A Survival Guide for Dog Diarrhea (2022)

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It’s not a topic anyone likes to discuss, but if you own a dog, chances are you have found yourself cleaning up a stinky brown puddle (or, not-quite-politely put, doggie “runs”) more than you’d care to think about.

Diarrhea is a common canine affliction and it varies in frequency, duration, and intensity from dog to dog.

You may not be able to totally prevent diarrhea, but knowing as much as possible about it might help limit the number times your dog has one of these unpleasant episodes and reduce the duration when the runs do come. Luckily, there are even a number of over-the-counter diarrhea treatments for dogs.

The Canine Digestive System

There are significant differences between the way dogs and people digest food.

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Human jaw shape and salivary enzymes, for example, will start breaking down a morsel in the mouth. Dogs, on the other hand, have mouths and jaws made for tearing, crushing, and wolfing food down. Their salivary enzymes are mostly designed to kill bacteria, which is why they can tolerate items that would send their human companions to the hospital.

Food travels rapidly down the canine esophagus and enters the stomach in chunks, where most digestion takes place. Canine stomach acids are about three times stronger than those of humans, so they can digest food that is pretty much intact. Under normal circumstances, transit time from mouth through the small and large intestines should be under 10 hours, producing a firm, well-formed stool at the end.

Top Causes of Dog Diarrhea

Many things can disrupt this well-balanced system, causing diarrhea or, less frequently, constipation. Some things, like eating too much grass, are not serious at all. Others can be a sign of a life-threatening problem, such as an indigestible object (like a rock) lodged in the stomach, or a disease like cancer.

There are many reasons why a dog may develop loose stools, but most cases may be attributed to one of these 12 triggers:

  1. Dietary indiscretion: Eating too much, eating garbage, or spoiled food. There’s actually a name for it in veterinary circles—“garbage toxicosis” or “garbage gut.”
  2. Change in diet: It may take a few days for a dog’s digestive system to adapt to new proteins. That’s why many dog-food manufacturers recommend that you go slow when you switch from one brand of food to another.
  3. Food intolerance
  4. Allergies
  5. Parasites: Most of these will cause illness in puppies or in adults with weak immune systems:
    1. Roundworms
    2. Hookworms
    3. Whipworms
    4. Coccidia
    5. Giardia
  6. Poisonous substances or plants
  7. Swallowing an indigestible foreign body, like a toy orsocks
  8. Infections with common viruses such as:
    1. Parvovirus
    2. Distemper
    3. Coronavirus
  9. Bacterial infections, such as salmonella
  10. Illnesses, such as kidney and liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer
  11. Antibiotics and other medications
  12. Stress or emotional upset

What Stools Say About Your Dog’s Health

The consistency and color of diarrhea reveal a lot about the cause of the problem and what is happening in your dog. Take very careful note of the color, consistency, and anything else that might help when you describe the symptoms to a vet. In many cases, diarrhea will resolve after a few days of home treatment, but it’s a good idea to give your vet a call if it continues for a long period or has any one of several signs that may point to a serious problem.

This infographic from Purina gives you an idea of a “perfect dog poop,” which is chocolate brown, shaped like logs, compact, and easy to scoop. Experts say it should feel like cookie dough or Play-Doh when pressed. Large volumes, pudding-like or watery consistency, or signs of mucus (looks like jelly), or blood streaks, are not normal.

A Survival Guide for Dog Diarrhea (1)

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Take Note of the Color of the Poop

Color can also indicate a lot about what is going on inside your dog’s gut. Chocolate brown is normal, while colors like orange, green, or gray may signify issues with such organs as liver, gall bladder, or pancreas. Black tarry stool is very serious, and may point to internal bleeding. If you see this, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Purina has also provided a handy reference—a color wheel of dog poop.

A Survival Guide for Dog Diarrhea (2)

Color, shape, and consistency will all help you and your vet figure out what is wrong when your dog gets diarrhea. These factors will help your vet determine where the problem is originating along the dog’s digestive tract.

Other Ways to Decipher Dog Poop

Following are some common abnormalities, in addition to color, and what each might be telling you about why your dog has the runs:

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  • Frequency:
    • Small amounts with straining, several times in an hour, which some people call “the squirts,” can be a sign of inflammation of the large bowel.
    • Three or four times, with large volume, suggest small bowel disorder.
  • Oddly shaped or colored solid objects can tell you what your dog has gotten into. Several small white rice-like shapes, for example, may signify a tapeworm infestation. Grass, wood, or string could tell you that your dog has eaten something that he couldn’t digest.
  • Consistency: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets developed this well-illustrated chart that shows how vets score canine fecal consistency on a scale of one to seven.

A Survival Guide for Dog Diarrhea (3)

As disgusting as it may seem, it’s important that you examine your dog’s poop carefully if she has diarrhea so you can give your vet as many details as possible. Armed with this knowledge, the vet will be able to tell you whether to schedule and exam or whether you can treat it at home.

Home Remedies for Dog Diarrhea

A great many cases are mild and, with your vet’s advice, maybe treated without a trip to the office. They may respond to a regimen of very basic treatments, including:

Over-the-Counter Dog Diarrhea Treatments

These treatments are good to have on hand and can be ordered online for quick delivery.

Fasting

Withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, and providing water in small amounts frequently, can clear the cause of the upset and allow the gastrointestinal tract to settle. It’s usually the first line of attack for diarrhea. Before you decide on a fast, be sure that your dog is healthy enough to endure it. Puppies, and elderly dogs, for example, need nutrients. Also, a fast may not be appropriate for small dogs who do not have the physical reserves of their larger cousins.

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Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so make sure to give your dog access to water at all times. You may also offer unflavored Pedialyte to help maintain electrolyte balance under a vet’s advice.

Kitchen Cures for Dog Diarrhea

After a fast, simple foods are usually introduced slowly. Many dog owners start with foods that act as binders, which can help normalize stool consistency. Some tried-and-true methods include:

  • Rice water: Boil high-quality rice in a lot of water, remove the grains, and offer the dog the creamy white soup that’s left. A splash of broth or a bit baby food will make it more palatable.
  • Plain white rice
  • Pumpkin (100% pumpkin puree from the grocery store, pumpkin powder, or a pet-specific canned pumpkin for dogs) has the odd distinction of being effective both for diarrhea and for constipation. If you can’t get pure pumpkin, a good alternative is pumpkin powdermade specifically for pets.
  • Plain yogurt with active cultures can help dogs who can tolerate milk and milk products.
  • Probiotics to promote live bacteria that aid digestion (these are also found in yogurt)
  • Boiled potatoeswithout skin
  • Cottage cheese
  • Plain protein sources such as egg (prepared with no butter or oil) or chicken (without skin)
  • Herbs, such as fennel, may have gut-soothing properties
  • Specially-formulated dog foods: Some manufacturers offer sensitive stomach dog foods that can soothe stomach problems. You may need to obtain some of these from your vet.
  • Over-the-counter medications for humans may also be effective for doggie diarrhea, but should be given with caution, and you should always consult with your vet before using them.

Methods that work for one dog may not help another, so you might need to do a little experimentation to find the right formula. It might also be helpful to write down what works and what doesn’t so you’ll know what to do the next time you find yourself mopping up a mess.

Once you find a recovery diet that agree with your dog, and doesn’t cause a relapse, you can slowly increase the portions over a period of days, and then start to add small quantities of your dog’s regular food, until things are back to normal.

When Dog Diarrhea Means a Trip to the Vet

The right time to contact a vet depends very much on what’s normal for your dog. Unfortunately, some dogs are more prone to digestive disorders than others, so you have to be very aware of the things that are out-of-the-ordinary on an individual basis.

There are, however, benchmarks that can suggest that you should at least consult with your vet:

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  • Other physical symptoms, such as lethargy, fever, vomiting, dry, tacky or pale gums, or weakness;
  • Diarrhea that does not stop despite home remedies that worked in the past;
  • Dehydration;
  • Long duration (Some say a few days, others give more time. This all depends on what is normal for your dog.);
  • Use of medication (a dog on antibiotics, for example);
  • Existing conditions, such as advanced age, diabetes, Cushing’s, cancer, or any medical issue, and
  • When things just don’t seem right. You know your dog, and only you know the subtle signs that something is wrong. Respect your instincts and if you think you need veterinary guidance, pick up the phone.

FAQs

What can I give my dog to stop diarrhea fast? ›

Plain, boiled, boneless, skinless chicken and rice (the leftover from the rice water). Serving Size Example: A small breed dog can be offered a tablespoon or two every hour for a couple of hours. Then allow them to rest for a couple of hours.

What naturally stops diarrhea in dogs? ›

If your dog is normally healthy, then you can treat his diarrhea at home with a few home remedies, such as rice water, pumpkin, yogurt, Imodium and a mild chicken and rice diet.

What home remedy can I give my dog for diarrhea and vomiting? ›

Foods that can help soothe an upset stomach and firm up your dog's stool if he or she is having diarrhea include:
  • Plain, canned pumpkin.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Plain, unsweetened yogurt.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Bananas.
9 Sept 2019

Can you give dogs anything to stop diarrhea? ›

Imodium (loperamide) is another over-the-counter medication dogs can take, which also helps resolve diarrhea. Dogs with certain conditions and dogs taking certain medications should not be given Imodium, so check with your veterinarian before administering it.

What can I give my dog to harden his stool? ›

If you have checked the feeding amount is correct, cut out treats and spaced the meals and your dog is still producing soft poo the addition of just a couple of tablespoons of cooked carrot, sweet potato or squash to their meal can work wonders in firming up their poo.

What is the most common cause of diarrhea in dogs? ›

Eating garbage or spoiled food. Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones, and fabric. Ingesting toxins or poisons. Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus.

What do I do if my dog has diarrhea for 3 days? ›

Contact your vet right away if your pup is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea or chronic diarrhea. If your dog is showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea they should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.

Is Scrambled Egg good for dogs with diarrhea? ›

Scrambled eggs are a good option for dogs with diarrhea because they are easy to digest and packed full of protein. Dogs who have been vomiting or eating stool may not be able to handle the high-fat content but scrambled egg is one of the best options out there.

What does it mean when a dog has watery diarrhea? ›

Eating garbage or spoiled food. Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones and fabric. Ingesting toxins or poisons. Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus.

What settles a dog's stomach? ›

Chicken and rice are prime ingredients in many dog foods, and these mild foods sit well on upset canine stomachs. Plus, this bland meal is easy to prepare. All you need are boneless, skinless chicken breasts and rice.

Why has my dog had diarrhea for 3 days? ›

Ingestion of garbage, spoiled food or foreign objects such as toys, bones and fabric. Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus. Parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia and Giardia. Overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines.

How much rice do you give a dog with diarrhea? ›

To aid in digestion, you want to aim for 1 1/2 - 2 cups of rice to 1 cup of chicken. The increased amount of rice will help stop any further diarrhea. If diarrhea continues for a long period of time, contact your veterinarian.

How long can a dog have diarrhea? ›

Diarrhea in dogs can occur suddenly and last as long as a day or two up to a few weeks or months. If your dog's diarrhea persists for more than a day, dehydration can be a concern. Diarrhea that lasts longer can be an indication that your dog has an underlying health issue.

Why has my dog had diarrhea for a week? ›

Common causes of diarrhea include dietary indiscretion such as getting into the garbage pail or eating people food that the dog is not accustomed to, abrupt dietary changes, medications especially antibiotics which tend to disrupt the gastric flora and infectious agents such as parvovirus, coronavirus, Salmonella, E.

How much pumpkin do I give a dog with diarrhea? ›

To help abate your dog's diarrhea, add 1-to-4 tablespoons of pumpkin or pumpkin powder to your dog's meal. It is a good idea to start out with smaller quantities to avoid adding too much fiber to your dog's diet, and if you have any questions about exactly how much pumpkin to feed your dog, consult your veterinarian.

Does rice harden stool in dogs? ›

Many veterinarians recommend a white rice diet as part of treating diarrhea in dogs. Rice can help firm up your dog's stool because it has less fiber than other grains and binds water in the bowel instead of drawing it out like oatmeal or whole-grain cereals.

Will peanut butter help a dog with diarrhea? ›

Peanut butter is a safe food to give to dogs with diarrhea, and it can help them regain their energy levels.

Are boiled eggs good for dogs with diarrhea? ›

Eggs are a good source of protein for dogs that aren't feeling up to eating their usual food. Never give your dog raw eggs, as they sometimes contain harmful bacteria that could make the diarrhea worse. Instead, boil the eggs and mash them up in the dog's bowl.

What to do with a dog that has diarrhea at night? ›

Feed a bland diet.

Sometimes the gut just needs a break. Feeding an easily digestible, bland diet is a way to give your dog nutrition without putting a lot of strain on the digestive system. Boiled chicken and rice for 2-3 days with a gradual return to their regular diet can help clear up mild cases of diarrhea.

What foods cause diarrhea in dogs? ›

Keep these toxic foods out of reach and never feed them to your dog:
  • grapes and raisins.
  • onions.
  • garlic.
  • macadamia nuts.
  • chocolate.
  • alcohol.
  • coffee.
  • foods containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol (such as some peanut butters)

How long does it take dog to recover from diarrhea? ›

Usually most diarrhea will run its course within two to four days, although in some cases, it can last longer. If there are any other signs of illness like vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, or pain, a veterinary trip is in order.

How long after diarrhea will a dog poop again? ›

Be aware that after a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, it may take 3-7 days to see stool again as the digestive system has been “cleaned out” and its motility (movement of contents through system) has been interrupted.

Does bread help with dog diarrhea? ›

It soothes an upset stomach

Dogs with IBS or an upset stomach can have a small amount of white bread. The high starch content absorbs the gastric acids irritating their stomachs, giving these dogs relief from pain and discomfort.

Will bananas help a dog with diarrhea? ›

Fiber: Bananas have a high fiber content important to your dog's digestive system. Fiber moves food along the intestinal tract, helping to resolve constipation, diarrhea, and some blockages that can occur.

Is cheese good for dogs with diarrhea? ›

Dogs with upset tummies. If your dog struggles when they eat anything that isn't part of their usual diet it's best not to let them have any cheese as it could lead to sickness or diarrhoea.

What do vets give dogs for upset stomach? ›

Vets often suggest a bland diet to treat a dog's upset stomach. Rice and chicken, or a more specific diet, removes the irritating substances from food to help your dog's digestive system rebalance itself.

How do you comfort a sick dog? ›

You can keep your dog as comfortable as possible by providing a soft bed or couch with fluffy blankets for it to lie on. Give your dog a luxurious massage, his favorite toys, and favorite food. However, don't forget to provide your dog with a balanced diet to keep it as healthy as possible during its sickness.

What is a good probiotic for my dog? ›

A good source of natural probiotics for dogs is yogurt or kefir with live cultures. Sometimes certain brands use cultures to make yogurt or kefir, but they are not probiotics. Yogurt and kefir may also contain artificial sweeteners, which can be dangerous for dogs.

Why won't my dog's diarrhea go away? ›

If the diarrhea doesn't resolve by holding back on food and then re-introducing a bland diet, though, then it's time to call your veterinarian. Pets that have chronic soft stool or chronic full-blown diarrhea should definitely be examined by a veterinarian, even if they are otherwise behaving normally.

Is rice or Oatmeal better for dogs with diarrhea? ›

Plain rice is one of the best foods you can feed a dog with diarrhoea. Why? Mainly, because it's so easy for dogs to digest. Containing a large amount of fibre that absorbs water, rice can help stabilise your dog's stools, making it an ideal choice for post-diarrhoea feeding.

Does white rice stop diarrhea in dogs? ›

Veterinarians often recommend owners feed dogs that have diarrhea a diet consisting of boiled hamburger and white rice for a few days. This type of bland, easily digested diet gives the intestinal tract a bit of a break while still providing needed calories and nutrients.

What can I give my dog instead of chicken and rice? ›

If your dog cannot tolerate chicken then better alternatives are boiled turkey mince or boiled white fish (such as haddock, cod, pollock) if not, chicken is a great go-to. So what alternative can we use instead of the rice? Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash or Pumpkin.

How do you treat chronic diarrhea? ›

Chronic diarrhea treatments may include:
  1. Anti-diarrheal medicine: Medicines to slow movement in your intestines or make your bowel movements less watery.
  2. Antibiotics: If your chronic diarrhea is due to a bacterial infection, you will need antibiotics to get rid of it.

How long does it take for pumpkin to work on dogs diarrhea? ›

That's because it takes time for a dog's stomach acids to break down the pumpkin serving added to their food. For a moderate case of diarrhea, your dog's next poop might show some signs of improvement within 4 – 6 hours. However, 24 – 48 hours is a more reasonable timeframe to expect a full recovery.

How long does it take for pumpkin to work on dogs? ›

It doesn't take much pumpkin to see results. For a small dog or cat, start with a ½ teaspoonful, increasing to one or two teaspoons if necessary. For large dogs, start with a tablespoonful of canned pumpkin and slowly increase the amount if needed. You should see improvement in your pet within a few hours.

Why does pumpkin stop dog diarrhea? ›

Due to its high soluble fiber content, pumpkin is very good for your dog's digestion. If you feed your dog some pumpkin, it will add bulk to their stool. This helps reduce issues with diarrhea.

What does it mean when a dog has watery diarrhea? ›

Eating garbage or spoiled food. Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones and fabric. Ingesting toxins or poisons. Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus.

Can I give Pepto-Bismol to my dog for diarrhea? ›

If Pepto Bismol helps for our upset stomachs, you may also wonder, “Can I give my dog Pepto Bismol?” Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) can be used to safely reduce a dog's symptoms of nausea, heartburn, gurgling, uncomfortable stomach and most effectively, diarrhea.

Is Scrambled Egg good for dogs with diarrhea? ›

Scrambled eggs are a good option for dogs with diarrhea because they are easy to digest and packed full of protein. Dogs who have been vomiting or eating stool may not be able to handle the high-fat content but scrambled egg is one of the best options out there.

Is Pepto-Bismol safe for dogs? ›

Pepto-Bismol can be used in dogs, but it does not suit every dog, and chronic use is not recommended. If your dog has gastrointestinal signs and you're considering using Pepto-Bismol, you should consult with your veterinarian first and administer the medication to your dog only under their direction.

How long can a dog have diarrhea? ›

Diarrhea in dogs can occur suddenly and last as long as a day or two up to a few weeks or months. If your dog's diarrhea persists for more than a day, dehydration can be a concern. Diarrhea that lasts longer can be an indication that your dog has an underlying health issue.

What do I do if my dog has diarrhea for 3 days? ›

If the diarrhea doesn't resolve by holding back on food and then re-introducing a bland diet, though, then it's time to call your veterinarian. Pets that have chronic soft stool or chronic full-blown diarrhea should definitely be examined by a veterinarian, even if they are otherwise behaving normally.

What to do with a dog that has diarrhea at night? ›

Feed a bland diet.

Sometimes the gut just needs a break. Feeding an easily digestible, bland diet is a way to give your dog nutrition without putting a lot of strain on the digestive system. Boiled chicken and rice for 2-3 days with a gradual return to their regular diet can help clear up mild cases of diarrhea.

What settles a dog's stomach? ›

Chicken and rice are prime ingredients in many dog foods, and these mild foods sit well on upset canine stomachs. Plus, this bland meal is easy to prepare. All you need are boneless, skinless chicken breasts and rice.

Why has my dog had diarrhea for 3 days? ›

Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia. Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper, or coronavirus. Bacterial infections - such as salmonella. Inflammatory bowel disease.

Can you give dogs Imodium? ›

Imodium can be a safe medication to use to treat your dog's diarrhea. If your dog's symptoms don't improve, consult your vet. Furthermore, if you think your dog's diarrhea is the result of ingestion of a toxin, or from an infection, do not use Imodium, but call your vet immediately.

How fast does pumpkin work for dog diarrhea? ›

That's because it takes time for a dog's stomach acids to break down the pumpkin serving added to their food. For a moderate case of diarrhea, your dog's next poop might show some signs of improvement within 4 – 6 hours. However, 24 – 48 hours is a more reasonable timeframe to expect a full recovery.

Does bread help with dog diarrhea? ›

It soothes an upset stomach

Dogs with IBS or an upset stomach can have a small amount of white bread. The high starch content absorbs the gastric acids irritating their stomachs, giving these dogs relief from pain and discomfort.

Will bananas help a dog with diarrhea? ›

Fiber: Bananas have a high fiber content important to your dog's digestive system. Fiber moves food along the intestinal tract, helping to resolve constipation, diarrhea, and some blockages that can occur.

What is the first signs of parvo in a dog? ›

Some of the signs of parvovirus include lethargy; loss of appetite; abdominal pain and bloating; fever or low body temperature (hypothermia); vomiting; and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and damage to the intestines and immune system can cause septic shock.

What human medicine can you give a dog for upset stomach? ›

A staple in many medicine cabinets, Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) is safe for dogs (but not for cats). It's used to treat diarrhea, vomiting and an upset stomach.

What is a good probiotic for my dog? ›

A good source of natural probiotics for dogs is yogurt or kefir with live cultures. Sometimes certain brands use cultures to make yogurt or kefir, but they are not probiotics. Yogurt and kefir may also contain artificial sweeteners, which can be dangerous for dogs.

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