How to Treat Diarrhea in Dogs

Sooner or later, every owner will inevitably deal with a bout of diarrhea in dogs as it is one of the most common ailments that dogs get. Most of the time it is due to something ingested since most dogs will eat just about anything, but there are times when an episode of ‘the runs’ is more than the result of an upset tummy. There are many different causes of gastrointestinal upset that can manifest in dogs with diarrhea, so knowing how to be a good detective, and recognize a few signs and symptoms, can help owners understand the probable cause and what can be done about it.
Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs
Dietary – Whether it is a new food that causes upset, something ingested that shouldn’t have been or even just too much chewing on a rawhide, most loose stools are caused this way. Changing to new diets should be done slowly to allow the GI tract time to adjust and toys and treats should always be carefully monitored. Any treat known to cause diarrhea should be discontinued. Additionally, dogs known to trash-pick or otherwise eat things they shouldn’t will get diarrhea as a first warning sign that something could be stuck in the digestive tract, which is very serious.
Allergy – Although allergies typically show up as itchy skin and feet, infected ears and other skin problems, diarrhea – seen with these symptoms – could be yet one more supporting symptom of a food allergy. Any dog with diarrhea in conjunction with any of these other sign should be tested for dietary sensitivity by food trial or with allergy testing.
Immune-Related – Some dogs can get chronic diarrhea despite not having eaten anything bad for them and being on a food that is supposed to be good for allergic dogs. In many of these cases the diarrhea is immune-related, such as with inflammatory bowel disease. IBD is technically an allergic reaction, but it is a different type than a skin allergic reaction; IBD usually happens in dogs that are immune suppressed. The bowel becomes inflamed and cannot absorb nutrients, so instead it pushes food through faster than it should in order to attempt to rid itself of whatever is causing the inflammation in the first place. This can be dietary related or caused by some other factor. Chronic diarrhea and weight loss are the two main symptoms.
Parasites – Microscopic giardia and coccidia, and other intestinal parasites, can also cause dogs to have diarrhea.
Any of these conditions can cause some blood and mucous to show up in or on the stool, though most of the time it is due to straining, or having an inflamed, upset digestive tract. Blood that is running directly out of the dog could be serious however, and should be checked immediately, as obstruction or injury could be to blame.
Treating Dogs with Diarrhea
In order to treat diarrhea in dogs, the cause first needs to be determined. A good place to start is with a fecal test and blood work to rule out parasites and see if there are any significant elevations that indicate a particular problem. Parasitic issues can be treated with anti-parasite medications or herbal formulas. Immune disease can sometimes take a little while to diagnose but once it is, a combination of dietary maintenance and other means to calm the GI tract and stop the immune reaction is necessary. Doing careful food trials and removing any sources of reaction from a dog’s diet should address allergic issues. Diarrhea usually clears up then. Naturally, if the diarrhea is from having eaten leftovers out of the trashcan or something else that a dog should not have, keeping him from doing in again will take care of that problem.
In all of these cases however, since diarrhea is a secondary symptom caused by a different, primary problem, it is usually recommended to try to stop the diarrhea and soothe the gut as quickly as possible. Diarrhea causes dehydration quickly, and can make it more difficult to treat for other symptoms, so getting that under control is important. The vet can give an injection to bind things up, but there are a few all-natural products that work just as well, and more gently, than the conventional medications.
There are many herbs known for being able to calm the bowel without the use of antibiotics, steroids or other synthetic medications. Some of those like Oregon grape, Marshmallow, Mullein leaf, Bayberry and Myrrh, are all in PetWellbeing’s Plantaeris formula (now BM Tone-Up Gold), created to stop diarrhea and slow the gut. For maintaining GI health and promoting fast healing after stress, RuniPoo Relief by PetAlive slows motility and supports formation of normal stools by aiding the digestive tract with ingredients Plantain, Lady’s Mantle, Podophyllum, dietary sulphur and Arsen alb.
The main use for both of these products is to stop diarrhea in dogs and get them feeling more comfortable alongside treatment for whatever the causing factor is determined to be. They can also be used to help maintain a comfortable gut for sensitive dogs, but proper diagnosis first is essential to ensure the right problems are being treated. A vet should see dogs with diarrhea that lasts more than one to two days – especially if there is food refusal or vomiting. In the event of obstruction, waiting longer than two days could be detrimental. As always, check with your veterinarian on the use of herbal remedies and your dog.