Taking care of a dog involves doing things that no one enjoys. No dog owner on this planet likes to pick up dog poop. But, it's a necessary task that comes with the territory. Despite the grotesque sights and smells that your dog leaves behind, you must take a good look at what's coming out of your pup's body.
Dogs aren't capable of expressing pain or health issues. In fact, most dogs will go out of their way to hide problems to avoid looking weak.
Examining their droppings is the best ways to understand more about their overall health.
One of the most alarming things to witness is diarrhea. Not only is it a pain to clean up, but it indicates that your dog is going through some discomfort.
Acute diarrhea is fairly common. All dogs experience it at some point. Typically, canines will exhibit some signs of discomfort. They might avoid eating or start to look lethargic.
But what if your dog is acting perfectly fine? If your dog is acting like his or her normal cheery self, the appearance of diarrhea can be confusing. What's causing it and should you be alarmed? To get a better understanding of what's going on, we need to go over what causes diarrhea in the first place.
The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Diarrhea
First things first, you need to consider how often your dog experiences diarrhea. Acute diarrhea is when symptoms appear out of nowhere. Typically, these issues are caused by something that's directly affecting your dog's gut.
Depending on the culprit, you may need to seek veterinary care. Though, most cases tend to work themselves out. Once the offending issue is taken care of, acute diarrhea will stop and the stool will return to normal.
Chronic diarrhea, on the other hand, is a regularly occurring event. Dogs with chronic diarrhea will suffer from frequent bouts no matter what you do to provide relief. Usually, chronic diarrhea is caused by an underlying medical problem. So, it's important to take your canine companion to the vet if diarrhea persists.
7 Common Causes of Acute Diarrhea
As we said earlier, acute diarrhea is relatively common. Dogs are curious creatures that use their mouths to explore the world. Thus, gastrointestinal upsets are to be expected. Here are some common causes of acute diarrhea. Consider your pup's exposure to these issues to determine if this is an acute problem or something more serious.
Parasites can cause all kinds of problems within your pup's body. They latch onto your dog's intestinal tract and leach off their nutrients and blood supply. Some of the most common parasites your dog can encounter are hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms.
The good news is that these pests are relatively easy to treat with some medication. Plus, you can usually spot them pretty quickly in your dog's diarrhea. Parasites cause soft stool and mucus buildup.
#2. Food Allergies
Like humans, dogs can be allergic to a wide variety of foods. Not everything is going to agree with your pup's body. You might not realize it, but there could be ingredients in your dog's kibble that's causing the issue. If you suspect that's the case, go to your vet for proper testing.
#3. Accidental Poisoning
Whether your dog got into chemicals or they ate food that's poisonous to canines, you should take accidental poisoning seriously. Many people have the misconception that poisoning automatically leads to death. That couldn't be farther from the truth.
However, it is possible that your dog's symptoms could lead to that. Take a look around your home. If you see signs that your dog got into something they shouldn't have, seek veterinary care.
#4. Bad Food Reactions
Food doesn't have to be toxic to dogs to cause diarrhea. Have you ever noticed your dog experiencing stomach upsets when you provide a new treat they've had before? This is fairly common. It's why vets recommend a slow transition whenever you switch foods.
If your dog spends years eating only one kind of food, that sudden introduction of something new could cause some stomach problems.
#5. Bacterial Infections
There are several types of viral bacterial infections your dog could experience. While they all affect canines in different ways, they're all capable of wreaking havoc to the gastrointestinal system.
Bacteria can weaken the cells, which ultimately leads to absorption issues. When your pup can't absorb nutrients properly, the watery stool is the byproduct.
Another thing that can cause malabsorption is a physical block in their intestines. If your dog chews on bones or plays with small toys, there's a very real possibility that something is lodged in their system. Sometimes, the item will pass.
Other times, veterinary intervention is required. Don't wait to see which one it is. Your vet will be able to perform tests and determine a course of action.
#7. Drug Side-Effects
Some canine medications have unwanted side-effects like diarrhea. Usually, it's recommended that you stop giving your dog the medicine and seek an alternative.
What If I Can't Find a Cause?
The thing about acute diarrhea is that you can almost always pinpoint the problem. Just think about what your dog did that day and take a look around the home for any clues. Furthermore, sudden issues are often associated with physical symptoms.
If you can't find the offending problem and your dog is still acting as if nothing happened, you might be dealing with a chronic illness. Dogs who are suffering from pain regularly won't exhibit noticeable behavioral changes.
They've already gotten used to living with the discomfort they're dealing with. So, it's harder to figure out what's going on. If your dog isn't displaying any strange behaviors that could be linked to diarrhea, you need to look elsewhere.
Things to Consider
Just because your dog is acting normally doesn't mean that there is a serious problem going on. Diarrhea happens all the time and some dogs are more used to it than others. Before you start worrying, consider the following factors.
Frequency of Diarrhea
After you've noticed diarrhea, you must continue monitoring the situation. Healthy dogs will do their business as many times as they are fed. However, diarrhea makes dogs go more often. They may want to go out several times during the day due to the discomfort.
If the problem persists beyond 24 hours, there's a good chance the issue has become chronic. In which case, you'll need to see your vet.
Appearance of Stool
Take a look at your dog's poop and look out for signs of trouble. At this point, you've already established that your dog has diarrhea. So, you need to pay attention to other aspects of the stool. These include contents and color.
Discoloration can mean many different things. Healthy poop has a color that's similar to milk chocolate. If your dog's poop is any other color, it could indicate health issues or nutrient deficiencies.
The most important thing to look for is blood. Blood in the stool should be taken very seriously.
Contrary to what you might think, blood isn't going to turn your dog's poop bright red. Instead, it may turn it black. Sometimes, the blood doesn't saturate the stool fully either. So, it'll appear as dark streaks.
Bloody stool is enough to cause for concern. However, when you pair it with diarrhea, the issue is even more serious.
Another thing to look for is foreign objects or parasites. Most parasites will come out along with the poop because they are latched to the intestines. You might see small wriggling worms or bright white eggs.
Depending on the severity of the infestation, you could also see fully-formed adult worms hanging out of the rectum.
Additional Health Symptoms
Keep a watchful eye on your dog. This will help you notice any other unusual symptoms that your dog may have. For example, they may be vomiting a bit outside when you're not looking. Vomiting often follows or precedes diarrhea.
However, experiencing the two issues at once is a major cause for concern. This could indicate that there's a serious illness at play.
Possible Medical Issues That Can Cause Diarrhea
Even with careful monitoring, the only way to know what's affecting your dog for sure is with a diagnosis from a vet. Several medical issues can cause diarrhea.
Many of these problems seem benign at first. However, they can worsen over time. This is especially true if your dog doesn't receive the treatment they need.
The kidneys play an important part in metabolizing the foods that your dog eat. Unfortunately, kidney disease can affect dogs suddenly with very little notice. Acute kidney failure is often a result of consuming toxic foods or chemicals. Dogs can also suffer from kidney disease as they get older.
When kidney disease causes renal failure, diarrhea is common. This disease can be fatal, so you need to seek treatment immediately.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, isn't something that only affects humans. Dogs can experience it too. Though, veterinarians don't know much about why it happens. It's believed that the condition is a result of irritation in the intestinal lining.
Certain foods can exacerbate the problem. Because the intestines can't function properly, diarrhea happens.
Ulcers are a painful issue. However, ulcers tend to develop over time and affect dogs in short bouts. As a result, it's difficult to diagnose ulcers based on behavior alone. Depending on the severity of the ulcer, it could bleed or cause serious malabsorption problems.
Finally, there's colitis. Colitis is general swelling of the colon. It's usually accompanied by another condition. Colitis can cause diarrhea directly due to the colon's inability to perform.
What You Can Do When Your Dog has Diarrhea
Whether your dog is suffering from an acute case of diarrhea or dealing with serious underlying issues, there are some things that you can do to provide some relief. As always, consult with your vet before you make any major changes to your dog's diet.
If your pup has a medical condition that's causing the diarrhea, your vet may recommend a different treatment method. Otherwise, the following tips are a great way to restore your dog's system and make things regular again.
Fasting is a great quick fix. It's an effective solution for dogs that get diarrhea suddenly from something they ate. Basically, the goal is to let your dog's stomach rest a bit and get rid of all the bad stuff that's causing pain.
You can put your dog on a fast for 12 to 24 hours. During this time, they shouldn't eat a single morsel of food. Your dog will hate it! However, they'll thank you for the relief once they start eating again.
During the fast, make sure to provide a constant supply of fresh water for your pup. Diarrhea can cause dehydration pretty quickly. Your pooch is losing water rapidly, so they need plenty of drinking water to rehydrate. Plus, it'll help to satiate any hunger pains they may feel.
After that brief fasting period, you can put your dog on a bland diet. What's a bland diet? Well, it's exactly as it sounds. It's meals that are devoid of any potentially upsetting ingredients.
Introducing their normal food could make the diarrhea reappear, especially if an allergen in the food was the culprit. Your pup's stomach is still sensitive, so you need to keep things easy for a bit.
There are many commercially available bland foods. They're usually very limited in ingredients and contain only the basics. Many vets also have bland kibbles on hand to help with these types of issues.
Alternatively, you can make your own dog food. Just boil up some chicken, beef, or turkey. Boiling the meat will remove most of the fat and grease to ensure that the stool hardens a bit. Mix the boiled meat with some steamed white or brown rice.
That's all you need to do. Chances are, your dog will be so happy to eat that they won't even notice the lack of flavor.
When you feed this bland diet, you need to do so slowly. For that first day, split the meal into quarters and feed your pup every four to six hours.
This will avoid stomach upsets from eating too much food in a short period of time.
Pay attention to your dog's stool. If you see an improvement, you can split the food up into two separate meals the next day.
Stick to two meals a day until your dog's poop is back to normal. At this point, you can transition back to the normal kibble. Just make sure to do things slowly! Start off by replacing a quarter of the bland food with the kibble.
The next day, do a half and half mixture. On the third day, three-quarters of the meal should be normal dog food. Finally, on the fourth day, you can do a full meal of dog food.
Probiotics and Fiber
Introducing some healthy probiotics and dietary fiber into your dog's daily meals can make all the difference. For many cases of acute diarrhea, bacteria in the gut is to blame. Healthy bacteria is crucial for proper digestion. When things start to go out of whack, stomach problems occur.
You can give your dog probiotics through supplements. Your vet may also be able to give you products to introduce beneficial bacteria. These products are usually flavored pastes that are designed to spread flora throughout your dog's system.
Fiber is also important. It works to keep your dog's system regular. In the case of diarrhea, fiber can actually absorb liquids to help keep stool solid.
Like probiotics, there's no shortage of fiber supplements on the market. Alternatively, you can feed your dog natural high-fiber treats, such as pumpkin and sweet potato.
While it's common for dogs to experience diarrhea every once in a while, it's not normal for them to exhibit no behavioral changes. If your dog is suffering from diarrhea and is still acting normal, you need to consider all possible issues.
It's not always a guarantee that's there's something more nefarious going on. However, it's better to be safe than sorry. Go to your vet to make sure that your dog isn't suffering in silence.