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Vet's Blog > Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea in Dogs


It is not an easy task to raise a dog from a stage of puppy to adult and not facing a consequence of many health issues, one of which is diarrhea. Like we human, dog also suffer from diarrhea in any part of his life no matter how they are kept in well managed condition and feeding schedule. The diarrhea is not disease in itself but a symptom. It is on the basis of this symptom the vet finds the underlying causes and potential grave illness or diseases.


What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is the passage of unformed or loose stools, usually occurring in larger amounts. In most cases there is a increased number of bowel movement.. Diarrhea is not a disease but rather a sign of many different diseases like cancer and organ system failure. However it is seen that  Diarrhea  is the most common sign of  intestinal disease. Diarrhea associated with minor conditions can often be resolved quickly with simple treatments. But it should bear in mind by dog owner that the diarrhea caused by simple cause can be life threatening if there is severe dehydration and electrolyte (like sodium potassium) imbalance.


What causes diarrhea in dogs?


To understand the cause of diarrhea we have to first know how stool is formed inside the dog’s body. First the food is taken by mouth and goes to stomach for digestion .After digestion the food is absorbed in small intestine.Food in small intestine takes about eight hour to get to colon. During this time most of the nutrient in it is absorbed..80 percent of water is absorbed in small bowel.. The colon concentrate and store the waste..At the end well formed stool is evacuated.

Transit time in the intestinal tract can be speeded up for a variety of reasons. when food passes rapidly through the bowel, it is incompletely digested and arrive in rectum in liquid state. This results in large, loose, unformed bowel movement. This mechanism account for the majority of acute diarrhea of short duration.


The causes of diarrhea are many few of them are

  • Diet change or dietary indiscretion : sudden change in diet of your dog could lead to diarrhea such as if you are feeding rice and chicken and you abruptly change to bread and pasta then it could lead to diarrhea. Similarly changing homemade diet with commercial packed dog food also shows sign of diarrhea if the switching is not slow or gradual.
  • Medication: side effect of various medications especially antibiotic can give your dog diarrhea.
  • Parasites: worms like roundworm, hookworm giardia coccidia can result diarrhea.
  • Bacterial infection like salmonella and E. coli can cause diarrhea.
  • Viral infection: Parvovirus (especially in puppies), corona, Distemper are viral disease causing diarrhea.
  • Systemic disease: Disease like renal failure liver disease pancreatitis diabetes mellitus may show sign of diarrhea.
  • Chocolate, raisin and onion poisoning can give diarrhea though these items are safe for human to consume
  • Tumor or cancer inside the body can cause diarrhea especially in older dog
  • Eating inappropriate items like eating grass rock plastic cloth can irritate or trauma to intestine resulting diarrhea.
  • Stress: Like human, stress and excitement can cause diarrhea( for eg in dog show)
  • Overeating
  • Eating garbage/ decayed food
  • Eating toxic substance like gasoline, kerosene oil, insecticide, bleaches( from toilet)cement, lime, paint can cause diarrhea.
  • Food allergy


Besides in attempting to narrow the search for the cause of a diarrhea, it is important to decide whether the disease is located in small intestine or colon( large intestine). Begin by examining color, consistency, odor and frequency of stool as well as the condition of dog:


Yellow or greenish stool- indicate rapid transit (small bowel)

Black tarry stool—indicate bleeding in upper digestive tract

Bloody stool—red blood or clot indicates bleeding in the colon

Pasty, light colored stool—indicates lack of bile(liver disease)

Large, gray, rancid-smelling stool—indicates inadequate digestion or absorption ( malabsorption syndrome)



Watery stool—indicates small bowel wall irritation ( toxin and severe infection)

Foamy stool—suggest a bacterial infection

Greasy stool—often with oil on the hair around the anus; indicates malabsorption

Excessive mucus—glistening or jelly appearance: indicate colonic origin

Odor ( the more watery the stool, the greater the odor)

Food like, or smelling like a sour milk- suggests both rapid transit and malabsorption: for eg overfeeding, especially in puppies

Putrid smelling—suggests an intestinal infection


Several in an hour, each small with straining—suggests colitis( inflammation of large bowel)

Three or four times a day, each with large quantity—suggests malabsorption or small bowel disorder


Condition of dog

Weight loss, malnutrition—suggests small bowel disorder.

Normal appetite, minimal weight loss—suggests large bowel disorder.

Vomiting—small bowel origin, except for colitis


How serious is diarrhea in dogs?

The seriousness of diarrhea depends on how long the diarrhea has persisted and how many other signs accompany the diarrhea. If your dog has severe bloody diarrhea, or is showing more generalized signs of illness such as weakness, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, or loss of appetite, or if dehydration accompanies the diarrhea, the cause may be more serious. For example, diarrhea is one of the first signs seen in parvovirus, a viral infection that can cause life-threatening illness in susceptible dogs.


What are the treatment options?

Firstly diarrhea is a symptom, not the disease. You need to find the underlying cause behind it and then correct it in proper way as soon as possible. Diarrhea  caused by overeating( characterized by several large bulky unformed stool per day is controlled by cutting back food intake and feeding three meals a day. When irritating and toxic substance has been ingested, an effort should be made to identify the causative agent ,as specific antidotes may be required.

Food allergies or intolerance respond to removal of specific food causing the problem like milk, raw meat or egg.

Most cases diarrhea can be treated at home. The vet may advise you to withhold all food for 24 to 48 hour(day or two).if dog appears thirsty give small amount of water or Ice cube to lick (in summer).Various medication  like dewormer probiotic and antidiarrheal can be used if diarrhea didn’t stop. Food is gradually introduced to the dog. Boiled chicken and white rice can be given. Similarly pumpkin is also very effective in controlling diarrhea,


When to take dog to vet?

A diarrhea that persist for more than 24 hours, bloody diarrhea and diarrhea accompanied by vomiting, fever and other sign of toxicity should not be taken lightly especially in unvaccinated dogs and puppies. Consult your veterinarian without delay.


 Written by Dr Pratik Man Pradhan B.V.Sc &A.H

Chief Veterinarian (Mount Everest Kennel Club

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