Diarrhoea is a common issue in dogs, characterised by loose stools or frequent bowel movements. It may also come with vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, lethargy, and other disease-related symptoms.

Symptoms of diarrhoea

Acute diarrhoea: This type of diarrhoea appears suddenly in otherwise healthy animals and can be caused by:

  • 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 or prolonged diarrhoea 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).

Diagnosis of diarrhoea

Diagnosing the cause of diarrhoea can sometimes be as easy as running a simple faecal exam. In some cases, especially when diarrhoea is severe or persistent, further tests like blood tests, abdominal X-rays, ultrasound, endoscopy, or exploratory surgery may be needed to make a diagnosis.

When to bring your dog in to see us

You should contact us for guidance if your dog is very young, very old, or has an existing health condition, as they can become seriously ill from even mild diarrhoea. Additionally, contact us if:

  • the diarrhoea is frequent and/or very watery
  • there is more than just a streak of blood
  • the stool is dark and tarry
  • your dog is vomiting profusely, lethargic, depressed, or in pain, as these could indicate serious health issues.

For otherwise healthy adult dogs with mild diarrhoea and no other symptoms, you can try some home remedies.

What to do at home

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

  • Ensure your dog has access to clean water to prevent dehydration. Encourage drinking, and you can offer diluted low-salt chicken broth or Oralade in addition to water.
  • Provide a small meal of boiled, skinless, boneless chicken or white rice (sweet potato or pumpkin can also be used) until stool consistency returns to normal.

If the diarrhoea continues for more than 24 hours or your dog’s condition worsens at any time, call us 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 to avoid another gastrointestinal upset.

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

Preventative measures

To reduce the occurrence of diarrhoea in dogs:

  • Do not suddenly change your dog’s diet.
  • Transition to a new food or diet progressively, adding a little more of the new food and a little less of the previous food in each meal.
  • Do not feed your dog table scraps or allow them to scavenge.
  • Always keep your dog up-to-date with deworming (every 3 months) and vaccinations.