When our canine companions aren't feeling well, it can always be a bit alarming. But it can be extra-stressful whe your dog has unexplained diarrhea, or blood in their stool. Here, our Apple Valley vets explain the common causes of diarrhea, what to do if you see blood, and when it's time to think of it as an emergency.
Diarrhea in Dogs
The vets at Bear Valley Animal Hospital treat our fair share of dogs suffering from diarrhea.
This is as expected. Mild bouts of diarrhea are very common in our canine companions and can be caused by mild intestinal distress. Oftentimes, intestinal distress will be tied to the food your dog eats, whether that be an adverse reaction to something that doesn't agree with them, or even something as mundane as switching to a new brand of dog kibble.
That said, there are also a number of more serious reasons why your dog could have diarrhea, some of which will require veterinary attention immediately.
Diarrhea in Dogs - The Common Culprits
Below are some of the most common reasons for dogs to experience diarrhea:
- Stress or anxiety
- Intestinal cancer
- Change in diet or treats
- Ingesting toxins or poisons
- Eating garbage or spoiled food
- Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones, and fabric
- Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus
- Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia
- Bacterial infections - such as salmonella
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Liver or kidney disease
- Medications such as antibiotics
With such a wide array of potential causes, it can be difficult to know when your dog's symptoms are reasons to contact your vet, read on for advice to help you decide when a case of diarrhea is worth a visit to the doctor.
Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs
The most obvious indication that you should consider contacting your vet is when your dog has bloody diarrhea. There are two kinds of bloody stools to look out for when your dog is experiencing diarrhea.
Hematochezia results from bleeding in the lower digestive tract or colon. It is bright red in color and indicates certain potential medical complications.
Melena is blood that has been digested or swallowed. This dark, sticky, almost jelly-like blood indicates that a serious problem in your dog's upper digestive tract might be to blame.
Single streaks of blood in your pet's stool is generally a fluke. If your notice consistent blood in your pet's stool or flooding in larger amounts one time, that is a clear indicator of a much more serious problem like bacterial infections, cancer, parvovirus, or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.
If you find blood in your dog's stool, in any amount, it is always best to contact your vet, describing exactly what you have observed will allow your vet to give you detailed instructions on what you should be watching for, and if it makes sense for your dog to come in for a visit based on their symptoms.
Other Instances Where Diarrhea in Dogs Is Reason to Contact Your Vet
If your dog has had a single episode of diarrhea but si acting normal otherwise, it probably isn't a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to make sure that things clear up in good order. More than 2 episodes, however, may indicate a health issue. It's a good idea to call your vet if your canine companion has had two or more recent bouts of diarrhea.
If your dog is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.
Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time may be a sign of a very serious health problem. This is doubly so if your dog is very young, old or has a compromised immune system for non-age-related reasons. Infections like parvovirus are hugely contagious and dangerous to dogs. Contact your vet as soon as possible if you notice repeated and persistent episodes of diarrhea in your dog.
Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your dog has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:
- Blood in stool
- Unusual drooling
- Lack of appetite
- Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)
If your dog is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.
Treating Diarrhea in Dogs
Never give your dog human medications without consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to dogs.
If your dog has had one or two soft stools, you may want to give them some time to recover from wherever is troubling their stomach by fasting them between 12 and 24 hours.
A bland diet for a day or two may help to resolve your dog's issue too. Plain-cooked white rice with a little chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling) may help to make your dog's tummy feel better. Once your dog feels better gradually reintroduce their regular food.
Some other things that may help to soothe your dog's upset stomach may include peeled boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, egg without any oil added, special dog foods, natural yogurt and medications as prescribed by your vet.
When it comes to your dog's health it is usually best to err on the side of caution. By taking your dog in for an examination you give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your dog's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.