Dog Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms & Natural Treatment
Sooner or later, every dog owner encounters the worry that goes along with realizing your furry friend may be sick. Even if you suspect your dog just has a good old fashioned case of the runs, dog diarrhea can definitely have you imagining the worst case scenario.
However, diarrhea is a fairly common ailment among dogs, especially since our fuzzy pups tend to experience the world through their mouths. Modern domesticated dogs aren’t so removed from their scavenger roots and will put anything—and we mean anything—in their mouths if it looks like a possible treat. And that causes a lot of upset tummies in the process.
Diarrhea is also associated with some fairly serious ailments, as well, and can be a symptom that something much more grave is going on. Or it could mean that your pup is stressed, has a food sensitivity or has picked up an intestinal parasite. As you can see, there’s a pretty broad range of things that can cause your canine friend’s loose stools. Below, we’ll discuss some of the primary sources of stomach upset, what you need to watch out for and describe some natural solutions that can relieve or even remedy your dog’s case of the trots.
Signs that Your Dog’s Diarrhea Needs Immediate Medical Attention
Doggy diarrhea isn’t pleasant by any means, so we don’t blame you for not wanting to linger over your pup’s loose droppings. But there are a couple of signs to watch out for here that can give you clues as to what your best bud is going through. In particular, be sure to be on high alert for the following:
- Blood in the stool: Streaks of blood in your dog’s leavings are not normal and are one sign of serious ailments like parasite infections, viral and bacterial infections or even cancer. If you notice blood in your pup’s feces, your best bet is take them to a vet right away. If he or she is especially lethargic, vomiting, or not eating, then don’t wait to book an appointment the next day. Bring them to an emergency pet hospital for immediate attention.
- Mucus in the stool: Similarly, dog droppings covered in mucus are a sign that something serious could be occurring in your dog’s intestines, such as a parasite infection, inflammatory bowel disease or colitis. It’s also associated with more benign afflictions like irritable bowel syndrome. Either way, bring your dog in for an appointment with your vet right away if you see these signs in your dog’s leavings.
- Black, tarry stool: Dark, tarry stool, known to the canine medical world as melena, can be indicative of gastrointestinal bleeding, and is nothing to take casually. Make an appointment with a veterinarian right away in this case.
Other Things to Watch Out For
Sometimes a dog just has a little upset stomach—but to tell if the problem is more serious, you’ll want to keep close watch over your pup for the next few hours. Diarrhea is really just one symptom of a gastrointestinal problem. Usually, with serious ailments, your dog will be exhibiting other signs of sickness as well. Be on the lookout for the following indicators that something is wrong with your pooch’s belly:
- Unusually Lethargic: Most attentive pet owners can tell the difference between a dog that’s having a lazy day and one that’s unusually tired. Marked signs of lethargy and weakness accompanied with diarrhea, are indicative of serious problems or complications and should be treated by a professional.
- Profuse Vomiting: Vomiting and diarrhea often go hand-and-hand with stomach problems. However, if your dog has eaten something bad or rotten, they may try to vomit it up as well. Therefore, vomiting is usually only grounds for immediate treatment if it happens continuously throughout the day (i.e., if your dog can’t keep any food or water down).
- Not Eating or Drinking: If your dog avoids food and water, he or she could become dehydrated, leading to weakness and other complications. Therefore, if your pet shows absolutely no interest in food and water, even when you offer them a gentler substitute, they could be very ill indeed. Take them for a professional diagnosis right away.
- Visible Signs of Abdominal Pain: Dogs that are experiencing severe abdominal comfort will often show signs of it, including groaning or panting. You may even be able to detect visible signs of bloating. If your pup seems like they’re in pain, take them to see a holistic veterinarian right away.
You should also be especially concerned if your dog is:
- Very young
- Has an existing condition
- Has just started a new medication
Young puppies, older geriatric dogs, and dogs with existing conditions or who are already undergoing treatment may be more susceptible to dehydration and other complications that can arise with diarrhea.
Doggy Diarrhea: The First 24 Hours
Most mild cases of diarrhea dissipate in one to two days, so managing your pup during the first 24 hours is key. If the diarrhea lasts longer than that however, you should probably make an appointment with your vet, unless your dog has a history of IBS associated with stress or other such ailment. Long-term diarrhea can cause dehydration that will complicate your pet’s recovery.
However, if it seems like the diarrhea might be “garbage gut” (the name vets us to refer to dogs who eat something rotten or foul) or temporary stress, you can help your pup recover faster by including Wondercide's DETOX (pure calcium bentonite clay) along with their bland meal, to further help settle their stomach. Bentonite clay can help absorb toxins in the gut that may have accidentally been ingested by your mischievous mutt, but is also great for helping soothe upset tummies caused by less severe things like stress or a sudden diet change. Think of it like taking an antacid for yourself- it helps to settle a case of the "bubble guts", and helps your dog to be comfortable quicker.
During this time, keep offering your dog fresh water, and stay alert for any signs of unusual behavior, such as vomiting or signs of weakness.
Holistic Remedies from Your Kitchen Cabinet
As your furry friend recovers, it can also help to offer them some home remedies that will help their tummy bounce back quickly from its latest bout of garbage gut. Here are a couple of remedies you can make yourself from things you have sitting around in your kitchen pantry this very moment.
- Yams: Softened yams are a good all-natural remedy for diarrhea and make a nice dietary supplement if your pup is especially prone to stomach ache. Yams have anti-inflammatory properties, so they can help soothe upset tummies in dogs and people alike. They’re also packed with important nutrients—like Vitamin C—that can help your pup recover quickly.
- Pumpkin: Similarly, a little bit of canned pureed pumpkin can also be added to your pup’s first meals as they begin to recover from their diarrhea. Make sure it’s real pumpkin puree—not mixed with sweeteners or spices. Pumpkin contains both fiber and beta carotene, which can help get your pup back on the road to recovery. Make sure just to give them a few teaspoons at a time, however. Too much may not be good for your pet.
- Beet Pulp: Another thing you might want to try adding to your dog’s diet is beet pulp. Beet pulp is a known prebiotic—a food that bolsters your dog’s gut against harmful bacteria. Only try this remedy when your dog is already on the mend, because beet pulp can occasionally exacerbate stomach issues in some dogs.
- Kefir: Kefir, a fermented milk drink similar to yogurt, has recently gained popularity with human nutritionists for its probiotic properties. Some experts believe that this can help your pup sort through problems with diarrhea—at least once they are back on solid foods, that is. Only use plain, unsweetened kefir, and limit the dosage to a very small amount—as little as ⅛ of a teaspoon at first—so you can see how your dog reacts.
Over-the-Counter Holistic Remedies
Meanwhile, there are a few over-the-counter natural remedies you can give your best bud too to get their stomach back on track fast. Here are a few that come highly recommended by dog lovers and holistic vets:
- Slippery Elm: The slippery elm, or Ulmus rubra, is a tree found throughout North America and valued for its digestive properties. The tannins in the tree bark is known to be anti-inflammatory and generally thought to be safe for canine consumption. Of course, its effects have mainly been studied in humans, so proceed with caution when offering this remedy to your dog.
- Probiotics: If your dog suffers from frequent diarrhea, you may want to try offering them regular probiotic supplements, as well. Probiotics have been shown to assist with many mild intestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome and food sensitivities, and may also help if your pup is prone to skin problems and ear infections as well. A holistic vet should be able to provide you with a probiotic recommendation and instructions for administering this remedy.
- Neem Bark: This is one of our favorite remedies for pups who often get upset tummies. Neem bark supplements are packed with antioxidants and have been used for ages to help support digestion and immune system functioning. Giving your pup the powder once a day has the power to improve liver and kidney functioning and stave off milder cases of diarrhea, too.
A Note About Common Pharmaceutical Remedies
Some experts also advise that pet owners give their dogs doses of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, like Kaopectate or Pepto Bismol, to help with stomach upset and diarrhea. However, these products both contain salicylates, a chemical than has been linked to ulcers and kidney and liver damage in some dogs. Many holistic vets feel that salicylates are toxins to dogs and the products containing them should be avoided in favor of other, more natural remedies.
Steps to Prevent Diarrhea in the Future
In addition to some of the digestive aids mentioned above, you and your pup may need to make some behavioral changes to prevent diarrhea in the future—especially if it’s a common occurrence in your home. Here are some ideas that may help:
- Cover garbage cans. If your pup’s a particularly avid scavenger, make sure all trash cans at home remain covered, especially if your pup often roves around the house unsupervised.
- Keep bones away from your dog. Contrary to popular belief, bones may not really make such a great treat for your best bud. Bone fragments can stick in your dog’s stomach, causing intestinal problems (including diarrhea). So reward your pup with another treat instead.
- Help your pup with stress. Some dogs are naturally more nervous than others, but your dog could also be suffering from separation anxiety, stress from other animals, or fear of loud noises, too, depending on their temperament and situation. If your dog suffers from frequent diarrhea, stress could be to blame. Visit a holistic veterinarian to help you learn about the symptoms and to pinpoint the source of your dog’s stress. A holistic vet can also recommend behavior changes and oral remedies that may help soothe some of your dog’s anxiety.
- Monitor your dog’s diet. This is important, especially if you tend to feed your dog table scraps or other treats. First, stop giving them any human food, since this could hurt their stomach and might be the cause of chronic diarrhea. Next, you may want to try switching to a milder diet, such as a special dog food that is gentler on the stomach.
With a little vigilance, attention and care, you can help your dog get through stomach upset. Your carpets will thank you!