Diarrhoea is a common problem in dogs and cats. Loose stools or frequent bowel movements are the main indicators of diarrhoea. It  may also be accompanied by vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, lethargy and other symptoms of disease.


Acute diarrhoea (appears suddenly) in an otherwise healthy dog is often due to:

  • dietary indiscretion (scavenging or eating food outside their diet, for example, food scraps)
  • stress
  • a sudden change in diet (switching their food without a transition period)
  • viral, bacterial or parasitic infections.

Chronic diarrhoea (frequent bouts or prolonged symptoms) can be caused by:

  • dietary allergies or intolerances
  • stress
  • some types of parasites (e.g., Giardia, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms)
  • bacterial infections
  • pancreatic disease
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • some types of cancer,
  • diseases outside of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., liver failure or heart disease).


Diagnosing the cause of dog diarrhoea can sometimes be as easy as running a simple faecal exam. Sometimes, particularly with severe or ongoing diarrhoea, we may need  blood tests, abdominal X-rays or ultrasound, endoscopy, or even exploratory surgery to reach a diagnosis.

When to take your dog to a vet

You should call your veterinarian for advice on how to handle the diarrhoea if your dog is very young or very old, or has a pre-existing health condition. These pets can become very unwell when suffering from relatively mild diarrhoea.

Also call your veterinarian if your dog’s diarrhoea is:

  • frequent and/or very watery
  • contains more than just a streak of blood
  • is dark and tarry

Or if your dog is:

  • vomiting profusely
  • lethargic
  • depressed
  • in pain.

These can be signs of potentially serious health conditions.

If your dog is an otherwise healthy adult, then it is reasonable to try some at-home treatments.

What to do at home

For healthy adult dogs who have mild diarrhoea with no other symptoms:

  • Make sure your dog has access to plenty of clean water to avoid dehydration. Encourage your dog to drink. If needed, offer dilute low-salt chicken broth or Oralade in addition to the water.
  • Give your dog a small meal of boiled, white-meat chicken (no bones or skin) and white rice—you can also use sweet potato or pumpkin instead of rice. You can give this diet to your dog until their stool consistency returns to normal.

If the diarrhoea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call your vet immediately.

For dogs with diarrhoea who have vomited only once or twice, remove all food for 8-12 hours.

To avoid dehydration, offer your dog small amounts of water frequently throughout the day. If needed, you can also offer some dilute, low salt chicken broth or Oralade in addition to water.

When your dog has not vomited for at least 8-12 hours, offer a small amount of boiled, white- meat chicken (no bones, skin or spices) and white rice.

Wait two hours. If your dog has not vomited during this period, then you can offer another small meal of cooked chicken and rice.

Continue this bland diet for 1-3 days, gradually increasing the amount of food offered at each meal and lengthening the time between meals until the stool consistency returns to normal. You will need to do a gradual transition back to your dog’s typical diet in order to avoid another gastrointestinal upset.

If the diarrhoea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call your vet immediately.

Preventative measures

Here are several ways to reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea in dogs:

  • do not suddenly change your dog’s diet
  • do not feed your dog table scraps, change their diet suddenly or allow them to scavenge
  • always keep your dog up-to-date with deworming (every 3 months) and vaccinations.