Diarrhea not only makes a mess everywhere but also causes a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Today, our vets in Columbia explain the causes of diarrhea, what to do if your dog's stool is bloody, and when to call an emergency vet.

The Uncomfortable Impact of Diarrhea on Dogs

Us vets at Maury County Veterinary Hospital treat our fair share of Columbia dogs suffering from diarrhea. This is to be expected.

Mild bouts of diarrhea are very common in dogs and can be caused by mild intestinal distress. Often, intestinal distress is directly tied to food, whether it be an adverse reaction to your dog eating a small amount of something that doesn't agree with them, such as table scraps, or switching to a new brand of dog food that isn't right for them.

That said, there are also several more serious reasons why your dog could have diarrhea, some of which will require veterinary attention immediately.

What are the common causes of diarrhea in dogs?

Below are some of the most common reasons for diarrhea in dogs:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Change in diet or treats
  • 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
  • Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia
  • Bacterial infections - such as salmonella
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Medications such as antibiotics

With such a wide array of potential causes, it can be challenging 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 visiting the doctor.

What if there is blood in my dog's diarrhea?

The most straightforward indication that you should contact your vet is when your dog's diarrhea is bloody. There are two types 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 and indicates certain potential medical complications.

Melena: Blood that has been digested or swallowed. This dark, sticky, almost jelly-like blood indicates that a severe problem in your dog's upper digestive tract might be to blame.

Singular streaks of blood are often a fluke. However, if the bleeding is consistently present or in larger amounts, it is a clear indicator of a much bigger problem, such as a viral or bacterial infection, parvovirus, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or even cancer.

If you find blood in your dog's stool, in any amount, it is always best to contact your vet. Describe precisely what you have observed, and your vet will give you detailed instructions on what you should be watching for and whether it makes sense for your dog to come in for a visit based on its symptoms.

When is diarrhea in dogs an emergency?

We are often asked, 'Is bloody diarrhea in dogs an emergency?' If your dog has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if things clear up. However, more than two episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your canine companion has two or more bouts of diarrhea or if blood is in the stool.

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 ingesting a foreign object such as a toy. This is a 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 could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your dog is very old or very young or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious, and life-threatening. Contact your vet immediately if your dog is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

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
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken, dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your dog displays 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.

What are the treatment options for dogs with diarrhea?

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 runny or soft stools, you may want to give your dog some time to recover by fasting for 12 - 24 hours.

A bland diet for a day or two may help resolve your dog's issue. Plain-cooked white rice with a bit of chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling) may help make your dog's tummy feel better. Once your dog feels better, gradually reintroduce regular food.

Other things that might help to soothe your dog's upset tummy include natural yogurt, probiotics, peeled, boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, eggs with no oil added, specially formulated dog foods, and medications prescribed by your vet.

Regarding your dog's health, it is usually best to err on the side of caution. By taking your dog in for an examination, you allow your vet to determine the underlying cause of your dog's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has excessive diarrhea or diarrhea along with other symptoms as named above, contact our Columbia vets right away.