You know the saying: Poop happens.
One evening, my sister and I walked into her house to the intense smell of sulfur. Our first thought was a gas leak. It only took a few more steps toward the kitchen where her Jack Russell-Lab mix was waiting to realize we had an explosion of another sort on our hands.
Unfortunately, doggy diarrhea is not a matter of “if” but “when.” However, knowing what is happening in your dog’s body, how to treat it, and what to have on hand will lessen the ordeal when it comes.
WHICH KIND OF DIARRHEA DOES MY DOG HAVE?
There are two kinds of diarrhea, acute and chronic. Acute diarrhea is a short bout, usually lasting a couple of days to a week. It is caused by eating the wrong thing, a viral or bacterial infection, antibiotics, or even stress. While it doesn’t make you or your dog feel great, acute diarrhea is actually a good thing – it is the body ridding itself of toxins.
Chronic diarrhea is long lasting. Sometimes the diarrhea presents itself as daily soft stools. Other times, this version shows up as a normal stool one day, but as a watery or mucus/blood covered stool on another. Parasites, Leaky Gut Syndrome, IBD or IBS, or disease can leave your dog with chronic diarrhea. Your dog may start losing weight, acting lethargic, and developing a poor coat as he struggles with malnutrition and a compromised immune system.
If you believe your dog has chronic diarrhea, please contact your veterinarian to determine an appropriate course of action.
NATURAL WAYS TO HELP ACUTE DIARRHEA
Acute diarrhea almost always can be handled on your own:
- Begin by fasting your dog from food or water for 6 to 12 hours.
- If the diarrhea has slowed or stopped after that, you can introduce sips of water for the next six hours.
- Finally, small amounts of broth or bland food can be given to your dog. As those are kept down/in, slowly increase his food amount for the next few days.
Good foods to feed your dog in this transition period are pumpkin, sweet potato, and lean ground turkey. Avoid rice. Though it is a popular recommendation, it can make your dog gassy and moves too fast through the system, furthering diarrhea.
All dog owners should keep slippery elm on hand. The herb is an all-natural anti-diarrheal and is safe for all ages. Slippery elm can be bought on its own, or try Tender Tummy: The natural, kelp supplement combines slippery elm plus the other great stomach-settlers of licorice, ginger, plantains and probiotics. Use daily with dogs prone to upset stomachs.
BUT WAIT, NOW MY DOG SEEMS CONSTIPATED?
Confusingly, in between loose movements, you may see your dog straining to go, with nothing coming out. What’s happening? Is he somehow constipated too? No: Diarrhea upsets the usual rhythmic contractions of the digestive system, sending them into overdrive and leaving your dog with the feeling he has to go all the time, even when he’s already passed everything in his tract through the diarrhea. The treatment plan of fasting and bland food will help him recover from this feeling quickly.
WHEN TO CALL IN FOR HELP
While most cases of acute diarrhea are very manageable, there are times you should pay a visit to your vet. Call your veterinarian if:
- Your dog is very young, small, or a senior. Dehydration affects these dogs faster.
- The diarrhea lasts more than 3 days.
- You see worms, or the stool is black and tar-like.
- Your dog has persistent vomiting along with the diarrhea. There may be an obstruction (sock, stick, rock, etc.).
- There is a fever along with the diarrhea, stomach bloating, or your dog shows signs of pain when you touch his abdomen.
Your vet will determine if something more serious is going on.
PREVENTATIVE MEASURES TO STOP DIARRHEA BEFORE IT STARTS
Follow these simple steps faithfully to keep your carpets clean and your dog happy.
1. Don’t feed him table scraps. Keep a tight lid on the garbage can, too. Dogs are natural foragers, meaning they will find all sorts of tidbits to eat that they shouldn’t. Be as proactive as possible in keeping them from digesting things other than their own meals.
2. Feed a good quality, high protein food without fillers and by-products.
3. Ease into new foods, but don’t be afraid to change protein sources and brands frequently. Feeding the same food daily for years can cause deficiencies and sensitivities. Switch it up every once in awhile, or even with every time you need another bag.
4. Don’t overfeed. Obesity will take years off your pets’ lives and bring health troubles. Over-feeding will also cause upset stomachs and diarrhea.
5. Use a probiotic every day. Good bacteria play a huge role in pet health, strengthening the immunity, regulating the digestive system, and even helping with skin, coat and breath.
THE GOOD NEWS
Doggy diarrhea will strike, even with healthy pets. But with the right diet and routine, those awful times will be few and far between.