“Help! My dog has diarrhea!” That was all that was in the email I recently got from a reader. And it’s not the first time I received an email like this. I get a few of these every month.
I can relate. I have dealt with my dogs getting the dreaded runs over the years and just last week Lucy had them.
Believe me, it’s not fun dealing with it in a long-haired chihuahua. I can’t tell you how many times I had to wash her little butt and hind legs off until she got better.
Diarrhea can be quite scary, not to mention messy and smelly. And the causes of diarrhea can vary quite a bit.
Some causes are minor and will go away on their own or with a bland diet. Other causes can be quite serious and may require medical intervention.
Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs
- Changing your dog’s diet too quickly can cause gastric distress. If you want to try out a new food, do it gradually by giving them 1/4 the new food and 3/4 the old food. After a few days, you can do half the new and half the old. Keep going until eventually, it’s 100% the new food.
- Your dog may have developed an allergy to something in his or her food.
- Your dog may have eaten some people food that was too rich or something that is fine for people, but not dogs. Things such as grapes, chocolate, coffee, and avocados can be toxic to your fur baby.
- Your pup may have eaten something else that is toxic such as mulch, house or garden plants, medicine, etc.
- Your dog ate something that isn’t edible such as a rock, a small toy, a bone, etc. that is causing a blockage.
Your dog may have worms. Check their poop and if there are any tiny white dots in it, that’s a sign of worms. Of course, they may still have them and you don’t see the dots. Preventing dog worms is not as hard as you think.
Viral or Bacterial Infection
Just like people can pick up a virus or bacterial infection, so can dogs. Usually, this will run its course with a little rest and care. Just keep an eye out for dehydration which can happen quickly in small dogs.
There are more serious viruses that require immediate medical care such as parvovirus. This is most common in young, unvaccinated puppies.
Recent life changes, being left alone too long and other stressors can cause diarrhea. called stress colitis.
Diseases or other Health Issues
Organ dysfunction, pancreatitis, inflammatory diseases, and other problems such as cancer. If your dog has chronic diarrhea, please see a vet as soon as possible.
The Color of Dog Poop
Check your dog’s poop because it can tell you a lot of what’s going on inside.
Here are the colors and what they mean:
- Brown This is the color it should be, including various shade of brown.
- Green Your dog has been eating grass. Dogs often do this when they have upset tummies. Sometimes diarrhea can be green in color
- White Spots Like I mentioned earlier, this could be a sign of worms or evidence of digested bones if your dog gets them as treats.
- Yellow usually means there is an issue with the liver, gall bladder, or pancreas. This usually is highlighter yellow and there can be yellowing of the eyes and skin.
- Red If there is some red mixed in the poop it is likely to be blood, in the stool, It can be a sign that there is inflammation of the the inner wall of your dog’s anus or a bleeding mass inside.
- Black is the worst, as it could mean that there is some sort of inner, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, which could be a result of an indigestible object ingested by your dog or ulceration.
If your dog has poop that is bloody, highlighter yellow, or black in color – seek veterinary care right away.
Treatment for Dog Diarrhea
- Let their system settle down some before trying to give them food. Usually, we recommend fasting for 6-8 hours.
- Do try to get them to drink some water so as not to get dehydrated.
- When it’s mealtime, try giving them some diluted warm beef or chicken broth. Make sure it is low sodium and does not contain garlic or onion.
- The next time it’s mealtime, you can give them small amounts of white rice mixed with plain boiled white meat chicken.
- See how they do for a day or two on this diet and if there is an improvement, you can start adding a little of their regular food until they are eventually back on it completely.
- If they do not improve, are vomiting too, or showing signs of dehydration, get them to a vet.
- Chronic diarrhea may require further evaluation by a veterinary specialist.
Have you had to deal with your dog having diarrhea yet? Leave a comment and tell us about it!
Paula Simons, DVM
This post has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. Find out more about Dr. Simons on our About page.