Diarrhea in dogs – causes and remedies

Diarrhea in dogs can have many causes – some are harmless, others indicate a serious gastrointestinal disorder. In general, diarrhea itself is not a disease, but a protective and cleansing mechanism of the intestines. The body rids itself of harmful substances as quickly as possible. You should take prolonged diarrhea seriously as a symptom of a serious illness.

What does healthy dog feces look like?

The appearance of your dog’s feces depends greatly on the age of your dog as well as the food. Healthy feces are supple, well formed and dark brown. The color can also be lighter or darker depending on whether there are dyes in the feed. If your dog is given bones, his excretion may also become pale to white and slightly crumbly.

How big the individual piles are also depends on the feed. Dog food with lots of fiber usually makes for a bigger poop. If your dog gets high quality rich dog food or BARF, the sausages are small, firm and hardly smell.

Diarrhea symptoms – not to be overlooked

If your dog’s poop is soft and unformed to runny, he has diarrhea. Majority of the time the defecation is also much more frequent and your dog sometimes can’t stop.

In and of itself, diarrhea in your dog is not a bad thing at first. This is a cleansing function of the body. Your dog reacts with it to wrong or unsuitable food, medicines or also stress.

If the diarrhea lasts only one day, no dog owner needs to worry yet. Let your four-legged friend fast or prepare him a light diet and give him a lot of rest. It is important that your dog drinks enough, because diarrhea deprives the body of fluid.

white puppy makes on meadow
Not only for puppies you should be very careful with a change of diet, so as not to provoke diarrhea.

Tip: You can recognize dehydration by the paleness of the mucous membranes in the mouth.

If diarrhea in dogs lasts longer than two days and is accompanied by flatulence, weakness or fever, then it is: on to the vet and find out the reasons for the diarrhea.

Forms of diarrhea in dogs

Your dog’s diarrhea can take on different consistencies, some of which already provide information about the cause:

  • watery diarrhea – detoxification reaction
  • mushy diarrhea
  • stinky, greenish feces – maldigestion of protein
  • mucous diarrhea – inflammation of the colon
  • bloody diarrhea – inflammation of the intestinal mucosa

Especially if there is blood in your dog’s stool, every dog owner should go to the vet immediately! This is because serious diseases or injuries in the gastrointestinal tract can be hidden behind it.

Diarrhea – acute or chronic?

Diarrhea can have many causes. It can either occur acutely due to external influences or become chronic. Acute diarrhea is also often harmless in dogs. However, they may also indicate poisoning.

Chronic diarrhea indicates either feed intolerance or also a serious disease in the gastrointestinal tract.

Tip: If you have a bad feeling, it’s better to go to the vet once too often before you miss a sign – especially with a puppy!

Acute diarrhea in dogs – usually no cause for concern

Acute diarrhea in many cases is also temporary diarrhea and a gastrointestinal cleansing reaction. For example, your dog may react with diarrhea during the following events:

  • Stress, such as a move, the arrival of a new pet, or the birth of a baby
  • Heat and overexertion, then often associated with loss of appetite
  • sudden change of feed
  • unsuitable food, such as food leftovers or food ingested outside
  • Medication administration or vaccination
  • Teeth change in young dogs
  • Hormonal change due to the heat in bitches

If the diarrhea has one of the aforementioned causes, you should spare your dog and also his digestive tract as much as possible. This means a lot of rest and possibly fasting for 24 hours. This helps to bring the gastrointestinal function back into balance.

In any case, you must make sure that your dog drinks enough to compensate for the loss of fluids. Diarrhea deprives the body of fluids and minerals, which in turn are lacking in the metabolism.

Small white Maltese sitting at a table with grapes, onions and chocolate. Caption reads: Not only poison bait or manure in the field can poison your dog.
It’s not just poison bait or manure in the field that can poison your dog.

Caution poison

Diarrhea combined with vomiting are signs of poisoning for all veterinarians. Other indications include severe salivation, tremors, apathy or agitation, as well as circulatory problems and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, there’s only one thing to do: get to the vet fast!

Quick help for soft stools

To get your dog’s digestion back to normal as quickly as possible, you can resort to various home remedies and first aid measures. These include, in particular, charcoal tablets, which bind toxins in the intestine, or Moro’s soup, which quickly normalizes the stool. After diarrhea, you can rebuild the intestinal flora by giving probiotics.

Various dietary supplements are commercially available that also help with acute diarrhea. They bind the water in the stool, making it firmer. However, this is purely symptom control and does not eliminate the cause of the problem.

Chronic diarrhea – a case for the vet

If your dog’s diarrhea lasts more than two days, there is often a more serious cause behind it. A trip to the vet and a fecal sample are then in any case announced. In harmless cases, your dog “only” has gastritis, which you can manage with a gentle diet or diet food for gastrointestinal problems. Other causes must be treated with medication.

Bacteria and viruses

Salmonella, Escherichia Coli, Enterobacter, Campylobacter or Leptospires are just a few bacteria that can cause diarrhea in dogs due to a gastrointestinal infection. Your dog can pick them up through infested food or when drinking from puddles and stagnant water.

Viruses that cause diarrhea are mainly parvovirus, but also coronavirus, rotavirus or distemper virus. With them, a visit to the vet is inevitable – especially for puppies. Fortunately, you can have your dog vaccinated against some pathogens, such as parvovirus or leptospires, to protect him.

Dog at the vet in a box infusion. Label reads: Especially puppies with parvovirosis need intensive medical care at the vet.
Especially puppies with parvovirosis need intensive medical care at the vet.

Parasites

Worms are so-called endoparasites that live in your dog’s intestines, among other places. Gastrointestinal parasites meet your dog everywhere. He can pick them up by sniffing, drinking from puddles, or flea infestation. The fleas are intermediate hosts for tapeworms. Among other things, a worm infestation can also cause diarrhea. This especially if the infestation is not treated.

Also among the parasites are the giardia. The protozoa settle in the small intestine and interfere with digestion. Mostly puppies or dogs with weak immune systems are affected. The feces are slimy, thin, and have a sweet foul odor. Other symptoms include fever, vomiting and weight loss. Treatment by the veterinarian is absolutely necessary.

Diseases

Diseases that can cause diarrhea include pancreatitis, hepatitis, and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), a chronic inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The diagnosis is often not easy and often requires many examinations by the veterinarian.

Allergies

Feed allergies or intolerances also cause diarrhea. If your dog has a food allergy, you can find out what he is reacting to by doing an elimination diet. With a change in diet to the right hypoallergenic dog food, you can then quickly put an end to the diarrhea. However, pay attention to a gradual change of food, so as not to put additional strain on the stomach and intestines.

Stress

If all organic causes have been ruled out, stress may be the cause of chronic or recurrent diarrhea. Permanent stress can be caused by a wide variety of triggers. It stresses the immune system, can lead to behavioral disorders and precisely to intestinal inflammation and diarrhea. The only thing that helps here is to eliminate the stress trigger.

Triggers of stress and diarrhea in your dog can be many things, for example:

  • Illness and pain
  • Continuous noise
  • Anxiety
  • poor husbandry conditions
  • Changed living and family conditions
  • too much fat in dog food
  • Pressure to perform (yes, this also exists with dogs)
  • Problems with conspecifics

Often we ourselves are also the triggers for stress in the dog. Miscommunication, lack of clarity and impatience not only put us under stress, but our dogs as well.

Sad woman sits on the floor back to back with her bright dog
Stress can make not only you but also your dog sick.

Tracking – diarrhea examinations

If your dog has diarrhea over several days or on and off, it should be checked out by a veterinarian. There are various examination options for diagnostics.

  • A fecal exam can test your dog for parasites like worms or giardia.
  • Blood tests provide important indications, for example of inflammation or thyroid levels.
  • X-rays can rule out foreign bodies or bowel obstruction.
  • By ultrasound, the veterinarian can examine the internal organs of the dog.
  • During endoscopy, a small camera is inserted into the dog under anesthesia. It allows the examination of the mucosa of the small intestine or the collection of tissue samples.
  • During a probelaparotomy, your dog’s abdomen is opened for a thorough examination of all abdominal organs.

Which examination makes sense in each case also depends on the symptoms accompanying the diarrhea. Based on the anamnesis, the veterinarian decides on appropriate diagnostic measures.

What stops diarrhea in dogs?

In the case of acute diarrhea without other accompanying symptoms, you can help your dog with comparatively simple means and relieve the abdominal pain. It is important to take care of the digestive tract, for example by a fasting day or a light diet.

Moro carrot soup

Moro’s carrot soup consists of finely chopped carrots boiled in water with a little salt for one and a half to two hours. This releases special enzymes in the carrots. These in turn prevent the diarrhea pathogens from attaching to the intestinal wall, and the soup also contains many important minerals.

Here is the recipe:

  • 500 grams of finely chopped carrots are boiled in a teaspoon of water for at least 90 minutes.
  • Then the carrots are mashed and the porridge is filled with boiling water to one liter, add a teaspoon of salt (about 3 grams).

You feed Moro’s carrot soup as a gentle diet in four to five portions and room-warm, either as a substitute for meals or before the usual food. You can make the soup more palatable with chicken broth. Small dogs receive 0.1 to 0.25 liters as a daily amount, medium-sized dogs receive 0.5 liters, large dogs accordingly more.

Cast iron pot with carrots and parsley root. Label reads: For Moro's carrot soup, you cook up carrots.
To make Moro’s carrot soup, cook up carrots.

Gentle diet

Easily digestible foods such as rice, lean chicken, cottage cheese and cooked carrots can be fed to your dog as a comfort food for one to two days. They relieve the intestines and give them time to return to normal functions and relieve discomfort.

Charcoal tablets and healing clay

Charcoal tablets contain activated charcoal and bind toxins in the gastrointestinal tract. Your dog will then excrete them with the (black) feces. The dosage depends on the weight of the dog, your vet will know advice. Charcoal tablets can also help with poisoning due to their effect. However, be sure to consult with your veterinarian about this.

Healing clay has a similar effect in liquid form as a drinking mud. It supports and regulates intestinal functions due to the humic acids it contains and has a positive effect on the immune system.

Grated apple and psyllium

Pectin is present in apples, especially in the peel. The pectin binds the liquid contained in the feces and makes it more solid. Psyllium husks also have a water-binding effect and are also suitable for rebuilding the intestinal flora.

Boiled water

Normally, the bacteria in the water do not affect your dog’s digestion. With diarrhea, it can be different. Therefore, you should boil the water for your dog. This destroys all germs and microbes.

When your dog has diarrhea, he loses a lot of water. You must therefore make sure that he drinks enough. If plain water doesn’t attract him, you can add a shot of sausage water or chicken broth. Some dogs also love fruity flavors or a shot of carrot juice in their drinking water.

If your dog is severely dehydrated, the veterinarian will give an IV with saline solution to restore fluid balance.

Stop diarrhea due to parasites

If your dog’s diarrhea is caused by worms, an appropriate worming treatment will help. Your veterinarian will prescribe a combination medication that is effective against all worms. After 24 hours at the latest, your dog’s digestion will have normalized.

Giardia as a diarrhea trigger are controlled with an anthelmintic. The medication is given over several days and kills the parasites in your dog. To prevent reinfestation, the environment must be thoroughly and repeatedly disinfected, and if possible, washed at more than 65 degrees.

Attention leptospirosis

Leptospires are found in stagnant water or in mice and other wildlife. If your dog is not vaccinated, he can become infected. Common symptoms are lassitude, loss of appetite, jaundice, fever and diarrhea. Treatment is with antibiotics with good results if the infection is detected early.

Feed allergies

If a food allergy is the cause of diarrhea, it is usually accompanied by itching and frequent licking. To make an accurate diagnosis, an exclusion diet is indicated. Your dog is fed only one source of protein and one source of carbohydrates for several weeks, for example in the form of hypoallergenic dog food.

If the diarrhea and other symptoms subside, you can assume that it is a food allergy. This is checked by provocation: the dog is given its original food again. If the symptoms occur again, the allergy to the food is proven.

Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammation of the bowel, the cause of which is not yet known. The small and large intestines are chronically inflamed, the intestinal mucosa swells and scars. This means that the food can no longer be digested properly. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, bloating and weight loss.

IBD is not curable, but can be well controlled with single protein source dog diets. If colitis is present, administration of crude fiber as well as cortisone may improve the animal’s condition.

Pancreatitis

Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and apathy indicate inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) in your dog. To eliminate these symptoms, the underlying disease must be treated. If it is a chronic course, medication and a change to a diet food with little fat are necessary.

Intestinal rehabilitation for the dog against diarrhea

Regardless of the cause, your dog can benefit from a gut cleanse. In the process, the intestinal flora is rebuilt and stabilized. Usually this is done by a course of probiotics and prebiotics (synbiotic). Probiotics are the “good” intestinal bacteria that support intestinal functions. Prebiotics are food components on which the good bacteria feed.

The course of treatment is usually carried out over a period of two to four weeks, depending on the severity of the diarrhea. In the case of chronic intestinal diseases, the treatment may be longer. Nutritionists or veterinarians can advise you on the exact implementation of a bowel treatment and the correct dosage.

Conclusion about diarrhea in dog

If your dog has diarrhea, this is first of all no reason for concern, usually it passes quickly by itself or with the support of home remedies. Only in the case of prolonged or recurring diarrhea should you become alert and search for the cause of the symptom diarrhea.

Once the underlying disease is found and treated, in most cases the diarrhea also disappears. Especially for dogs with sensitive digestion, you should also pay attention to the right diet.

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