Diarrhea in Dogs
Diarrhea is one of the most common health complaints pet owners report. It is usually characterized by softer than normal stool, increased or decreased amount of stool, frequent defecation, straining, and stool that may contain mucous or blood. Diarrhea in dogs can be acute or chronic. Chronic diarrhea is usually more difficult to treat.
Acute diarrhea usually starts suddenly and may last anywhere from 24 hours to one week.
Causes of Acute Diarrhea
Acute diarrhea is usually caused by a dietary indiscretion or rapid change of food, but can also be caused by infections from bacteria, bacterial overgrowth or protozoa such as salmonella, giardia or clostridium or toxin ingestion.
Treating acute diarrhea
Mild cases of acute diarrhea resulting from dietary changes or dietary indiscretions can often be treated at home. It is recommended to withhold food for 24 hours and offer small amounts of water frequently. After 24 hours, a bland diet can be introduced such as boiled chicken breast and white rice. A probiotic can be given to help balance out healthy bacteria and control the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
When to take dog to the vet:
You should take your dog to the vet if your dog appears lethargic, has persistent vomiting, is painful in the abdomen, bloated, has pale or yellow gums, has persistent blood in the stool, or has a fever greater than 103 degrees or if you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxin.
Chronic diarrhea is characterized by ongoing continuous or intermittent diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea can usually be broken into two categories: small intestinal chronic diarrhea and large intestinal diarrhea.
Causes of Chronic Diarrhea
Finding the cause of chronic diarrhea in dogs can be challenging. There can be numerous causes of chronic diarrhea ranging from intestinal parasites, infections from giardia, clostridium overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, food allergies or intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease, tumors or polyps, or diseases from organs such as the liver, pancreas, thyroid or kidney.
Your veterinarian can run different tests to rule out different causes of chronic diarrhea. Tests may include general blood work, fecal tests, and abdominal xray and/or ultrasound and even biopsies.
Treatment of Chronic diarrhea
Treatment of chronic diarrhea depends on the underlying cause. Treatments can range from deworming, to antibiotics or immune suppressive drugs in case of inflammatory bowel disease. If no obvious organic cause can be found, veterinarians often recommend an anti-allergy commercial diet consisting of a single uncommon protein source such as duck or buffalo and a single carbohydrate source such as sweet potato or green pea. A food trial can take up to six weeks to notice any changes and it is recommended to feed only the food and to eliminate treats that can cause upset. Probiotics can also help to maintain normal flora and reduce the amount of bad bacteria in the intestines.