Country-Side Breeders

Diarrhea

Nothing gets a pet owner moving faster than the preemptive sounds of their pet preparing to vomit or have diarrhea.

Diarrhea is the term used when your dog passes non-formed loose or watery stool more often and in larger amounts than they would normally defecate. It is a common condition that is a sign or symptom of other diseases or issues rather than a disease itself.

It can be the result of a minor condition, such as a dietary indiscretion, that only requires simple treatment for its resolution, or it can be the result of a serious illness, such as cancer, that requires more involved treatments.

Dogs can become dehydrated and develop electrolyte imbalances. Therefore knowing why your dog may have diarrhea and the possible cause helps you know when it is critical to seek medical care versus treating your dog at home.

How to Know When You Can Treat Diarrhea at Home

  1. Your dog is acting normally

    • normal energy

    • normal appetite

  2. No vomiting

  3. Your dog is up–to–date on their vaccines (such as vaccines for parvovirus or distemper virus)

  4. Your dog is a young adult (not very young or old)

  5. There are no pre-existing health issues such as Addison’s disease, kidney failure, cancer, etc.

How to Know When Diarrhea is a Medical Emergency

  1. You suspect your dog has ingested a toxin or poison 

  2. You suspect your dog has ingested a foreign body, such as a toy or clothes

  3. Your dog is low energy and may seem weak

  4. Loss of appetite

  5. Vomiting (typically more than once or any time water and/or food is consumed). Always contact a veterinarian if any blood is noted, even if they vomit only once. 

  6. Frequent bouts of diarrhea repeated over a couple-hour window of time

  7. The diarrhea has lasted more than 24 to 36 hours despite home remedies

  8. There is a lot of blood (red) in the poop – small spots of blood are not necessarily an emergency

  9. The stool is black and /or tarry

  10. Your dog is continually straining to poop and not much is coming out

  11. Your dog’s gums are pale, bluish, whitish, or gray in color

  12. Your dog’s stomach is painful (rapid panting, groaning, or avoids being touched) and bloated

  13. Your dog is passing worms in their stool or you see worms in their vomit

When in doubt, call your vet or an emergency hospital for advice.

How to Treat Your Dog's Diarrhea at Home

There are times when your dog may be off, and you can manage their diarrhea without a trip to the veterinarian.

If you have determined that it will likely be ok to try and “ride out” your dog’s diarrhea for 24 to 36 hours, then here are some options to help.

Rest

Just like with us, rest is important. Give your dog a quiet and comfortable place for them to recover. It is likely best to be a place close to a door to go outside and that has an easy-to-clean floor for those unfortunate poop accidents.

Fasting

Ideally, fast your dog for 12 hours to allow their gastrointestinal tract to rest and recover. This means NO treats, regular meals, snacks – food of any kind.

Hydration

It is critical that you maintain your dog’s hydration. During this period of time, you can give your dog rice water. The benefit of rice water over plain water is that it may help improve digestion, help alleviate gas and bloating, provides some beneficial minerals and the carbohydrates provide some energy.

You want to use good quality white rice (not minute rice). Brown rice is not recommended since it has too much fiber.

How to make rice water

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of White Rice

  • 4 Cups of Water

Instructions:

Boil 1 cup of white rice in 4 cups of water for 10 to 30 minutes (maybe longer) until the water turns a creamy white color. Remove the liquid and allow it to cool. Save the cooked rice for later use. Once cooled, give it to your dog as often as they will consume it.

Discontinue if your dog starts vomiting and contact your veterinarian. For those dogs not interested, you can add a couple of teaspoons of low sodium chicken broth powder or pet-safe bone broth (be sure it does not contain any onions or garlic).

Alternatives to rice water

If you find that rice water isn’t your dog’s thing, you can try clear, unflavored Pedialyte. Gatorade is not recommended because it is high in sugar, and that can cause further intestinal inflammation. There are electrolyte solutions made specifically for pets, as well.

After Fasting

Once you are past the first 12 hours of fasting, you can begin offering your dog small amounts of a bland, low-fat, and easily digestible diet.

Bland Diet Options

1. Plain, boiled, boneless, skinless chicken and rice (the leftover from the rice water).

2. Chicken or turkey baby food (be sure it does not contain onions or garlic)
3. There are prescription veterinary diets that work well as bland diet alternatives if cooking isn’t your thing. It is always helpful to regularly keep a couple of cans or packets at home.

Note: If your pet recovers and you have leftover dry GI food, you can keep it fresh by putting it in a Ziploc® bag and placing it in the freezer for emergency use.

How Long to Keep Your Dog on a Bland Diet

Generally, you will keep your dog on a bland diet for one or two weeks. During that time, continue feeding small amounts every 3 to 4 hours. If the diarrhea goes away, then over another one to two weeks, you will slowly transition them back to their regular dog food diet. Do not give treats or any other food than their regular dog food. Once they have been transitioned fully back to their regular dog food for a couple of weeks, then you can begin slowly offering extras such as their treats. 

If you switch back to your dog's regular food too quickly, and don't leave enough time for healing and reduction of inflammation, you could end up right back where you started.

Other Things That Can Help With Diarrhea

In addition to rest, fasting, and a bland diet, there are some other things you may find helpful in dealing with diarrhea issues at home.

Probiotics

Probiotics may be helpful when dealing with diarrhea. Since the digestive tract makes up about 60 to 80% of your pet’s immune system, keeping it healthy is important. Probiotics help support a healthy immune system by keeping the intestinal bacteria in good balance and aiding in digestion. You can try regular, unflavored, probiotic-rich yogurt (you want as low a sugar content as possible).

Fiber

Fiber, such as pumpkin, has been found to help with some cases of diarrhea. It acts as a prebiotic because it stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria by lowering the pH and providing the nutrients they need. Additionally, it helps inhibit the harmful bacteria in the intestines. Always be sure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh water when giving them fiber supplements. In the case of stress-induced diarrhea, starting a fiber supplement a few days prior to the stressful event can help prevent the diarrhea from starting.

Over-the-Counter Medications and Why They Are Best to Avoid

You may be wondering why I have not mentioned over-the-counter (OTC) human medications, such as Kaopectate®, Pepto Bismol®, or Imodium®, for your pet. The reason being, depending on the cause of the diarrhea, these medications can do more harm than good. They should only be given if recommended by your dog’s veterinarian and only at the dose they advise.

These medications can be toxic to your dog, especially if dosed incorrectly. Pepto Bismol’s and Kaopectate’s active ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate. This ingredient is a derivative of salicylic acid or aspirin. If your dog gets the wrong dose, toxicity can result.

If your dog has intestinal bleeding that you are unaware of, bloody vomit and diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weakness may result. These medications may also affect platelet function, which can affect blood clotting times. When blood does not clot, bleeding continues, which can lead to other issues. If given with any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Rimadyl®, DeramaxxTM, etc., there is an increased risk of intestinal ulcers or perforation. It can cause your dog’s stool to look blackish.

Blackish stool in dogs is referred to as melena (digested blood in stool) which can indicate serious medical conditions. This can make diagnosing certain medical issues difficult and possibly add the need for more costly tests. Lastly, the tablet form of the anti-inflammatory will appear radio-opaque (white) on x-rays. This may appear as a metallic foreign body and result in unnecessary surgery or other treatments.

Why You Should Use Extreme Caution With Imodium® 

Imodium (which goes by the generic name Loperamide) is a synthetic opioid. All opioids are known to cause constipation. They work by slowing down gut motility which allows for more fluid and salts to be drawn back into the body system.

Imodium, when administered at safe levels, is not helpful for pain and, therefore, will not relieve any abdominal discomfort your dog may have. While, in some cases, Imodium may help, there are others where it can cause potentially serious side effects. Some of these side effects include constipation, sedation, bloating, and even pancreatitis.

What If Home Treatment Doesn't Work?

When in doubt, when concerned, or when the diarrhea extends beyond a day or two, despite your best at-home efforts, your best bet is to have your pet — and their poo — evaluated by your veterinarian. No amount of internet searching and no number of trial and error home remedy attempts can compete with the comprehensive history taking, thorough physical examination, diagnostic testing, and the ability to prescribe safe and effective medications or supplements that only your veterinarian can offer.

Dehydration is a Big Concern

Diarrhea causes dehydration because your dog is losing more fluids than they can take in. This lack of fluid balance prevents their bodies from functioning properly. 

Diarrhea Can Cause Nutrient Deficiency

The small intestine is where dogs absorb most of their nutrients from what they ingest. Therefore, when the cause of diarrhea relates to the small intestines, your dog is missing out on a lot of the nutrients they would normally gain from their food. In addition to diarrhea, issues of the small intestines usually cause vomiting (increasing the risks of dehydration) and weight loss (because of the lack of nutrients).

Why Dogs Get Diarrhea

There can be many causes of diarrhea in dogs. Typically, dogs will vomit or have diarrhea due to:

  • Eating something toxic (grapes, chocolate, human medications, etc.) or a foreign object (part of a dog toy, piece of a stick, underwear, and socks are common culprits)

  • Too many table scraps or fatty foods like grease, bacon, etc. can also upset your dog's stomach

  • Food allergy

  • Rapid food change (switching between types or brands of food too quickly)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Intestinal parasites

  • Intestinal cancer

  • Metabolic disease: kidney disease, pancreatitis, thyroid disease, and others

  • Viral or bacterial conditions, like hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE)

  • Reaction to medications

When fecal matter moves through the intestines faster than normal, and there is decreased absorption of water, nutrients, and electrolytes, the result is diarrhea. It is a symptom of diseases or other issues like toxins, foreign body ingestion, etc., that affect the small intestines, large intestines, or other organs outside the gastrointestinal tract.

There are different characteristics for when diseases cause small intestinal diarrhea versus large intestinal diarrheas, and the diagnosis and treatment for both are generally different. Here are some details to pay attention to when you suspect your dog has diarrhea.

Characteristics of Small Intestinal Diarrhea:

  • Large amounts of stool

  • Mild increase in frequency (3 to 5 bowel movements per day)

  • No straining or difficulty pooping

  • Often accompanied by vomiting

  • Pets often lose weight

  • Excess gas may be noted

  • Prominent gut sounds may be heard

  • If blood is present, it is digested, and the stool will look black or tarry

 

Small intestinal diarrhea can be caused by any of the following:

  1. Canine parvovirus

  2. Canine coronavirus

  3. Canine distemper

  4. Salmonella

  5. Clostridia

  6. Campylobacter

  7. Intestinal parasites

  8. Giardia

  9. Foreign bodies such as sticks, bones, etc. that get stuck in the intestines

  10. Inflammatory bowel disease

  11. Dietary indiscretion

  12. Sudden changes in diet

  13. Food allergies

  14. Toxins

  15. Intestinal tumors

 

Characteristics of Large Intestinal Diarrhea:

  • Small amounts of stool

  • Increased frequency of pooping – greater than 5 times per day

  • Straining is noted

  • If blood is present, it is bright red

  • Stool may contain mucus

  • Normally vomiting is absent

  • Pets normally do not lose weight

 

Large Intestinal diarrhea can be caused by the following:

  1. Stress

  2. Whipworms

  3. Polyps

  4. Inflammatory bowel disease

  5. Cancer

  6. Colonic ulcers

As mentioned, there are organs outside the intestinal tract that can potentially cause diarrhea. Diseases that affect the kidneys, liver, and pancreas can all cause diarrhea.

It is important to regularly (several times per week) monitor your dog’s bathroom habits – even if they are shy about it! This helps you know what is normal and abnormal for them. It will alert you to problems sooner – which may avoid a vet visit. These key pieces of information – change in pooping habits, changes in poop color, firmness, amount, etc. – are very valuable when providing information to your dog’s veterinarian. It may save you a lot of time and possibly eliminate a lot of extra testing.

Located just north of Green Bay, WI, we have been specializing in the care, training, standards and love of the German Shorthaired Pointer since 1999.  A pup purchased from us will fit your lifestyle both in the home and hunting aspects. We guarantee all our AKC pups, for both health, and hunt.