Diarrhea is a common malady in dogs. The condition can be caused by benign issues, such as dietary indiscretions, or more concerning issues, such as infectious diseases. As a dog owner, diarrhea is a problem you want rectified quickly, regardless of the cause. Our team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital provides information about diarrhea, and suggests steps you can take if your dog is affected.

Causes of dog diarrhea

Any time your dog’s gastrointestinal tract malfunctions, diarrhea can result. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Change in diet — Your dog’s gastrointestinal tract needs time to adjust to a new food, so if you decide to change your dog’s diet, make the change gradually over one to two weeks.
  • Dietary indiscretion — Eating table scraps or food from the garbage can irritate your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Parasites — Parasites, such as hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia, can cause diarrhea, especially in puppies, and dogs with a weakened immune system.
  • Ingesting a foreign object — If your dog swallows an object they can’t digest, they can develop diarrhea. 
  • Viral infections — Viruses, such as parvovirus, coronavirus, and distemper, can target your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, causing diarrhea.
  • Ingesting poison — If your dog swallows a poisonous substance, diarrhea can result. Many common human foods, such as chocolate, are toxic to dogs and can cause diarrhea. In addition, many household products and plants are dangerous for dogs. If your dog ingests a toxic substance, immediately contact Columbia Pike Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control.
  • Food allergies — Food allergies usually cause skin conditions in dogs, but they can also result in diarrhea.
  • Medications — Diarrhea is a side effect of several medications.
  • Stress — Severe anxiety can cause diarrhea in your dog.

Dog diarrhea characteristics

Observing your dog’s diarrhea can help determine the cause of the problem. Factors to consider include:

  • Color — Your dog’s feces should be chocolate brown. Other colors can indicate problems.
  • White spots — White specks in your dog’s feces that look like rice grains likely indicate your dog has tapeworms.
  • Green — Green feces can indicate that your dog ate too much grass, or has a gallbladder issue.
  • Yellow — Yellow feces can indicate a liver or biliary issue.
  • Red streaks — Bright red streaks in the feces indicate your dog is bleeding from their lower gastrointestinal tract or anus.
  • Black and tarry — Black and tarry feces can indicate bleeding from your dog’s upper gastrointestinal tract.
  • Gray and greasy — This can indicate your dog has a pancreas or biliary issue.
  • Consistency — Your dog’s feces should be log-shaped, compact, and moist. If the fecal matter is not a distinct shape or is present in piles or puddles, your dog has diarrhea.
  • Frequency — Your dog’s small, frequent diarrhea episodes indicate large bowel inflammation, while large volume, infrequent episodes indicate small bowel inflammation.

Concerning dog diarrhea

Not all diarrhea episodes warrant a trip to the veterinarian, but you should definitely seek veterinary attention as soon as possible in these situations:

  • Other signs — Your dog is exhibiting other signs, such as lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, fever, or weakness.
  • Several days’ duration — Your dog’s diarrhea has not resolved after three days, because prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration
  • Bloody stool — Your dog has blood in their diarrhea.
  • Puppies — Puppies are more prone to dehydration, and need attention as soon as possible, to prevent complications from their diarrhea.
  • Pre-existing conditions — Your dog with diarrhea has a known medical condition, such as Cushing’s disease, cancer, or diabetes.
  • Medications — Your dog develops diarrhea when they are on medication

At-home dog diarrhea antidotes

If your dog’s condition does not seem serious, you can try to address the issue at home. Steps to take include:

  • Withholding food — Fasting your dog for 12 to 24 hours can allow their gastrointestinal tract to rest, resolving the diarrhea. However, puppies, thin geriatric dogs, and toy-breed dogs should not be fasted, since they do not have the necessary physical reserves to go without food for extended periods.
  • Keeping them hydrated — Provide access to clean, fresh water at all times. You can also offer an unflavored electrolyte solution to tempt them to drink more.
  • Feeding a bland diet — After fasting your dog for 12 to 24 hours, or if your pet shouldn’t be fasted, feed them a bland diet, such as rice and boiled chicken. Once their stool is normal for several days, you can gradually reintroduce their usual diet.

Veterinary treatment for dog diarrhea

Your dog’s treatment will depend on the problem’s cause. Diagnostics including blood work, fecal tests, X-rays, and ultrasound may be needed to identify what is causing your dog’s diarrhea. Potential treatments include:

  • Intravenous fluids — If your dog is dehydrated, they may need intravenous fluids to replace what they have lost. 
  • Probiotics — These supplements can help replace good bacteria in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
  • Antibiotics — Certain antibiotics have anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate diarrhea.
  • Elimination diet — If a food allergy is suspected, your dog will need to undergo a strict elimination diet to determine the problem.
  • Steroids — In some cases, steroids are needed to decrease the inflammation in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
  • Deworming medication — If your dog has parasites, a dewormer will be prescribed.

Diarrhea is a concerning issue when your dog is affected, but knowing what steps to take can help you remedy the situation, or know when to seek help. If your dog’s diarrhea is concerning you, contact our team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital, so we can alleviate the problem.