As humans, it's understandably terrible to go to the toilet every 20 minutes when we have the “runs”. When our dogs get diarrhea, they feel the same way, if not worse.
It's difficult to watch your dogs have diarrhea when you have no idea why. This article will share the factors behind dog diarrhea, how you can treat it, signs to look out for, and more.
How do I know if my dog has diarrhea and what to do?
Watery stools in your dog are a sure sign of diarrhea. However, if your dog has dry, hard stool, they are most likely constipated. The simplest way to tell if your dog has diarrhea is to look at their stool after they've done their business.
Type different types of dog poop
The consistency of a dog's poop is a crucial indicator of its health! The best stool is one that is firm but not too hard to pick up. It is typically log-shaped and slightly moist.
Dogs with diarrhea typically have soggy stools that lose shape when picked up. It then progresses to wet piles that are impossible to pick up. Eventually, their stools are most likely in a large puddle at the last stage of diarrhea.
On the other hand, if you notice your dog straining to pass stool, they are most likely constipated. Constipation causes poop to be pebble-like and extremely dry.
If your dog's stool appears unusual and you cannot determine the consistency, you can always take a photo of it and show it to your veterinarian to have your dog diagnosed.
Here's a handy infographic to help you figure out if your dog has diarrhea:
What should I do if my dog has diarrhea?
In most cases, a diarrhea episode can be resolved by simply feeding them bland foods like boiled chicken with cooked rice until their stools return to normal consistency.
Prolonged diarrhea can cause dehydration and other health problems. It is also vital to track whether your dog's diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, or a lack of appetite. Ultimately, if your dog shows no signs of recovery after 48 hours, it's time to take them to the vet.
However, if your dog’s diarrhea is bloody or black, seek medical attention for them right away.
Bloody or black-coloured diarrhea? Here's what you should do.
Bloody diarrhoea can be caused by an issue with your dog's digestive tract (this can occur anywhere in the colon, intestines, stomach, or anal region).
When there is bright red blood in a dog's stool, this is referred to as "hematochezia." Because the blood, in this case, is coming from the lower part of the digestive system (anus or colon), it is bright red.
It is also bright red because it has not completed the entire digestive process and thus appears "fresh" when it exits the body, which implies intestinal bleeding.
On the other hand, blood from the upper part of the digestive tract (the small intestine or stomach) appears dark to almost black and tarry. This is referred to as "melena."
Any condition that affects the stomach or upper part of the intestine, such as ulcers or inflammations, can cause melena.
Even if your dog has bloody diarrhea but is otherwise acting normally, they may require immediate medical attention. While it may turn out to be nothing to be concerned about, it is always better to err on the side of caution and avoid taking the risk.
Why do dogs have diarrhea in the first place?
Why do dogs have diarrhea in the first place?
There are many reasons why dogs can have diarrhea. The common ones are:
- Consuming spoiled food or garbage
- Anxiety or stress
- Dietary changes or treats
- Consuming foreign objects such as toys and bones
- Medications (i.e. Antibiotics)
- Parasites (i.e. hookworms, roundworms, Giardia, etc.)
- Bacterial infections
- IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease)
Introducing a new diet for your dogs
When introducing new foods into their diet, it is always best to do so in small batches to eliminate potential allergies or adverse reactions. It's also good to consult with your veterinarian about any new foods.
A clear sign of food allergy for dogs is itchy skin or most commonly known as hot spots. Hot spots are painful, red, irritated areas of infected skin that are sometimes raised.
These spots can appear quickly, usually with some hair loss, and grow significantly larger in a matter of days. If your dog suddenly has hot spots after eating new food, it’s time to eliminate that from their diet.
As Malaysians, we are fortunate to enjoy such a diverse range of cuisines. But keep in mind that while nasi lemak is delicious for humans, it is dangerous for your dogs. The oil and ingredients used to make our dishes are unsuitable for dogs, especially those with sensitive stomachs. This also applies to most other human food.
Consuming foreign objects
Dogs are naturally curious creatures, so it's not surprising that they try to eat almost everything they come into contact with. This could include spoiled food, garbage (particularly dogs who like to raid trash cans), toys, and even fabric. Dog owners should implement proper training and monitoring to combat this from happening.
Simple commands like “No” and “Stop” can help when you notice them putting something in their mouth that they’re not supposed to.
With training and monitoring, it is also important to be mindful of your surroundings when you have a pet. Bacterial infections, such as Salmonella, can occur when dogs consume raw chicken meat. If your dog enjoys accompanying you in the kitchen while you cook, be careful not to drop anything on the floor.
Stress or anxiety diarrhea in dogs
Stress diarrhea in pets is a common reaction to stress or anxiety – that is, your dog's diarrhea could be caused by something they are concerned about. Examples of stressful situations that can cause digestive problems in dogs are numerous – and it all depends on what makes your dog particularly anxious.
You must be familiar with your dog's normal body language in order to distinguish stress signs from normal behaviour. Then you'll know whether he's pacing because he's anxious or because he wants to play fetch.
Dogs usually will have forward-facing ears, a soft mouth, and round eyes with evenly distributed weight across all four paws when relaxed. Distinguishing between normal and stress-related behaviour will allow you to quickly and effectively diffuse an unpleasant situation.
With our country entering an endemic phase, many pets who are used to having their owners home all the time may experience stress or anxiety. Keep an eye out for any behaviour change that may occur as a result of our new lifestyle.
Medications for dogs
If your dog has been prescribed new medications, it is critical to monitor for any side effects or allergies. Diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are the most common symptoms of medication (drug) allergies.
Other symptoms to look out for include difficulty breathing, lethargy, itchy skin, depression, and facial swelling.
It is also important to never miss your pet's deworming appointments with your veterinarian to avoid parasite attacks.
How to treat my dog’s diarrhea at home?
If your dog has had diarrhea for more than 48 hours, please take them to the nearest veterinarian for further evaluation.
A 12- to 24-hour fast and small amounts of water can clear the stomach and allow the gastrointestinal tract to settle. Before fasting, make sure your dog is in good health. It's not recommended for puppies or senior dogs who need nutrients. Fasting may also be inadvisable for small dogs who lack physical strength.
A bland diet of rice water, plain white rice, boiled potatoes, and chicken can also help calm your dog's stomach.
Over-the-counter medications such as Imodium and Naturvet's Anti Diarrhea Liquid are also available. However, because your dogs are already in a vulnerable state, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian before administering the medication.
Diarrhea in dogs can be completely harmless or extremely dangerous. When this happens, it's best to be prepared. Pet insurance can help alleviate some of the stress in these instances.