradually reintroduce their regular food.
Other things that might help to soothe your dog's upset tummy include natural yogurt, probiotics, peeled boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, egg with no oil added, specially formulated dog foods, and medications prescribed by your vet.
When it comes to your dog's health it is usually best to err on the side of caution. By taking your dog in for an examination you give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your dog's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.