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Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea

Veterinary background providedby Dr. Jennifer Coates DVM

dog diarrhea

Updated October 2022

Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea

Let’s face it—if you’ve been a pet parent long enough, you have most likely experienced the dreaded doggie diarrhea. In these situations, you may wonder, “Why does my dog have diarrhea?” Just like in humans, diarrhea is a way for your dog’s body to protect itself from harmful objects or gastrointestinal disturbances—flushing them out of its system.  

However, diarrhea can also be a symptom of something more serious. Diarrhea can be the result of a variety of afflictions. Let’s review the symptoms and causes of diarrhea and when you should consult with your vet.  

What does diarrhea look like in dogs?  

If your dog has diarrhea, you may notice that their feces are watery and loose. Diarrhea may also cause your dog to release these watery stools frequently throughout the day.  

Should I consult with my vet when my dog has diarrhea?  

It’s always a good idea to consult with your vet if you have any questions about your dog’s health. However, veterinary care is a must if your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms:  

  • Your dog is a puppy 
  • Your dog is a senior 
  • Your dog has health conditions or is very sensitive to dehydration 
  • Their feces are watery and released often 
  • They are suffering from diarrhea in large quantities 
  • They have blood in their stool 
  • They have been suffering from diarrhea for more than 48 hours 
  • They are vomiting 
  • They appear to be in pain 
  • Your dog has no energy and appears to be lethargic 

When you take your dog to get professional care, the veterinarian will perform an exam to help determine where the diarrhea is originating from and what could be the cause. The vet may do the following: 

  • Take urinary and fecal samples 
  • Do blood work 
  • Take X-rays of your dog’s abdomen 
  • Perform ultrasounds 
  • Perform an endoscopy 
  • Perform surgery in the case of your dog consuming a foreign object 
  • Use fluid therapy 

Medical insurance coverage for your pet can help greatly with the costs of these procedures.  

What are the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs?  

There are many factors that may cause your dog’s body to exhibit diarrhea—that is why it’s so common. Here are some likely culprits:  

  • Your dog ate something that was old, tainted or just didn’t agree with them 
  • Your dog has dietary sensitivities 
  • You introduced something new to their diet 
  • Your dog has irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Your dog is infested with an intestinal parasite 
  • Your dog has inflammatory bowel or pancreatic disease 
  • Your dog has developed an infection 
  • Your dog has been exposed to something that is toxic to them 
  • Your dog has gastroenteritis 

Diarrhea can also be a symptom of various health problems or conditions. 

How to treat diarrhea in dogs at home 

If your dog’s diarrhea appears to be mild and not worrisome, there are some over-the-counter treatments and at-home remedies you can try. Puppies, older dogs, or dogs with a medical history should always be treated by a vet—do not try at-home treatments.  

For other dogs, here are the steps you should take for diarrhea treatment at home: 

  • Make your dog tummy-friendly meals of skinless, deboned chicken and white rice for 48 hours until the symptoms clear. These foods can help soothe their stomach  
  • Administer an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication. 
  • Make sure your dog has access to water 24 hours a day. 
  • Give them a mixture of one part water and one part electrolyte supplement to help them retain fluids. 
  • Put your dog on a probiotic regimen. 
  • Add a splash of low-sodium beef or chicken broth to their water to encourage them to drink. 

Diarrhea may be common, but it can be harmful if left untreated for too long. Don’t hesitate to consult with your vet if your pet displays any alarming symptoms or has diarrhea for more than two days.  

If your pet experiences diarrhea frequently but your vet hasn’t found any underlying health issues, talk to them about what brand of dog food you give your pet and if there are alternatives. Many dogs have food sensitivities, so being prescribed dog food that is designed for canines with allergies may help reduce the onset of diarrhea. Don’t forget to mention any treats you feed your dog—an ingredient in their snacks could be the culprit.  

More FAQs about dogs and diarrhea 

Will my dog’s diarrhea clear up on its own?  

It’s possible that your dog’s diarrhea will clear up on its own. However, it’s important to monitor your dog carefully and seek treatment if your dog appears to be in distress, is showing symptoms of dehydration or is exhibiting a change in their eating and drinking habits.  

Should I exercise my dog when they have diarrhea?  

You should consult with your vet before exercising your dog when they have diarrhea. Depending on the condition of your dog and what is causing it to have diarrhea, exercise may exacerbate the problem.  

You should also be very careful about exposing your dog to other neighborhood pets—your dog’s feces may contain bacteria, viruses or parasites that can infect other pets. If you take your dog for a walk and they need to relieve themself, clean up their watery stool as best you can.  

How do I firm up my dog’s stool?  

Antidiarrheal medication and tummy-friendly foods, like cooked chicken and white rice, should help firm up your dog’s stool. Make sure you follow the antidiarrheal medication instructions precisely to avoid your dog developing constipation. 

If you’ve recently changed your dog food brand, you may want to try switching back to your pup’s previous dog food. Then, slowly integrate the new dog food. Follow the chart on the bag for the best methods.  

What foods give dogs diarrhea?  

Some foods may be the answer to “Why does my dog have diarrhea?” Just like humans, it all comes down to your pet’s digestive tract—some dogs can eat various foods and be fine, while others have sensitivities. There are a variety of human foods that can cause your dog to experience diarrhea—in fact, some can be toxic. Learn about 5 foods that you didn’t know can harm your dog. These, however, are just a few. Always consult with your vet or do high-quality research before giving your dog food that wasn’t formulated for canines.

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