The messy truth about dog diarrhea is that it’s a pretty common occurrence among canines. Most all dog owners have walked into a room to immediately recognize “that smell.” Now what? Do we run to the veterinarian’s office?

Like most humans, dogs can come down with a mild case of diarrhea for a variety of reasons that aren’t serious. Something they ate from the garbage could be causing havoc, or it could be a temporary situation such as stress from the holidays or anxiety from a trip in the car. A short-lived flare up like this can probably be managed at home and is likely to run its course in two to four days. However, if your dog shows any other signs of illness such as vomiting, loss of appetite, depression or pain, then you should take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

At-Home Care for a Mild Case of Diarrhea

The first thing to do is start feeding your dog a bland diet of boiled chicken or hamburger and white rice for a few days. A bland diet serves to settle your dog’s digestive system so the healing process can begin. Dog owners can prepare this diet at home by simply boiling an easy-to-digest protein such as chicken and combining it with well-cooked white rice. If using hamburger, you’ll want to boil it to remove any grease from the meat.

Another option recently introduced to the market are freeze-dried bland diets, such as those from Under the Weather®. Freeze-dried bland diets only require adding boiling water to rehydrate the ingredients, so they eliminate the need to shop and cook when your priority is to make your dog comfortable. Another advantage to this option is its long shelf life so you can keep it on hand for the next episode of diarrhea.

Introducing a probiotic would also be beneficial to maintain the optimal level of good bacteria in the gut. Dogs can take over-the-counter probiotics such as functional soft chews or fast-acting probiotic gels such as Ready Balance. It is not recommended giving your dog a human remedy such as Immodium as these contain opioids and could cause your dog some harm.

Continue to feed your dog the bland diet another day or so after his stool firms up and appears normal. Then you can wean him back to his normal daily diet which contains all the vitamins and minerals he needs in a long-term diet.

Diarrhea Requiring Veterinarian Attention

A case of diarrhea lasting more than a week after at-home care measures probably requires treatment by a veterinarian. Identifying the cause and determining the right treatment plan can get complicated.

Your veterinarian will ask you a number of questions about your dog’s health and your observations about the diarrhea itself to help determine what kind of diarrhea is happening. Diarrhea can be categorized as small bowel, large bowel or mixed.

  • With small bowel diarrhea, you may see a normal or increased need to go outside with small amounts of loose, watery stool that could be dark (from digested blood). Your dog can probably “hold it” for a while until they go outside.
  • With large bowel diarrhea, there will be an urgency to get outside and the stool is often covered in mucus and bright red blood. You may observe prolonged straining during or after a bowel movement.
  • With mixed diarrhea, you could see a combination of both types of diarrhea which make it more difficult to sort out.

Your vet will conduct a thorough physical exam, including a rectal exam to see what the diarrhea looks like and determine if there are physical problems in the rectum and colon area.

A fecal exam will show if the culprit is due to parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, protozoal organisms, or a bacterial overgrowth. In the case of parasites, your vet will prescribe a deworming product. In the case of bacterial infection, you will likely be given an antibiotic.

Your veterinarian will ask you to monitor your dog’s progress after 7-10 days. If unresponsive, the vet may recommend doing more advanced testing such as taking a blood sample to send to a laboratory. This will start the process of determining if there are more serious causes for your dog’s diarrhea.

Every Case of Diarrhea Needs Your Attention

Whenever your dog is having diarrhea, it cannot be ignored. It can be the sign of much more serious health issues needing immediate attention or, left untreated, could lead to serious consequences brought on by dehydration. When in doubt, always lean on the side of getting help from your veterinarian.

This blog is brought to you by Under the Weather®, makers of award-winning freeze-dried bland diets. Our formulas now contain electrolytes to help your dog maintain a healthy hydration level when they are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Our bland diet recipes are made with 100% human-grade meats – no meat by-products, antibiotic free and no hormones added! They are gluten free and have no chemicals or dyes. Sourced and manufactured in the U.S.A.

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