9 Common Causes of Dog Diarrhea and When to Worry | Your guide dog (2023)

Dog owners don't want to talk about it. But it's something everyone will experience at some point. It's the big D-word: diarrhea.

Diarrhea is common in some dogs. For others, it's a strange and unsettling experience. No matter where your dog falls on the spectrum, there's always a reason for an upset stomach. And in some cases, there is also cause for concern.

So how do you identify the culprit causing your pup's upset stomach? And more importantly, how do you know when it's time to call the vet?

9 Common Causes of Dog Diarrhea and When to Worry | Your guide dog (1)

There are many causes of diarrhea in dogs. Knowing what they are and when they are serious will help keep your dog safe and healthy.

We'll look at the nine most common causes of diarrhea in dogs, then break down circumstances that may indicate it's time to seek professional help for your dog.


  • The most common causes of diarrhea in dogs

    Whether it's leaving the house in the middle of the night or waking up to a dirty rug, diarrhea is not a fun experience for you or your dog. Whether you want to reduce the frequency of your dog's stomach problems or prevent them altogether, identifying the cause of your dog's stomach discomfort is the first step you should take.

    Diarrhea occurs when food material moves too quickly.through the digestive tractresulting in less water absorption. This can be the result of anything from toxins in the system to emotional arousal.

    To find out what is causing your dog's bowels to run too fast, let's look at the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs.

    poor quality nutrition

    Not surprisingly, diet can play a big role in your dog's poop consistency. Everything from fiber content, protein quality and chemical additives in a food affects how efficiently your dog can digest it.

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    Is your dog food helping your pup stay healthy? Or does it cause indigestion? Feeding your dog high-quality, protein-rich food doesn't just help with your dog's stomach problems.

    Like their wolves, dogs are carnivores at heart. While their wild cousins ​​occasionally feed on berries and other fibrous material, the canine system is specifically designed to absorb animal protein. After thousands of years of selective breeding, our dogs still exhibit the characteristics of a carnivore.

    We know that the dog's digestive system is designed for this.digest fats and proteinsbecause it's too short. The human digestive system is long by comparison and designed to digest plant fiber and starches. These foods take much longer to digest and require more surface area to properly absorb the nutrients they contain.

    Dogs' teeth and mouths also tell the story of a carnivore. Its teeth are sharp and designed to tear flesh, rather than shred the fibers like a cow's. Even your saliva was designed for a meat-based diet. Human saliva is full of enzymes that start the long digestive process before food even reaches the stomach. Dog saliva, on the other hand, is designed to kill bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli, which are common in raw meat.

    Low quality dog ​​foods tend to be high in plant matter. Since your system is not designed to properly digest and absorb plant nutrients, these types of foods often lead to loose stools. Combine that with added chemicals like food coloring, preservatives, and low-quality meat, and you have the perfect recipe for indigestion.

    Some dogs have specific nutritional problems that require special attention to avoid diarrhea.older dogsThey often have trouble digesting high-fat foods and may benefit from high levels of insoluble fiber in their diet. Puppies, on the other hand, need a diet rich in protein and fat to grow properly.

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    Many older dogs need special diets to keep their digestive systems working properly.

    If you think a substandard diet could be the cause of your dog's loose stools, it's time to make the switch.best dog food. Look for one with high-quality animal ingredients, limited plant ingredients, and no added chemicals or dyes. But be sure to read the following common cause of diarrhea in dogs before making the switch.

    (Video) Diarrhea in Dogs: How To Quickly Treat At Home

    Dog food ingredient lists can be difficult to read, but knowing how to identify quality diets is the first step in finding a food that will help your dog overcome chronic diarrhea.

    sudden change in diet

    Regardless of the quality of food you feed your dog, a sudden change can cause severe stomach upset.

    A sudden switch from one type or brand of food to another is likely to cause an upset stomach in most dogs and severe diarrhea in more sensitive ones. If you need to change your dog's diet, do it gradually.

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    Even the most avid eaters can get an upset stomach if their diet changes too abruptly. Always change your dog's food gradually to give his stomach time to adjust.

    The recommended process for gradually transitioning your dog to a new diet is to slowly increase the ratio of new to old food over a period of about four days.

    Label 1:25% new feed mixed with 75% original feed

    Step 2:50% new feed mixed with 50% original feed

    Label 3:74% new feed mixed with 25% original feed

    Label 4:100% new lining

    If your dog is particularly sensitive, even this schedule can be too abrupt. If that's the case, start with about 10% new food and slowly increase the ratio over a few weeks.

    Many dog ​​owners mistakenly blame the new food for the soft poop rather than the change in diet. This results in many pet owners discarding a higher quality feed and returning to the original lower quality feed. The truth is that an abrupt switch to any diet will cause problems, but switching from a very low protein diet to a very high protein diet will cause even more problems.

    It takes time for your dog's system to adjust to new foods, especially if they are more nutrient-dense. If you've read our first point and are planning to transition your dog to better food, make sure you do it slowly. If at any time your dog's diarrhea gets worse, reduce the amount of new food and switch to a slower induction program.

    If you've already made the mistake of switching to a new food too quickly, your dog's upset stomach will likely go away after he's had a few days to adjust to the new food.

    ingestion of non-food items

    Diarrhea is sometimes caused by eating non-food items. If your dog has a tendency to eat or chew on random objects, you know the digestive discomfort this habit can cause.

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    Dogs love to eat human remains from the garbage, but this often causes stomach problems and can even be dangerous in some cases.

    Eating things a dog shouldn't can cause loose stools in several ways.

    Items that are toxic to your dog's system, such asmouse bait,xylitol, cleaner youcertain human foodsThey usually cause an upset stomach as the digestive tract tries to clear the toxin. In such cases, an upset stomach is the least of your worries, as life-threatening symptoms are sure to follow.

    In other cases, a dog may eat something that is not fully digestible, such as: B. a toy or item of clothing. Your dog may develop mucous stools as the object passes through the intestines, especially if the object is sharp. If the object becomes stuck, loose stools can quickly become constipation and only a veterinarian can help.

    Less dangerous, but usually more explosive, diarrhea can occur when a dog eats table scraps, decaying animals, or other garbage. When this happens, your dog's system will work to get rid of the unhealthy food, flushing it out by any means necessary. When this happens, your dog may vomit and have very watery stools.

    (Video) 10 Critical Signs that Indicates Your Dog is Dying

    Food allergies and sensitivities

    In some cases, diarrhea can occur even if your dog is getting an adequate diet of good quality food. This can happen if your dog has food allergies or sensitivity to certain ingredients.

    What is the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance?

    A food allergy is similar to a seasonal one.allergiesand reactions to bee stings involving the immune system. When your dog develops a true food allergy, the food is digested normally, but an immune response occurs in the gut or bloodstream. Proteins usually trigger this immune response when the body mistakes the food particle for an invading virus or bacteria.

    Food allergies often cause reactions such as hives or itchy, irritated skin. In severe cases, they can trigger anaphylaxis. In some dogs, food allergies can cause loose stools and vomiting.

    A food intolerance is much more likely to cause loose stools. Unlike allergies, which affect the immune system, food intolerances are usually limited to reactions in the gut. Food intolerances are often aSigns of deeper problems, such as the inability to form certain enzymes, severe digestive illness, or chronic stress.

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    Most commonly, food allergies cause symptoms such as excessive itching and skin inflammation, but in some cases they can also cause diarrhea.

    If your dog suffers from loose stools caused by allergies or sensitivities, you need to find a diet that doesn't contain the offending ingredient. It may take some time to figure out what exactly is causing the reaction. The most common suspects in dogs are corn, wheat, soybeans and other grains. Some dogs are even sensitive to animal proteins, the most common being beef, chicken and lamb.

    Highly processed foods seem to cause more problems than foods in their natural state. If your dog is sensitive to a variety of ingredients, consider aRaw food.

    To emphasize

    An emotional component that causes diarrhea is often overlooked, but it's surprisingly common. As someone who has worked in the kennel industry for years, I can tell you how much stress can affect what comes out of your dog's south.

    When the body is flooded with stress hormones, the digestive tract kicks in to dump its contents as quickly as possible. Because your dog's ancestors often had to react to stress with fight or flight. If you're a wolf suddenly hit by an angry mother bear, you don't want to be late for lunch.

    Our dogs may not experience the same stressful situations as their distant relatives, but their bodies still respond in the same way.

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    Many dogs are stressed when their owners are away. If your dog often has diarrhea when housed or left alone for long periods of time, stress is probably the cause.

    To beapproached, visiting the vet and being home alone can be stressful. If your dog has loose stools during labor, he may be suffering from separation anxiety. If the diarrhea coincides with visiting a certain friend, he may be trying to tell you how he really feels about that person.

    Whatever the cause, stress-related stomach pain is best treated by avoiding stress. If unavoidable, consider a calming supplement or medication to reduce stress. If that's not enough, you may need to temporarily change your dog's diet (for example, during a stay) to something that actively counteracts an upset stomach, such as: B. Rice and boiled chicken. There are even bland diets for dogs prone to diarrhea.


    Another internal cause of diarrhea is parasitic infections. These nasty little critters can infect your dog's intestines and cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

    The most common parasites in dogs are worms. Tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms colonize your dog's intestines. In addition to loose poop, your dog may experience symptoms such as vomiting,we suffer, and lick your ass.

    You can often see worms in your dog's stool or near his anus, especially if the infection is severe. Weight loss and dull coat is another sign that your dog's upset stomach is related to a parasitic infection.

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    Ticks like these can carry diseases that cause diarrhea. Using flea and tick medications or avoiding walking in tall grass can help reduce your dog's risk.

    Dogs can pick up parasites from different places. Eating dead animals or garbage is a common way dogs get roundworms.fleasjticksIt can also transmit parasites. Using medications to ward off external parasites like this one and limit your dog's access to bugs and garbage is a good step towards preventing parasite-induced diarrhea.

    (Video) Treating Puppy Diarrhea at Home (and when to worry)

    If you think your dog already has a parasite, you need to speak with your veterinarian. Fortunately, most parasitic infections can be easily treated with medication. Once the infection has resolved, you should also see the loose stools stop. However, remember that reinfection, especially with worms, is easy. Try to stop your dog from licking its bottomeat your own fecesduring treatment to reduce these risks.

    viral and bacterial infections

    Like parasites, bacterial and viral infections can attack your dog's intestines and cause an upset stomach. Depending on the type of infection, your dog may get over it on its own or may need treatment from a veterinarian.

    Coronavirusis a very common viral infection in dogs, causing yellow-orange watery diarrhea with vomiting, lethargy, and occasionally fever. Most adult dogs have no symptoms, and those that do usually get over them within a few days. Puppies, especially those already infected with other pathogens, are at greater risk for complications from this virus.

    Rotavirus is another common virus that can cause loose stools in dogs. As with other common enteric viruses, it is unlikely to affect healthy adult dogs. Young, stressed dogs experience watery diarrhea and possible dehydration.

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    Puppies can be more affected by bacteria and viruses due to their immature immune system.

    bacterial infectionssuch as Campylobacter and Helicobacter are also common in dogs and can cause diarrhea in people with stressed immune systems. Most dogs also carry the salmonella bacteria in their gut, but only those that are stressed or sick show symptoms of infection.

    Many of these most common bacterial and viral infections do not cause symptoms on their own, but when combined with other infections such as parvovirus or distemper, they can be fatal. Both parvovirus and distemper cause diarrhea and can be fatal on their own. Puppies are at greater risk of getting these diseases, especially if they haven't already.vaccinatedAgainst them.

    If you suspect that a viral or bacterial infection is the cause of your dog's upset stomach and he also has other symptoms, it's best to take him to a vet right away.

    Underlying illness or disease

    Occasionally, diarrhea is a symptom of a much larger problem that needs to be addressed.

    If your dog has chronic diarrhea that hasn't been relieved by dietary changes, an underlying intestinal problem such as inflammatory bowel disease, colitis,pancreatitis, or Addison's disease. Special diets and sometimes medication may be needed to reduce the frequency of loose stools.

    9 Common Causes of Dog Diarrhea and When to Worry | Your guide dog (10)

    Dogs that show symptoms in addition to loose stools may be suffering from a more serious illness, such as cancer or digestive disorders.

    Loose stools can also be a sign of cancer, particularly in the kidneys, liver and intestines. If the diarrhea comes on suddenly and is not affected by dietary changes or over-the-counter medications, your vet may want to do a blood test.

    If your dog's upset stomach is accompanied by dark blood in the stool, weight loss, or lethargy, it's best to take your dog to the vet to evaluate any underlying medical conditions.

    medication side effect

    Sometimes the answer to the mystery of your dog's upset stomach lies in the medications he's taking. As with human medications, many dog ​​medications have diarrhea as a side effect.

    Antibiotics often cause diarrhea because many of your dog's healthy gut bacteria are killed along with the infection. Giving your dog probiotics as soon as he finishes his antibiotic course can help balance them out.

    9 Common Causes of Dog Diarrhea and When to Worry | Your guide dog (11)

    Many medications can cause digestive upset, including diarrhea. Always discuss possible side effects with your veterinarian.

    Antidepressants and other behavioral medications can also cause an upset stomach. As anti-inflammatories and analgesics. If your dog has been on any of these medications for a long time or needs to recover from themOperationor injury, talk to your veterinarian about additional medications to treat the diarrhea. They may even prescribe a different medication that is less likely to cause indigestion.

    Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can also cause an upset stomach. In these cases, switching to a bland or prescribed diet may be the best option.

    When is diarrhea severe?

    Even if you know what caused your dog's loose stools, there are still situations when you need to take your dog to the vet.

    (Video) My dog had diarrhea 😨 THIS Fixed it FAST! 🙌

    Let's look at some of the red flags that might be telling you not to wait for this diarrhea to pass.

    additional symptoms

    Anytime your dog has symptoms other than diarrhea, it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian.

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    You know when your dog isn't feeling well. If you notice changes in behavior or signs of pain in addition to loose stools, it's a good idea to take him to the vet for a checkup.

    While other signs of indigestion, such as vomiting or loss of appetite, are not as worrisome, the symptoms are more varied. Dogs that show any of the following symptoms likely have something more serious than just abdominal pain:

    • Lethargy, especially if it doesn't go away in a few days
    • Dark and bloody stools
    • Stomachdor
    • mood or behavior changes
    • Fever
    • weakness
    • eat negatively
    • dehydration
    • weight loss

    Dogs that show additional symptoms are more likely to suffer long-term damage and even die without medical attention. To be on the safe side, take your dog to aveterinarianimmediately.

    duration of time

    If your dog's only symptom is diarrhea, it may still need medical attention if it lasts longer than a few days.

    Dogs suffering from a simple virus or after tablesurfing should be back to normal in a relatively short period of time. If your dog continues to have loose stools or has diarrhea again, it's best to speak to your veterinarian.

    They will likely run some tests to see if anything else is going on. Also, dogs that have had diarrhea for a while are likely to become dehydrated. An intravenous fluid at the vet's office will help prevent further dehydration complications.

    Dog age and general health

    There are some cases where waiting up to a day to see if the diarrhea goes away can be risky.

    Very young puppies can quickly become dehydrated. And they are at greater risk for infections that can be fatal if not treated promptly. Puppies under 12 weeks of age should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible if diarrhea is present.

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    Young puppies are at high risk of contracting deadly diseases like parvovirus. If a puppy develops diarrhea, it should be treated very seriously.

    Very old dogs are also more likely to suffer from serious illnesses and illnesses where diarrhea is just a symptom. Even if nothing else happens, they are more prone to dehydration and muscle wasting during an upset stomach.

    Dogs with existing health issues may experience additional bouts of diarrhea.DiabeticDogs often see blood sugar fluctuations during indigestion. Immunocompromised dogs can develop complications due to viruses and bacteria that cause loose stools. Your veterinarian can help you manage the diarrhea by making sure the existing condition is treated.

    effectiveness of home remedies

    There are several home remedies that work well for simple cases of diarrhea. Many owners withhold food for 12 to 24 hours to allow the dog's stomach to settle. This can be especially helpful if you know your dog has eaten garbage or something similar.

    In addition to, or sometimes instead of, fasting, many owners substitute white rice and boiled chicken for their dogs' regular food. This easily digestible food soothes the stomach and normalizes digestion. Adding canned pumpkin to this mix or to your dog's regular food can also be effective.

    If these remedies usually work for your dog, but not this time, it's a good sign that your pup needs to see a vet. Underlying health conditions do not respond to stomach-soothing agents. It's best to have a thorough physical exam to make sure nothing serious is causing your dog's illness.

    Air always on the safe side

    Diarrhea in dogs has a long list of possible causes and is one of the most common conditions an owner must deal with. But that doesn't mean that all cases of stomach pain should be treated without concern.

    At the end of the day, you are your dog's advocate and it's your job to make sure your pup is safe and healthy. If you're not sure if your dog is suffering from something serious or just recovering from an upset stomach, it's always best to be careful and take your pup to a veterinarian.

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