Almost all dog owners have been there: Your poor dog does their business as usual in the yard or out on a walk. The problem? Well, it isn't really business as usual. This time, their business is much harder to pick up with the plastic baggie, or it's running down their back legs — more liquid than solid. Yep, your dog has a dreaded case of diarrhea.
Normal dog stool should be "chocolate brown, shaped like logs, compact, and easy to scoop," according to the American Kennel Club, which just ruined chocolate for readers everywhere. "Experts say it should feel like cookie dough or Play-Doh when pressed," the AKC writes. Poop that is watery or puddle-like or has signs of mucus is not typical and may require medical attention. Luckily, there are a few things you can give your dog to help with their diarrhea if it doesn't clear up on its own.
What causes dogs to have diarrhea?
Dr. Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian with Wellness Pet Food, tells Woman's Day that dogs can have loose stools or diarrhea for a variety of reasons, but most often it's related to something that they've eaten. "This includes eating something the dog shouldn’t have, a sudden change in diet from not gradually transitioning to a new food or a food allergy or sensitivity," Bernal says.
Diarrhea could also be caused by or is associated with the following:
If a dog is on medication or antibiotics that upsets their stomach
Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia
Viruses like parvovirus, distemper, coronavirus, and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, such as salmonella
Underlying medical issues such as kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease
Dietary indiscretion (eating too much), eating garbage, or eating spoiled food, according to the American Kennel Club.
Poisonous plants or substances
Swallowing a foreign object that isn't digestible
What can help?
Because there are so many things that can contribute to your dog having diarrhea, you might need to work with your veterinarian to figure out the root cause before you can pinpoint the right solution.
"With so many causes as to what can upset a dog’s digestive system it is often difficult to assume a one size fits all approach to a solution," Bernal says. "Start by thinking back on what your dog has eaten or done in the past 12-24 hours. Have they had a chance to eat anything new or something they should not have? Are there any other clinical signs that could suggest something more serious could be underlying? Knowing this history is key to determining what next steps to take."
Many times, diarrhea is episodic and should resolve on its own, Dr. Lisa Lippman, a veterinarian in New York City, tells Woman's Day. "If it lasts more than a day, and there aren’t any other symptoms, you can try offering your dog something to eat that’s highly digestible, like shredded white meat chicken and pumpkin." You could also try giving them boiled chicken and rice, according to Bernal.
Signs to watch out for.
There are a few warning signs you should watch out for that would warrant a trip to the vet, Lippman says, including the following:
Diarrhea that lasts longer than a day or two
Diarrhea that is streaked with blood
Your dog seems lethargic or listless
Your dog is showing signs of dehydration, and excessive vomiting accompanying diarrhea
If the diarrhea is being caused by internal parasites, bacterial overgrowth, or systemic disease, it will persist and likely require medical treatment.
Keeping your dog's poop healthy.
One of the first steps toward keeping your dog's bowel movements healthier is to feed them a high-quality food, Lippman says, which generally means one that is high in protein with healthy non-meat ingredients.
"A diet rich in high quality, highly digestible ingredients supports maximum nutrient absorption, so choose pet foods with added dietary fibers, prebiotics and guaranteed amounts of probiotics that can help support their microbiome," Bernal explains. "After all, 70% of a dog’s immune system is located in their gut, so supporting their digestive health will keep their immunity and natural defenses strong."
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