While it is a fairly common condition, it can be quite concerning when your canine companion is dealing with an episode of diarrhea. If you want to know what causes the condition and what you can do to help your dog get over it, we are here to help!
What Causes Dog Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a common canine ailment caused by a variety of factors. In most cases, diarrhea occurs when the dog’s gastrointestinal tract is unable to absorb nutrients properly.
This problem can result from inflammation within the gut and other areas of the digestive system. Infectious agents, like parasites, bacteria, and viruses, trigger inflammation and cause diarrhea in dogs.
In most cases, the cause of the inflammation is not permanent, but it usually requires an assessment from a veterinarian and veterinarian prescribed medication.
What Causes Inflammation that Leads to Dog Diarrhea?
As mentioned, inflammation of the gut and digestive tract is the most common cause of diarrhea in dogs. While inflammation is almost always the culprit, it can be caused by a variety of factors.
Inflammation and Diarrhea Caused by Food Allergies
Infections, viruses, and parasites can trigger inflammation. It can also result from a food sensitivity or allergic reaction. For example, many dogs have a sensitivity to chicken. This is particularly true for some of the most popular breeds, like Golden Retrievers; however, any dog can suffer from a poultry allergy.
If your dog does have a chicken sensitivity, consuming chicken could trigger a mild allergic reaction within the dog’s gut. In most cases, this allergic reaction will result in inflammation. This inflammation will cause malabsorption of nutrients from the food they eat, which will lead to diarrhea. While poultry allergies tend to be the most common food-related cause of diarrhea, any food allergy can result in inflammation and diarrhea.
On the topic of food, it’s also important to note that just switching your dog to a new brand or type of dog food is enough to cause diarrhea. The best way to switch from one food to another is to do it gradually. Start by adding a little bit of the new food in with the old food. Then, mix half and half and so on. Continue to add more of the new food until the transition is complete- usually about a week for adult dogs and up to two weeks for puppies with more sensitive stomachs.
Inflammation and Diarrhea Caused by Autoimmune Diseases
In more serious cases, autoimmune diseases, such as intestinal bowel disease or IBD, can cause inflammation within the dog’s gut. Just as in humans, dogs can develop diseases that affect the digestive system and the way the dog eliminates waste.
In dogs, IBD interferes with the proper digestion of food, often leading to prolonged inflammation within the gut. Dogs that suffer from IBD usually have a sensitivity to a wide variety of common dog food ingredients, which leaves them prone to developing cases of diarrhea.
Essentially, any disease or long-term condition that impacts the dog’s digestive system can result in diarrhea. It is important to have your dog checked by a veterinarian if you notice they frequently suffer from diarrhea.
Diarrhea Caused by Dietary Indiscretion
In some cases, diarrhea and intestinal inflammation can result from dietary indiscretion, which is a fancy way of saying the dog ate something it should not have. This is unsurprising when you think about how often dogs rummage through garbage or how quickly they swallow things they find when out on a walk.
As in humans, dogs will experience upset stomachs when they consume something that does not sit well in their digestive tracts.
For more information, consider reading our list of the Top 10 Lesser-Known Pet Toxins.
Other Causes of Digestive System Inflammation and Diarrhea
Typically, foods with abnormally high-fat content can increase your dog’s chances of developing temporary diarrhea. It is important to select a healthy and nutritious type of dog food appropriate for your dog’s physical size and life stage.
Stress can also cause diarrhea, especially if it is ongoing. If your dog has diarrhea and you suspect it is anxious or stressed, it could be experiencing stress-related diarrhea. This is particularly common if the dog has just undergone a stressful experience, like a lengthy thunderstorm or a trip to a veterinary clinic.
As mentioned, infectious agents can also cause dog diarrhea. Bacterial infections, such as salmonella and campylobacter, can cause severe diarrhea in dogs. These infections are acquired through eating contaminated food, like raw meats and spoiled food.
Certain viruses can also cause diarrhea. These viruses can be transmitted through the consumption of feces or by interacting with infected dogs and wildlife. Parvovirus is a common virus that causes diarrhea in young dogs, and it can be deadly. Luckily, parvo is preventable. Make sure your puppy gets its parvo vaccine, and avoid areas where groups of dogs get together, like dog parks, until they are old enough to get the vaccine. If your puppy is younger than seven months old and has diarrhea, take them to the vet right away.
Parasites are also a common cause of diarrhea. Intestinal worms and microscopic parasites, like giardia and coccidia, are known to trigger diarrhea in dogs.
What Can I Give My Dog for Diarrhea?
If your dog has a mild case of diarrhea, you can feed them a bland diet that mostly consists of highly digestible ingredients. This will help to settle the dog’s stomach and reduce the severity of their diarrhea.
Plain, unseasoned chicken breast that has been boiled or baked usually does the trick. Make sure you are using lean cuts and remove the bones and skin. If your dog has a chicken sensitivity, you can use lean pieces of cooked pork, then combine the protein with a highly digestible carbohydrate, like plain, boiled white rice. Note that you should only use this mix of chicken and rice for a short period. It’s not a complete, nutritionally balanced meal and won’t meet your dog’s long-term dietary needs.
In addition to selecting a more digestible food, you can also provide your dog with an over-the-counter digestive aid, such as a high-quality probiotic supplement. You can usually find these digestive aids at most veterinary clinics, but some are also available at pet stores.
These supplements usually come in powdered form, and the powder is sprinkled over the dog’s meal once or twice per day until they have gotten over their diarrhea issues. These probiotic supplements help to re-balance the gut flora within the intestines, which helps support digestive health and the formation of solid, healthy stools.
What if a More Digestible Diet Does Not Help?
If the adjusted diet and probiotic supplements do not improve the condition of your dog’s stool, it might be necessary to consult with a veterinarian.
A vet might recommend taking a stool sample to check for evidence of an intestinal parasite or a bacterial infection. They might also choose to prescribe drugs that help solidify the dog’s stool and help dogs get over severe cases of diarrhea.
It is always important to make sure that your dog’s vaccination record is up to date, as certain viral infections can cause severe episodes of diarrhea. When they get bad enough, these infections can cause dehydration, a serious condition that could be prevented with the appropriate vaccines.
What Should I Do If My Dog Has Diarrhea?
No matter how severe your dog’s case of diarrhea is, the best thing you can do is support them through it. Keep a supply of fresh water available for your dog to avoid dehydration, and make sure that you take your dog on more frequent walks. It is likely they will need to go out more frequently than usual.
Make sure you do not get angry with your pooch if it does have an accident in the house! It is not the dog’s fault, and they really have no idea what is happening to them.
If your dog has long fur, especially around the tail, make sure you keep its hindquarters clean. Wash away any trapped feces, as it could lead to a secondary infection, as well as painful irritation, both of which could require further treatment.
If your dog does have diarrhea, alter the diet as discussed above. If you see no changes, consult a veterinarian, and they will inform you about the next steps you should take!