Diarrhoea in dogs

Dr Sandra Karlsen
Lead Veterinarian
February 25, 2024

Diarrhoea is a prevalent issue in dogs, characterised by frequent amounts of small or large amounts of loose stool, depending on whether it originates from the small or large bowel, and sometimes mucus or blood. This can be caused by a number of factors such as dietary indiscretions, infections, or underlying health problems.

While mild cases of diarrhoea often respond to basic treatments, more severe cases may lead to dehydration, pain and inappetence, often requiring treatment and potential supportive care in a hospital setting. It is crucial to quickly recognize symptoms and seek proper veterinary care to effectively handle diarrhoea and safeguard your pet's health.

What are common causes of diarrhoea in dogs?

  • Consumption of spoiled food or garbage
  • Administration of certain medications like antibiotics
  • Stress or anxiety-inducing situations
  • Alterations in diet or treats
  • Exposure to toxins or poisons
  • Viral infections such as distemper or coronavirus
  • Underlying liver or kidney issues
  • Inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Presence of parasites like Giardia, coccidia, whipworms, roundworms, or hookworms
  • Bacterial infections, including salmonella

More severe potential causes of diarrhoea in dogs include:

  • Cancer
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Disorders related to the pancreas
  • Conditions like Addison’s disease, liver, or heart diseases
  • Disorders affecting the immune system
  • Parvovirus infection

Treatment for Dog Diarrhoea

When dealing with dog diarrhoea, initial treatment usually involves dietary adjustments, such as transitioning to a plain diet like chicken and rice or a specialised gastrointestinal diet recommended by your vet. It's important to avoid fasting, as this can harm the intestinal villi needed for proper function. Instead, feed small amounts frequently to support the digestive system. Additionally, ensure access to fresh water and consider providing electrolytes to support hydration. Look out for signs of dehydration, such as lethargy, prolonged skin tenting, or dry mucous membranes. If your pet is not eating or drinking, experiencing diarrhoea, and showing signs of dehydration, it's crucial to seek veterinary care promptly. Probiotics specifically formulated for dogs may also be beneficial, but avoid over-the-counter remedies without consulting your vet.

If diarrhoea persists, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention. Veterinarians typically address diarrhoea by treating both its symptoms and underlying cause if identified. However, it's not uncommon for the specific cause of the diarrhoea to remain unknown. In such cases, supportive care is often necessary until the diarrhoea begins to resolve. This may include interventions such as fluid therapy, anthelmintics for parasites, pain relief, and temporary dietary changes. While antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infections if a specific cause is identified, they are not commonly used due to their potential to further upset the flora (natural mix of bacteria that live in the gut and help with digestion).

What is the prognosis for dogs with diarrhoea?

The prognosis depends on the severity of the diarrhoea, the specific diagnosis, and how your dog reacts to treatment. Generally, simple cases of diarrhoea usually recover completely, while dogs dealing with chronic diarrhoea may require continuous care, which may include changes in diet or medication to manage the condition effectively.

How to prevent dog diarrhoea

  • Avoid sudden diet changes: Abrupt changes in your dog's diet can upset their stomach and lead to diarrhoea. Stick to a consistent feeding routine and gradually introduce any new foods.
  • Ensure essential care: Stay up to date with your dog's parasite prevention and vaccination schedule. Regular vet check-ups help in early detection and prevention of potential health issues.
  • Consider sensitive stomach diets: If your dog is prone to diarrhoea, consider switching to a sensitive stomach diet. These specialised diets are formulated to be gentle on the digestive system and may help alleviate gastrointestinal issues.
  • Limit access to other foods: Prevent your dog from scavenging or accessing human foods, which can trigger digestive upset. Keep garbage bins secure and avoid feeding table scraps, especially fatty, spicy, or creamy foods.

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog shows signs of diarrhoea, including frequent loose or watery stools, vomiting, bloody stools, lethargy, dehydration, loss of appetite, or if the diarrhoea persists for more than 24 hours.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.