Dogs are scavengers and so will eagerly eat food rubbish, explore dustbins and eat other unspeakable things they find lying around! They explore the world with their mouths, so it is almost inevitable your dog or puppy will develop diarrhoea at some time or another, but when should you be worried and go to your vet?
Causes of diarrhoea in dogs
A common cause is eating something they shouldn’t so teaching your puppy to “leave” or “drop” an item on command from an early age is a good idea. If they have a habit of rummaging around in rubbish keeping them on a lead when near dustbins is a sensible precaution! There are several other causes of diarrhoea in dogs:
- A bacterial or viral tummy bug picked up from their environment or through something they eat.
- Worm infestation. Puppies need worming more frequently than adult dogs but older dogs who eat anything might also need worming more frequently.
- A change in diet. Dogs stomachs can be upset by a sudden change in diet (as ours can). If you want to change their diet, do it gradually, introducing slightly more of the new food and less of the old at each meal over several days. This should help their stomachs adjust and prevent upsets.
- Eating a toxic food. Chocolate, caffeine, coffee, raisins, artificial sweetener xylitol, garlic and onions are all toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and more serious problems. If you suspect your dog has eaten a toxic food take them to your vet immediately.
- Liver disease. Sometimes diarrhoea can be a symptom of something more serious.
- A blockage in their gut. Occasionally diarrhoea and vomiting can be a symptom of a gut blockage, often cause by a dog eating something indigestible like a toy or tea towel! If your dog shows signs of pain and anything is missing, consult your vet.
When should you consult your vet?
If your dog’s diarrhoea consists of watery, loose stools but otherwise your dog seems himself, there probably isn’t too much to worry about. If the symptoms get worse, they have repeated bouts of diarrhoea and they don’t improve over the course of a day or so, you need to visit your vet.
Consult your vet if your dog is vomiting as well as having diarrhoea, if they are lethargic, or off their food, have a fever, have no energy, show any sign of stomach pain, if you suspect they’ve eaten anything harmful or indigestible, or if you see blood in their poo which is either bright red or black and tar-like. Puppies or elderly dogs are much less resilient than adult dogs so always take them to the vet as a precaution, as they can become dehydrated and poorly quickly.
Pet insurance will usually cover treatment for bouts of diarrhoea but some policies may not cover it more than once, so check your policy details carefully and buy the best cover you can to help you cover the cost of common illnesses.
What can you do to help your dog recover from a boat of diarrhoea?
If your dog is only suffering from a mild bout of diarrhoea or is at home following a visit to the vet you can help them recover by making a few simple changes to their diet.
- Feed them a bland diet. Their normal food will probably be too rich and may prolong the illness so switch to a bland diet of chicken, fish or egg with white rice or pasta. Their tummy will be sensitive, so this bland food will help them absorb the nutrients they need without causing more stress on their stomach.
- Feed smaller meals more frequently. Unlike people, dogs and puppies can’t go without food for a prolonged period but may not be able to stomach their normal portions, so split their meals into 4-6 smaller meals of a bland food.
- Gradually re-introduce their normal food. After a couple of days and when symptoms are improving you can start to re-introduce their usual diet by mixing a little of their normal food with their bland food. If there are no negative effects, you can add a little more of the normal food at each meal time over a few days.
- Make sure they have lots of fresh water available. Your dog will lose more water when they have diarrhoea so make sure they have fresh water available at all times and if they are thirsty they will usually drink.
- If symptoms don’t improve or get worse consult your vet.
In most cases diarrhoea will clear up after a couple of days and shouldn’t be serious. Prevention is often better than cure so watch out for bad eating habits and remove any access to toxic foods or small toys they might be partial too!