Diarrhea In Dogs: Types, Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment


Diarrhea in dogs is a common issue that can worry pet owners. It is essential to understand what causes it, how to recognize the symptoms, and what steps to take for treatment.

What Is Diarrhea In Dogs

Dog diarrhea is a condition characterized by the frequent passing of loose or liquid stools. It is a symptom rather than a disease and can be triggered by various underlying health issues.

A veterinarian must identify the root cause of dog diarrhea to treat it effectively. This can range from dietary indiscretions to more severe concerns like viral infections or exposure to toxins.

If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, you may wonder whether to seek immediate veterinary care or monitor the situation at home. This guide covers essential information to help you make an informed decision.

Types Of Diarrhea In Dogs

While dealing with your dog's diarrhea might be unpleasant, providing detailed information to your veterinarian is crucial for proper diagnosis. Veterinarians classify dog diarrhea into four main categories:

  • Osmotic Diarrhea: This type occurs when excess water enters the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, leading to large volumes of liquid stools. It can be caused by high-fat meals or lactose intolerance. This type often improves with fasting.
  • Secretory Diarrhea: This occurs when the GI tract produces too many secretions, often due to bacterial toxins or viruses. It results in copious amounts of watery feces and typically does not improve with fasting.
  • Exudative Diarrhea: This type happens when the GI lining is damaged, such as with ulcerative colitis or certain autoimmune diseases. It often results in mucus or blood in the feces.
  • Rapid Intestinal Transit Diarrhea: This occurs when the colon contracts more intensely than usual, causing rapid movement of contents through the GI tract. It results in watery stools.

    What Causes Diarrhea In Dogs?

    Diarrhea can be triggered by a few factors, including:

    • Dietary Indiscretion: Dogs are naturally curious and sometimes consume things they shouldn't, such as garbage, spoiled food, or foreign objects, which can cause digestive issues.
    • Dietary Changes: Sudden changes in diet, including new food or treats, can cause diarrhea as your dog's digestive system adjusts.
    • Food Intolerance or Allergies: Some dogs may be sensitive to specific ingredients in their food, causing gastrointestinal distress.
    • Infections: Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections can lead to diarrhea. Common culprits include Salmonella, Parvovirus, and Giardia.
    • Medications: Certain medications, particularly antibiotics, can upset the balance of beneficial bacteria in your dog's gut, leading to diarrhea.
    • Stress or Anxiety: Changes in routine, new environments, or stressful situations can affect a dog's digestive system.
    • Underlying Health Conditions: Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, or pancreatitis can cause chronic diarrhea.

    Symptoms Of Diarrhea In Dogs

    Diarrhea is easy to spot as it involves frequent, loose, or watery stools. Other symptoms that may accompany diarrhea include:

    • Vomiting: If your dog is vomiting and having diarrhea, it could indicate a more severe issue.
    • Lethargy: A lack of enthusiasm or energy for usual activities.
    • Loss of Appetite: If your don't want to eat, it indicates a potential problem.
    • Dehydration: Diarrhea can cause dehydration, a severe condition. Look for signs like dry gums, sunken eyes, and lethargy.
    • Fever: An elevated temperature can indicate an infection.

    When To See The Vet

    While mild cases of diarrhea often resolve on their own, certain situations require immediate veterinary attention:

    • Persistent Diarrhea: Lasting more than 24-48 hours.
    • Severe Symptoms: Accompanied by vomiting, fever, or lethargy.
    • Blood in Stool: Indicates a potential serious issue.
    • Puppies and Senior Dogs: More vulnerable to dehydration and complications.

    At-Home Care and Treatment

    For mild cases, you can take the following steps at home:

    • Fasting: Withhold food for 12 to 24 hours to give your dog's digestive system a chance to rest.
    • Hydration: Ensure your dog can access plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration.
    • Bland Diet: After fasting, introduce a bland diet of rice in small portions or boiled chicken.
    • Gradual Return to Regular Diet: Slowly reintroduce their regular food over a few days.

    Diagnose Of Dog Diarrhea

    To effectively treat your dog's diarrhea, veterinarians must determine the underlying cause. Common diagnostic methods include:

    • History: The vet will gather detailed information about your dog's recent activities and diet to identify potential triggers.
    • Physical Exam: A comprehensive examination from head to tail helps assess your dog's overall health and detect issues like fever or abdominal pain.
    • Blood Work: Tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile can reveal kidney or liver problems and infections and evaluate hydration and electrolyte levels.
    • Fecal Exam: This test is used to identify intestinal parasites.
    • Parvo Test: A parvo test may be necessary for puppies or unvaccinated dogs to rule out this severe viral disease.
    • X-rays: These are useful for detecting foreign objects or blockages in the intestines.
    • Biopsy: An intestinal biopsy may be required for a definitive diagnosis.
    • Conducting a Food Elimination Trial: If a food allergy is suspected, the veterinarian may recommend removing specific foods to identify the allergen.

    Treatment Of Diarrhea In Dogs

    The treatment for your dog's diarrhea depends on its underlying cause. Possible treatments include:

    • Withholding Food: If the diarrhea is due to dietary indiscretion, withholding food for 12 to 24 hours can help the intestines settle.
    • Fluid Therapy: For moderate to severe cases, fluid therapy may be necessary to replenish lost fluids and correct electrolyte imbalances.
    • Antibiotics: Antibiotics might be prescribed to prevent or treat bacterial infections.
    • Anti-parasitics: The vet will prescribe appropriate anti-parasitic medication if intestinal parasites are found.
    • Diet Change: A special diet may be recommended for dogs with food sensitivities to manage symptoms.
    • Monoclonal Antibody Treatment: This treatment is available for puppies with parvovirus.

    Preventing Diarrhea In Dogs

    Preventative measures can help lower the chances of your dog developing diarrhea:

    • Stable Diet: Avoid sudden changes in your dog's diet.
    • Monitor Eating Habits: Keep an eye on what your dog eats and prevent them from scavenging.
    • Regular Vet Check-ups: Make sure that your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite control.
    • Reduce Stress: Provide a calm environment and minimize stressful situations for your dog.


    Diarrhea in dogs is a common but manageable condition. Knowing the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and knowing when to seek vet care can help keep your dog healthy. With proper care and attention, you can help your dog recover quickly and prevent future episodes.


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