Diarrhea in Dogs – Treatment and Prognosis
Diarrhea, as most people know, is the passage of loose, unformed stools. Both sudden-onset (acute) and chronic diarrhea can be life-threatening, especially in young puppies, older dogs, dogs with weak or compromised immune systems and those with underlying medical disorders such as diabetes, Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism) or hypothyroidism. Owners should take their dogs to a veterinarian if they have acute bloody diarrhea for more than a day or if they have had chronic bouts of loose stool for more than a week. A dog that is lethargic, bloated, passing blood, vomiting frequently, showing signs of abdominal pain, has a fever and also has diarrhea should also see a veterinarian. The primary goal of treating dogs with diarrhea is to identify and correct whatever is causing the condition.
Not all dogs with diarrhea require a trip to the veterinarian. Diarrhea that occurs suddenly, with no apparent fresh blood in it, and only lasts for a few days, usually can be treated successfully at home. Dogs with acute diarrhea normally don’t have behavioral changes, other than the need to “poop” more frequently than usual. Authorities recommend treating acute diarrhea by resting the dog’s gastrointestinal tract. This can be done by reducing its food intake by at least one-half of the regular amount for several days. Some experts recommend withholding food entirely for at least 12 to 24 hours. Many veterinarians suggest replacing the dog’s regular diet with bland, low-fat foods, such as boiled chicken and rice, boiled hamburger and rice, cooked pasta, cooked oatmeal, tofu and/or boiled eggs. Yogurt, cottage cheese, cooked sweet potato and/or cooked pumpkin can be added to the meal to help soothe the stomach and firm up the stool. The bland diet should be continued for at least 3 or 4 days after the diarrhea resolves. After that, the regular diet can be reintroduced. Free access to fresh water is essential at all times, especially for dogs with diarrhea, because they are prone to becoming dehydrated.
Dogs that have diarrhea lasting a week or more, or chronic diarrhea in conjunction with other symptoms such as vomiting, fever, depression or bloody stool, should be seen by a veterinarian right away.
The outlook for dogs with diarrhea is usually good to excellent, as long as the condition is treated in a timely manner. The most common causes of diarrhea – dietary indiscretion and internal parasites – are not difficult to treat successfully. Future outbreaks of diarrhea can be avoided by completely treating the original cause of the condition and preventing the dog from coming into contact with whatever caused the problem in the first place.