Diarrhoea is a highly unpleasant problem for dogs and their owners, but is also unfortunately very common. Diarrhoea can range from being a mild, short-lived problem (acute) to one that continues for months (chronic). Diarrhoea can occur on its own, or in conjunction with vomiting.
Causes of acute diarrhoea
Acute diarrhoea is diarrhoea which has lasted less than 3 weeks. It normally comes on quite suddenly. It can vary from being extremely watery to more like cow-pat consistency. The colour can vary from yellow-orange, to brown and in some cases can be extremely bloody.
Dogs with diarrhoea may or may not vomit. They may be bright and happy as if there is nothing wrong, or severely lethargic. Diarrhoea on its own is known as enteritis (affecting the small intestine), or colitis (affecting the large intestine). When combined with vomiting, it is known as gastroenteritis.
The main causes of acute diarrhoea are:
- Dietary indiscretion – a generic term to indicate that your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t. This can range from something too rich such as cheese, or eating something toxic.
- Viral infection – these can be mild viruses which will resolve, usually without any treatment, to more serious infections such as Parvovirus.
- Bacterial infection – dogs are susceptible to food-poisoning bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella and these can cause diarrhoea.
Should I take my dog with diarrhoea to the vet?
If your dog is bright and otherwise well with no, or only very mild, vomiting and no blood in the faeces, then you can try to manage the problem at home for a few days (See below).
If your dog is showing any of the following signs, they should see a vet as soon as possible. Please note that if you are in any doubt, call your vet for advice.
- Young puppy (less than 4-5 months)
- Lethargy or otherwise seems unwell
- Refusing food
- Severe vomiting
- Bloody diarrhoea
- Diarrhoea which is lasting more than 5 days
How can I treat mild diarrhoea?
Historically, the advice was to starve a dog for 24 hours but recent research has shown that this can damage the intestines further as they need protein and other nutrients to heal. Feeding an easily-digestible, low-residue food will help to provide the nutrition your dog needs. Try to stick with the same type of food to normal (i.e. wet or dry) to avoid upsetting the stomach and intestines further. The best diets are:
Making sure your dog doesn’t get dehydrated is key to keeping them well. If your dog has a tendency to gorge water and then throw up, offer water in small amounts frequently. Adding an electrolyte solution to the water helps the body to absorb it better.
- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Rehydration Support – is a sachet (similar to Dioralyte for people) which you mix with water to form the solution. One sachet makes up 500ml of solution which is enough for a 10-15kg dog over 24 hours.
- Oralade Isotonic Rehydration Fluid – is a ready-to-use bottle which also has some amino acids to help provide nutrition to the intestinal cells. Any unused liquid can be frozen for future use. 1 bottle is sufficient for around a 15kg dog.
Probiotics and binding agents
- An absorbant clay such as Kaolin or Montmorillonite – these bind toxins within the intestinal tract so that they stop irritating the gut wall. They can also help to firm up the faeces.
- Probiotics – these are ‘good bacteria’ with the aim to maintain a good balance of intestinal bacteria. Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus are the most common used.
- Prebiotics – these provide food for the good bacteria.
The paste which has the most proven benefit to it is Pro-Kolin Advanced.
If your dog’s diarrhoea does not clear up after 3-5 days of this treatment, or if they develop any other problems, take them to a vet as soon as possible.