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Diarrhea in Dogs

08/19/2015 by Colleen Williams
August 19th, 2015 by Colleen Williams

Last updated on October 16, 2019.

If you’ve been up all night with a dog who needs to go to the bathroom urgently, you know how frustrating a case of diarrhea is. While most cases of diarrhea in adult dogs are not emergencies, the following scenarios need medical attention:

  • If the condition continues for more than two to three days, or is accompanied by vomiting, see your vet.
  • If you notice your dog’s diarrhea contains blood – which may appear as black, brownish red or bright red – this may be an indication of internal bleeding, a serious condition.
  • If your dog is a young puppy, go to the vet; puppies are very vulnerable to dehydration and it can be fatal.

Possible Causes of Diarrhea

Diarrhea in dogs can be caused by many factors, ranging from serious to relatively minor.

  • Diet changes or eating human food: A big culprit of diarrhea in dogs and puppies is whatever they’ve eaten, whether it was garbage, a foreign body, a poison, or a food allergy. Eating garbage or consuming a large amount of human food can also cause dog diarrhea. Some dogs and puppies have minor reactions to changes in diet, which is normal, but can also contribute to diarrhea.
  • Parasites: Diarrhea often can be caused by intestinal parasites like roundworms or coccidia. It’s actually very common for dogs to eat poop, which often contains the larvae of parasites. Eating small wild mammals is another way dogs catch parasites.
  • Medication: Diarrhea is a common side effect of medications.
  • Stress and anxiety: Emotional distress can be accompanied by physical side effects including diarrhea.
  • Side effect of a health condition: Infections, cancers, viruses and diseases of the gastrointestinal system – like colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis and gastroenteritis – may also be responsible for diarrhea in dogs.


As mentioned above, be sure to seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible for severe cases of diarrhea, such as bloody diarrhea, diarrhea in young puppies, or if the condition lasts longer than two days.

Treating diarrhea usually involves rehydration, withholding food to ensure the digestive irritant has fully worked its way out, and/or medication and possible procedures.

Rehydration: Make sure your pet is fully hydrated by giving him fresh, clean water. If your dog seems healthy and alert (other than the diarrhea), you can try feeding a bite or two of watermelon – the sweet summer fruit is 92 percent water and very hydrating.

A bland diet: While most veterinarians will recommend withholding food from a dog who has diarrhea for 24 to 48 hours, they also advise giving dogs plain, boiled chicken and rice. Arlington Animal Hospital says, “Since bland diets are low in fiber, stool production slows and defecation is less frequent. Bland diets are fed to rest the gastric system and to help promote normal stool formation.” Pumpkin is another vet-approved food that can help ease stomach conditions.

Elimination diet: Pets being tested for a food allergy or intolerance may need to go on a bland elimination diet to determine the cause of their symptoms. Ask your vet for the exact route your pup needs to take and expect to try all sorts of new proteins in the future (kangaroo, alligator, and more!).

Medication: You may need to bring in a stool sample so your vet can test for parasites. If the stool tests positive for parasites, you will need antibiotics or anti-parasitic medication, and this usually is administered every day for 7 to 10 days. If the stool is negative for parasites, your vet may want a physical exam and will run a blood test to check for elevated enzyme levels in the liver to determine the cause of tummy upset, which can be a foreign body issue, pancreatitis, or chronic condition. Give medicines like Pepto Bismol only under a vet’s supervision or with their recommendation.


For dogs who love to eat from the trash or scraps from the table, the first step is to dog-proof your home, especially the kitchen, and stop feeding human snacks to your pup. Dogs eating people food is a common cause of diarrhea and even more serious, pancreatitis.

Prevent your pet from eating foreign objects and other unsavory treats like animal feces, small mammals and even gravel. Keep your backyard tidy and dog-friendly by regularly scooping waste, which attracts parasites, insects and carrion birds. If you hit the dog park regularly, make sure your pet has all the proper vaccines and watch them while you’re there.

Finally, paying attention to your pet’s poop is integral to their daily health. By noticing changes that can coincide with stress or diet, you’ll know what’s normal and what isn’t. This is especially helpful when your dog may be suffering from a serious illness that you simply can’t prevent.

While pet insurance can help with expenses should the worst happen, being prepared for stomach issues by dog-proofing your house can reduce the risk considerably. Start by getting a free quote.