What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs?

Diarrhea in dogs is a common condition characterized by loose, unformed stools, often occurring more frequently than usual. While it’s not a disease, diarrhea can be a symptom of various underlying issues, ranging from minor to severe. Understanding the causes, recognizing when it’s a cause for concern, and knowing when to seek veterinary care is essential for any responsible dog owner.


Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

  • Dietary Changes and Indiscretions: A sudden change in diet, consuming table scraps, or eating inappropriate items like garbage can upset a dog’s stomach, leading to diarrhea. Dogs have sensitive digestive systems; even a minor change can trigger gastrointestinal upset.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Emotional distress due to changes in the environment, such as travel or boarding, can manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea.
  • Ingestion of Foreign Objects: Dogs are naturally curious and may ingest non-food items such as toys, fabric, or bones, leading to blockages and diarrhea.
  • Toxins and Poisons: Accidental ingestion of toxic substances, including certain human foods, household chemicals, or plants, can cause severe diarrhea.
  • Parasites: Common intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia can cause diarrhea in dogs. Regular deworming and fecal exams are crucial in preventing these infestations.
  • Infections: Viral infections like parvovirus, distemper, or coronavirus, and bacterial infections such as salmonella, can lead to severe diarrhea. Vaccinations and good hygiene practices are vital to preventing these infections.
  • Chronic Conditions: Inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, colitis, liver or kidney disease, and even intestinal cancer can present with diarrhea as a symptom.
  • Medications: Certain medications, including antibiotics, can disrupt the normal gut flora, leading to diarrhea.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

Diarrhea, while common, can sometimes be a sign of a more severe condition. It’s essential to monitor your dog and understand when to seek professional help:

  • Persistent Diarrhea: More than two episodes of diarrhea, or diarrhea that lasts over 24 hours, should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
  • Accompanying Symptoms: If diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting, blood in the stool, weakness, lethargy, or signs of dehydration, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately.
  • High-Risk Groups: Puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable and should be seen by a vet sooner.

Diagnosing the Cause

Veterinarians will typically start with a thorough physical examination and review of the dog’s medical history. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Fecal Examination: To check for parasites or bacterial infections.
  • Blood Tests: To assess overall health and organ function.
  • Imaging: Such as X-rays or ultrasound, to look for blockages or structural abnormalities.
  • Endoscopy or Biopsy: In cases where chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel disease are suspected.

Treatment Approaches

Treatment for diarrhea in dogs varies based on the underlying cause:

  • Dietary Management: A temporary switch to a bland diet (boiled chicken and rice, for example) may be recommended for mild cases.
  • Medications: Probiotics, anti-diarrheal agents, or specific treatments for infections or parasites.
  • Fluid Therapy: To address dehydration, especially in severe cases.
  • Hospitalization: In cases of severe diarrhea, especially if accompanied by vomiting and dehydration, hospitalization may be necessary for more intensive treatment.

Preventive Measures for Diarrhea in Dogs

Prevention is always better than cure:

  • Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Regular check-ups can help catch potential issues early.
  • Proper Diet: Feeding a balanced diet and avoiding sudden changes can help maintain gastrointestinal health.
  • Parasite Control: Regular deworming and fecal exams are essential.
  • Stress Management: Keeping your dog’s environment stable and stress-free as much as possible.

Diarrhea in dogs can be a distressing symptom for both the pet and the owner. Understanding the potential causes and knowing when to seek professional advice is key to ensuring your dog’s health and well-being. For expert care and comprehensive diagnostics, Fetch Specialty & Emergency Veterinary Centers offer unparalleled services. With locations across Florida and South Carolina, Fetch’s team of experienced veterinarians is equipped to handle all your pet’s health needs, from routine care to emergencies. Contact our team and explore our website to learn more about our services and find a location near you. Trust in Fetch to provide the best care for your canine companion.

About Us

Fetch Specialty & Emergency Veterinary Centers is a family-owned practice providing elevated specialty care, emergency medicine, and critical care in three convenient locations throughout Florida and South Carolina. Our board-certified veterinarians and highly skilled support staff all share a deep appreciation for pets, people, and the human-animal bond. We recognize how much you love your pet as a part of your family, and that’s why we love what we do!