Dog Diarrhea – Major Causes and Treatments

One of the most common but disturbing afflictions your canine friend may encounter is dog diarrhea. It can happen anytime, anywhere; however, the frequency, duration, and intensity vary from one dog to the other. Usually, it is a onetime incident and you think nothing of it. In severe cases, though, your dog might stay sick for longer than a day or two and may even require hospitalization.

Should you take your dog to the vet? The truth is, it is tricky to make an accurate diagnosis of dog diarrhea and what caused it. It is complicated as there are so many reasons why your canine friend has loose stools. The messy fact is that you need to observe your dog closely. That way, you’ll know if you need to rush your dog to the emergency or simply make a regular appointment for a checkup with the vet.

In any case, you should stay calm. After all, dogs do get diarrhea, just like human beings. We do not run to the doctors for every episode. Similarly, your dog does not need a vet’s attention for every instance. It happens; all you need to know are the causes and what you can do to make it as easy as possible for your little companion.

12 Major Causes for Dog Diarrhea


Indiscretion in dietary habits (a.k.a. a bad diet) is one of the top causes of dog diarrhea. Eating spoiled food or even eating excessively can make upset your canine’s digestion. Dogs will put anything in their mouth. They often end up eating whatever they come across, including garbage and other undesirable things. Vets call it “garbage gut” when your dog gets an upset stomach due to eating something they should not.

You, as a pet parent, have to control your temptation as well. Avoid feeling them scraps off the table because fatty and processed food, salt, preservatives, chemicals, and sugar might disturb your dog’s stomach as well.

Dietary Change

If you have recently changed the type of food your dog is eating, then it will take your dog’s digestive system time to adjust. As such, there are chances that your dog might experience an episode of diarrhea. For instance, if your dog is used to eating dry food or fresh meat and you start feeding them canned food, your dog’s stomach might retaliate.

Food Intolerance

Yes, dogs can be intolerant to food as well. Did you know there are dog breeds known for intolerance to dairy, fat, or gluten? Such sensitivities can irritate a dog’s stomach, causing diarrhea. If you have not changed your dog’s food but he is experiencing chronic diarrhea, then it might be a sign that it is time to change your dog’s food and dietary habits.


Similar to food intolerance, allergies are another major reason your dog may experience an upset stomach, along with vomiting, etc. If dogs ingest something they are allergic to, it causes abnormal gut activity and loose stool.

Minor cases can be taken care of by changing their diet and taking necessary precautions, but a veterinary visit is advisable in severe cases of allergy.


Dogs are prone to contract all sorts of parasites if they drink contaminated water. The presence of intestinal parasites is one of the major causes of an upset stomach and diarrhea. Roundworms, hookworms, giardia, and coccidia are the most common type of parasites found in dogs, especially puppies.

If these organisms enter your dog’s digestive system, it can cause diarrhea, along with severe pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, and abdominal bloating. Dogs can go a while without displaying symptoms of having parasitic worms in their system.

If you think your dog may have a parasitic infestation, then you can check for white rice-like creatures in their stool; these indicate roundworm and tapeworm in their system. In other cases, you might not notice anything odd in their stool, but if they experience any or all of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet.


Dog diarrhea is a common reaction if your dog has eaten something toxic. Sudden diarrhea is usually the first noticeable effect of dog poisoning. Whenever your canine ingests any toxic substance, the first reaction from the body or stomach is to cleanse it out of the body via diarrhea or vomiting.

Lead-based items and other domestic products are a common source of dog poisoning. Chocolate, human medications, detergents, chalk, charcoal, mushrooms, etc. are some of the items you should always keep where your dog can’t reach them. Additionally, some plants, including daffodils, ivy, and bluebells, can pose a danger to your dog’s health.

Foreign Objects

Puppies are more likely to face this, but even adult dogs can end up swallowing an object that does not belong in their tummies. This can occur when a dog finds garbage to eat; they might ingest a small toy or any other foreign object. In most cases, you just have to wait for the object to pass through the system naturally. Dog diarrhea is the system’s way of working hard to expel it from the body.

Bacterial and Viral Infections

There are chances that your dog might be suffering from a bacterial or viral infection. Look out for signs such as vomiting, fever, fatigue, and muscle weakness, along with severe and repetitive diarrhea. Parvovirus, distemper, and coronavirus are some of the most common infections that may cause dog diarrhea.

Be vigilant and contact a vet if you suspect a viral or bacterial infection. Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can lead to life-threatening situations if not treated in a timely fashion.

Other Diseases

A chronic condition of diarrhea, where it comes and goes with regular or irregular intervals, may indicate an underlying illness. This is especially true if your dog is an old fella. Some of the most common diseases that may trigger severe dog diarrhea are:

  • Liver diseases or cancer
  • Kidney diseases or cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Tumors (mainly intestinal)
  • Thyroid dysfunction, also known as Addison’s disease
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, which is basically when your dog’s pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome

Medication and Treatments

Cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or the use of other medications such as antibiotics is another reason why your dog may experience diarrhea. Antibiotics are useful for killing an infection but infamous for causing gastrointestinal issues resulting in loose stools.

We are all aware of the fact that antibiotics kill any bacteria-causing infection. However, did you know that it not only kills bad bacteria but good bacteria as well? Good bacteria are essential to help run the digestive system. So, taking antibiotics can cause a bacterial imbalance, resulting in dog diarrhea with stomach discomfort and cramps.


You might think this only happens to humans. However, just like we can get an upset stomach when we are stressed or emotionally upset, our dogs can suffer the same episodes. Although it is not the most common cause of diarrhea, dogs under pressure or stress may display irregular bowel movements.


An upset bowel can cause diarrhea to last from a couple of days up to a week. However, if it persists, it is time to visit your dog’s vet. At the same time, this does not mean that you should ignore diarrhea when it initially happens.

When it comes to diagnosing dog diarrhea, some symptoms indicate that your dog might need immediate medical attention. Black diarrhea is one such case, as it likely means your dog is suffering from internal bleeding.

Other more generic signs are very loose stool (almost liquid), flatulence, mucus in the stool, lethargy, dehydration, fever, malaise, loss of appetite, and weight loss. All these symptoms point to more acute dog diarrhea.

In puppies, you can look for additional symptoms including pale gums, vomiting, black, tarry stools. Take your puppy to the vet if diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours. Puppies are more fragile than adult dogs, and diarrhea can be a painful and dangerous ordeal for them.


Dog diarrhea usually gets settled within a day. In most cases, it is a one-time incident due to something your dog’s digestive system did not agree with. But it is wise to know whether a home treatment will suffice and when it is time to call the vet.

Treating Diarrhea in Puppies

When your puppy has diarrhea, I suggest that you visit a veterinarian. It is always good to rule out anything serious, and you can also take the opportunity to discuss home treatment and remedies for your little one. As your puppy is smaller and more prone to dehydration, provide plenty of fresh water.

Garbage-related diarrhea usually resolves itself. However, if diagnosed with an infection, your vet will evaluate whether it is a matter of serious concern. In such a case, your puppy may be hospitalized until full recovery. The veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics and give intravenous fluid for hydration.

You can also take precautionary measures to prevent dog diarrhea in your puppies. Make sure that you transition slowly when changing your puppy’s diet. Keep their habitat clean and disinfected. Strictly follow their vaccination schedule, and do not let them consume garbage or drink from stagnant water.

Treatment of Dog Diarrhea in Adult Dogs

At-Home Treatment

If your canine is experiencing mild dog diarrhea, provide them with a constant supply of fresh water to avoid dehydration. Encourage your dog to drink, if needed, by offering liquid treats like chicken or beef broth. Pedialyte in water is another good solution.

In the case of acute diarrhea, remove all food for 8 to 12 hours. This will help clear the digestive system of all irritating elements.

In the case of acute or mild diarrhea, a light meal of boiled boneless chicken and white rice is a very healthy option. Sweet potatoes or pumpkins are a healthy alternative to rice. Continue this diet until your pet’s stool returns to normal.

If diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, contact your vet for further medical advice.

Treatments by Veterinarians

Vets usually start with a fecal examination to rule out any parasitic infection. If found, they will prescribe an anti-parasiticide such as Albon, Pyrantel, etc. If fecal matter is clear of worms, you may treat them with a dewormer as a precautionary step.

In case your dog is experiencing an allergic reaction, a protein diet will be recommended.

In the case of senior dogs, taking medications for certain health-related issues may also cause diarrhea. NSAIDs, antibiotics, and heart medicines are linked to causing dog diarrhea.

There are other things you must consider, such as supervised visits outdoors, especially if you know your dog might come across elements that can aggravate his condition. If your dog is not allergic to dairy, you can use yogurt to soothe the tummy. It is recommended to use dog diapers on your puppy; it can get stressful with continuous drips.

Dog Diarrhea – Do Not Ignore It

The problem is far from simple and can cause complications; therefore, make sure that you keep your dog under supervision so that you’ll notice any symptoms of dog diarrhea. Follow the recommendations from your veterinarian, and do not try random advice from others to fix it yourself.

Remember, all your dog needs is a bit of observation, patience, time, and a good vet (if needed) in order to return to their pleasant, playful self in no time.

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