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Symptoms of Diarrhea in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Effects of Diarrhea – From the Dog’s Point of View

Dogs with diarrhea will have a variety of symptoms, depending upon the underlying cause of their condition and whether the disorder is acute (sudden in onset and short in duration) or chronic (slow in onset and lasting for a long time). In many cases, diarrhea is accompanied by gastrointestinal upset, which can include nausea, cramping and abdominal pain – generally, what we would recognize as an “upset tummy.” Chronic diarrhea can cause a dog to become depressed, have a reduced appetite, be reluctant to play or exercise and feel excessively weak and lethargic. Dehydration is a potentially serious consequence of diarrhea that persists for a number of days.

Symptoms of Diarrhea – What the Owner Sees

Owners of dogs with diarrhea usually notice the condition fairly soon after its onset, especially if the dog lives indoors most of the time and only goes outside to potty in the yard. Owners of dogs that spend most of their time outdoors in a large confined or unconfined area may not notice the signs of diarrhea as quickly. Eventually, however, most owners of dogs with diarrhea will notice one or more of the following clinical signs:

  • Production of loose, watery, unformed stools
  • Loose stools that contain bright red fresh blood (hematochezia)
  • Loose stools that contain dark digested blood (melena)
  • Loose stools that contain mucus
  • Blood or mucus in the hair or on the tissue surrounding the anus
  • Increased volume of feces
  • Increased frequency of defecation
  • Defecation in inappropriate places (from increased urgency; household accidents)
  • Straining to defecate (tenesmus)
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased bowel sounds (borborygmus)
  • Expulsion of gas (“farting”, flatulence)

Dogs at Increased Risk of Developing Diarrhea

Puppies, dogs with weakened immune systems, dogs fed a raw diet and dogs living in cramped quarters with poor sanitation have an increased risk of developing diarrhea from bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infectious causes. Dogs allowed to roam freely are also predisposed to developing diarrhea, because they have unrestricted access to garbage, rotting plant material, dead animals, foreign objects and potential toxins. Dogs that travel, go to dog shows, are taken to the vet’s office or are moving into a new home may have diarrhea caused by stress, excitement or increased exposure to contagious organisms. Large breed dogs have a higher incidence of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV, bloat, torsion), both of which can cause diarrhea.

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