Dog with Diarrhea

Table of Contents

Overview & Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment


"A variety of problems can be the cause of a dog with diarrhea, such as parasites, virus medications or from eating an object they shouldn't have. Treatment starts with a cure for the diarrhea itself followed by elimination of the underlying cause."


Dogs in general have sensitive digestive systems. Diarrhea in dogs can be caused by a number of things, including changes in food, parasites (worms), viruses, bacteria, medications, and ingesting foreign material. Diarrhea is often the body's healthy response to something unhealthy. It is the body's attempt to rid itself of the unwanted substance.


Diarrhea includes any stool that is softer than normal, any loose or watery stool, "cow pie" consistency stool, and soft stools with abnormal color and odor. If your dog has diarrhea, pay attention to how often he has it, and the color, and the consistency. If he has to go to the vet, your vet will want to know this information.

A dog with diarrhea may have other symptoms as well, such as a fever and vomiting. Other times, a dog with diarrhea may seem perfectly fine. If he seems to be feeling fine and is eating and drinking well, you can just keep an eye on him at home for a few days.

A dog with diarrhea for more than a few days or a dog with diarrhea and other symptoms of illness needs to go to the vet.

Diagnosis of Your Dog with Diarrhea

When you go to the vet, take a stool sample with you. It will help the vet make a diagnosis by looking at the color and consistency.

When you take your dog to the vet, the vet will examine him thoroughly. He or she may take x-rays to check to see if your dog has eaten something inedible that may be causing diarrhea. Your vet may do some blood tests and may do a urinalysis, but the most important part of the exam will be the examination of the stool sample you provide. Your vet will check the stool for parasites and can test it for certain viruses, such as parvo virus.

Infections - Vaccination should prevent diarrhea caused by viruses such as parvo. Bacterial infection is rare in dogs, but can be caused by bacteria commonly found in food poisoning such as salmonella or Campylobacter. In this case antibiotics will be prescribed. This is also important since the disease could spread from dog to human when shed from feces.

Pancreas Problems (enzyme insufficiency) -  Diarrhea due to a pancreas disease will be yellow or gray in color and be accompanied by weight loss and excessive gas (flatulence). Treatment includes a change to a lower fat diet such as Hills Prescription Diet i/d and enzyme replacement therapy.

Canine Idiopathic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) - This condition is diagnosed after the elimination of other causes including allergy and parasites. It is not certain what causes this condition although it is seen more often in some breeds. It is also associated with have low levels of protein the diet. Treatment options include dietary change to a higher protein diet and prescription corticosteroids over several weeks.

Dog Diarrhea Treatment

There are important considerations when curing dog diarrhea:

  1. Diet with enough roughage to harden the stool
  2. Water
  3. Exercise

The first concern with canine diarrhea is the possibility of dehydration. Fluids can be given subcutaneously (under the skin) by a veterinarian to treat dehydration if necessary.

Medication (anti-motility drugs) can be given to stop the diarrhea if it does not stop on its own. If your dog is also vomiting, medication (anti-emetics) can be given to stop the vomiting as well.

Now that the immediate and urgent symptoms have been addressed, the cause of the diarrhea must be addressed. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis your vet made. Treatment can be given for worms, antibiotics can be prescribed for infections, and so on. In some cases the cause of diarrhea cannot be determined or it is assumed to be a virus and there is no treatment available other than supportive care until the virus runs its course.


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McCluggage, David DVM

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Dunn, T. J. Jr. DVM