My Dog Has Diarrhea: What Should I Do?

Key takeaway

Diarrhea can cause your dog to experience frequent bowel movements and loose, watery stools. Diarrhea in dogs can be caused by a number of factors, including food allergies and parasites. You can treat diarrhea in dogs by feeding them a bland diet and having them fast for 12-24 hours. However, if their symptoms last for longer than 72 hours, you should take them to the vet

If your dog has diarrhea, you'll notice your dog showing several symptoms early on. As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to clean up after your dog goes to the bathroom, so you’ll be able to tell when they have diarrhea. So, if you go to pick up your dog’s stool and notice it’s way more loose than usual, you may ask yourself, “My dog has diarrhea. What now?”

Noticing that your dog has diarrhea is definitely alarming, but there are many ways you can help your pet feel better. While diarrhea can be treated easily, it can progress into something more serious if it's ignored. Diarrhea in dogs can be caused by several factors, from food allergies to parasites, so it’s important to take your pup to the vet as soon as you notice loose stools for more than a few days.

In this blog post, we’ll answer important questions about diarrhea in dogs, such as “why does my dog have diarrhea?”, “what can I give my dog for diarrhea?”, and more. Diarrhea can be pretty uncomfortable for your pup, so make sure you get them the treatment they need. This way, they can get back to their healthy, happy selves as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Dog Diarrhea

Dog diarrhea occurs when your dog passes loose stools more frequently and in larger amounts than usual. Diarrhea in dogs isn’t a disease itself but rather a symptom of another medical condition. The color and consistency of dog diarrhea can differ depending on what’s happening to your dog.

Brown stool means your dog is healthy, but stool that is orange, green, or gray in color can indicate various health conditions, such as liver or pancreas problems1 Identifying the color and consistency of your dog's stool can help your vet form a more accurate diagnosis.

The most obvious symptom of diarrhea in dogs is watery stools, but there are several other symptoms you should keep an eye on to determine if your dog is suffering from diarrhea. This includes:

Infographic of the signs of diarrhea in dogs

The symptoms of dog diarrhea can also differ depending on whether it is caused by small or large intestine diarrhea. A dog suffering from small intestine diarrhea will have a larger volume of stool that is watery. The frequency of how often they go to the bathroom may or may not increase as well. Small intestine diarrhea is typically caused by intestinal viruses, parasites, and dietary indiscretions2

A dog suffering from large intestine diarrhea will have a smaller volume of stool that is semi-formed and contains mucus. Your dog will most likely defecate more often than usual. Large intestine diarrhea can be caused by stress colitis and intestinal parasites2

Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea in dogs can be caused by something as simple as eating too much grass. However, diarrhea can also be due to more serious health issues, like parasites. Regardless of what you may suspect is the cause of your dog’s diarrhea, it’s crucial to take them to the vet to get to the bottom of it.

There can be many reasons why dogs have diarrhea, but the top causes of diarrhea in dogs include1:

  • Dietary indiscretion–This can include a dog overeating or eating non-food items, like garbage or foreign objects.
  • Allergies–A common symptom of dog allergies is diarrhea. In this case, a dog will have to go to the vet to determine what they’re allergic to.
  • Parasites–Various types of parasites can cause diarrhea in dogs, such as roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Fortunately, you can easily get rid of worms in dogs with a dewormer.
  • Food intolerance–If your dog is intolerant to an ingredient in their food, they will likely experience digestive issues like diarrhea and vomiting. This is because they cannot properly digest the food, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset.
  • Emotional distress–Diarrhea is a common symptom of stress and anxiety in dogs. This is because stress can trigger a dog’s “flight or fight” hormone, which can cause their intestinal emptying time to speed up.

Dog eating flowers

  • Ingesting toxic substances or plants–If your dog eats toxic substances or plants, it will most likely cause diarrhea.
  • Bacterial infections–Bacterial infections, such as salmonella, can lead to diarrhea in dogs. A dog suffering from salmonella may have blood or mucus in their stool.
  • Viruses–Various viral infections, such as parvovirus, distemper, and coronavirus, can cause a dog to experience diarrhea.
  • Changes in diet–If you suddenly change your dog’s food, they will likely have diarrhea. It can take a couple of days for your dog’s digestive system to adjust to a new type of food, so you should slowly introduce new foods into their diet.
  • Medication–Certain antibiotics or other medications can cause diarrhea in dogs. If this is the case, you should contact your vet and see if you can try a different medication instead.
  • Swallowing an indigestible item–If your dog eats a foreign, indigestible item, like a toy or sock, they may experience diarrhea since they cannot properly digest it.

How to Treat Dog Diarrhea

If you notice your dog has loose stools, you may be asking yourself, “my dog has diarrhea but is acting fine, so what should I do?”.

Infographic of how to treat mild diarrhea in dogs

Treating your dog’s diarrhea ultimately depends on the severity of the diarrhea and what’s causing it. If your dog has mild diarrhea, a bland diet can be beneficial and their condition may resolve on its own3

Bland diets can consist of plain white rice, rice water, boiled potatoes without the skin, and boiled chicken without the skin. It is also important to ensure your dog remains hydrated and is drinking enough water. You can encourage your pup to drink more water by adding plain chicken broth to their water for flavor. Feed them this bland diet until their stool returns to normal. Once there is no longer diarrhea, you can gradually go back to their regular food. Continue to monitor their stool to make sure it remains normal.

You can also allow your dog to fast for 12 to 24 hours to see if that helps3 You shouldn’t give them any food during this time, but you can provide them with water in small amounts. This should help settle their gastrointestinal tract and relieve diarrhea. However, fasting is not recommended for all dogs, like puppies and older dogs who need the nutrients.

If your dog's diarrhea persists for longer than two days, talk to a vet to get a proper diagnosis. Do not use human medication to ease your dog’s symptoms unless prescribed by a veterinarian. Even when their symptoms have passed, it is still a good idea to bring your dog to the vet so you can ensure the issue is not an underlying condition.

When to See a Vet

You should consider taking a trip to the vet’s office if:

  • They develop new symptoms or their symptoms become worse
  • They become dehydrated
  • They are lethargic

Consulting a veterinary professional may also be necessary when diarrhea is due to poisonous substances or ingestion of a foreign body. In many cases, dog diarrhea is mild and runs its course without complications.

However, if your dog stops eating, is lethargic, symptoms persist for 72 hours, there's vomiting, or their stools are black, it’s a good idea to see a vet3 Pregnant dogs and puppies should also be taken to the vet immediately.

Infographic of when to take your dog to the vet for diarrhea

Knowing your dog’s symptoms and what may have caused their diarrhea can help a veterinarian determine the cause of their ailment and administer the appropriate treatments. You can also document your dog’s stool to give your vet a better understanding of what’s causing their diarrhea.

Diarrhea in Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some helpful frequently asked questions so that you can get a better idea of what to do if your dog is suffering from diarrhea.

How long will my dog’s diarrhea last?

Diarrhea in dogs can last anywhere from 24-48 hours and will often resolve on its own. But if diarrhea persists and is accompanied by other symptoms, seek help from a vet. Diarrhea can be a result of a serious health condition, so it’s always a good idea to take them to the vet to figure out what’s causing it.

What can I give my dog to stop their diarrhea?

There are many ways you can treat your dog’s diarrhea right from home. For example, you can feed them a bland diet. A bland diet of white rice and boiled chicken without the skin can be beneficial since it’s easy to digest and light on the stomach. However, you should not feed your dog this type of diet for an extended period of time since it’s not nutritionally balanced. This should only be used as a way to initially treat their diarrhea.

What treatments will a vet prescribe for my dog’s diarrhea?

The treatments a vet prescribes will depend on what’s causing their diarrhea. For example, if they have a bacterial infection, a vet can prescribe antibiotics. On the other hand, a vet can prescribe a dewormer if your dog has parasites. Your vet may ask you to bring in a stool sample so they can see for themselves what the diarrhea looks like and perform a fecal exam to check for parasites.

Final Notes

You’re always better off taking your dog to the vet if they’re experiencing diarrhea. Doing so will allow you to get a proper diagnosis and figure out the root of your dog's diarrhea. Diarrhea can be really uncomfortable for your pup, and it can be a sign of an underlying health condition, so it’s important to get them the care they need as soon as possible. Fortunately, you can use Dutch to do just that.

Dutch is an online telehealth service that connects pet owners with licensed veterinarians, so you can get excellent pet care without having to leave your house. Our network of highly qualified vets are trained to provide support for several health concerns, from helping you figure out why your dog won’t eat to prescribing treatment for your dog’s diarrhea. This way, you can get the care you need right when you need it.

References

  1. Staff, AKC. “A Survival Guide for Dog Diarrhea.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 1 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/doggie-diarrhea/.

  2. “Dealing with Diarrhea in Dogs – and Why Can't They Just Go on the Wood Floor?” Causes for Dogs to Have Diarrhea | Morris Animal Foundation, 25 Apr. 2019, https://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/article/causes-of-diarrhea-in-dogs.

  3. “Diarrhea.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/canine-health-center/health-info/diarrhea.