Dog Diarrhea: Causes, Information & Advice

Updated 05 January 2024
Read time: 8 mins

Dog diarrhea is most commonly associated with colitis in dogs, which is essentially caused by an inflammation of the colon which results in soft stools. Dog diarrhea can be a distressing for both dog and owner and can mean frequent trips to the vet. 

Diarrhea in dogs on the whole is not a life-threatening condition. However older dogs, puppies and smaller dogs can often find it tough when dealing with dog diarrhea so it’s worth keeping an eye on dog colitis too.


What causes diarrhoea in dogs?


Diarrhoea occurs when the food passes through the gut too quickly and not enough of the nutrients and water are absorbed and it can be caused by a number of factors. Issues like buying poor-quality and cheap pet food can have an adverse effect on a dog’s digestion system which in turn leads to dog colitis. Overeating can also leave you with a dog colitis problem. This can occur when dogs are fed just once a day and certain foods sometimes don’t agree with a dog and lead to dog diarrhoea. Dogs, like humans, can suffer from stress and this can also present a dog diarrhea problem.

 There are however a wider range of possible causes including:

  • A bacterial, viral or parasitic infection
  • Stress (such as a long car ride)
  • Dietary indiscretion (when your cheeky pooch eats something they shouldn’t have)
  • Toxin ingestion
  • An abrupt diet change
  • A food allergy or sensitivity
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Colitis
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Hormonal disorders such as Addison’s disease. Etc.

When a vet is presented with a dog with diarrhoea, they will look at their age, breed and medical history when assessing the possible causes. Younger dogs are more prone to parasites while cancer tends to affect the older population.


Diarrhea in puppies


As diarrhoea in puppies is so very common, it really deserves a whole section to itself. For many puppy owners, the first health issue they will encounter is loose stool. The combination of leaving mum for the first time, a long car ride, a diet change and a trip to the vets is the ‘perfect storm’ for some individuals when it comes to developing runny stool. It is also true that many puppies are born with a worm burden and this is not always successfully eradicated by the breeder.


Signs and symptoms


For most owners, diarrhoea in their dog will be something they are familiar with. At one time or another, the vast majority of dogs will develop loose stools. This may only last a short while or may continue for several weeks in some individuals.

Loose stool can be accompanied by other signs such as

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Lethargy

Conversely, any of the above are the only sign and affected dogs remain bright and well. Whether or not veterinary treatment is required isn’t always obvious but usually depends on the severity of the diarrhoea, the other symptoms present and how long it has been going on for. If left untreated, diarrhoea can result in dehydration, nutritional deficiencies and weight loss. If concerned, a vet visit is always wise.

Dog diarrhea can also occur after your dog has undergone treatment for another condition or injury and is on a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics can leads to a dog’s diarrhoea problem as whilst working to kill the dangerous bacteria, they can sometimes disrupt the normal healthy bacteria in the intestine, which results in diarrhea in dogs.

Viral infections such as parvovirus can cause severe foul-smelling dog diarrhea and bacterial infections from sources such as spoiled food and salmonella can result in dog colitis.


Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs


The symptoms for colitis dogs are generally soft stools. A dog with colitis can often become extremely depressed. So if you’re dog is perhaps not acting their normal self or seems a little reserved, it is worth checking their stools for any early signs of dog colitis.

  • Chronic dogs diarrhea - Most dogs suffering from dog colitis will experience chronic diarrhoea. Diarrhea is loose, inconsistent bowel movements which can eventually become entirely liquid.
  • Frequent Bowel Movement - If your dog is making a lot more trips to the back yard, then it is often a sign that your canine is experiencing dog diarrhea.
  • Tenesmus (Difficulty passing stools) - Tenesmus is a dog’s feeling of the need to evacuate the bowels, with little or no stool passed. Tenesmus may be constant or intermittent, and is usually accompanied by pain, cramping and involuntary straining efforts. It can be a temporary and transient problem related to constipation. Tenesmus can be a symptom of diarrhoea in dogs.




Short term treatments

Treatment for short-term diarrhoea dog is generally simple.

Short-term dog diarrhea may occur if your dog has eaten something he shouldn't, or if you have changed his diet recently, he could wind up with a bout of dog diarrhea; this could also be the result of eating dairy products or a food he's allergic to. You may be able to help clear up your dog's diarrhea  by putting him on a full 24-hour fast. If he seems better after a day, put him on a bland diet of two parts cooked rice and one part boiled skinless white-meat chicken. Start him off with small amounts every four hours. If he's doing well, feed him about 1/4 of his regular food along with the bland diet; gradually up the percentage over several days until he's back on his normal diet. While your dog is recuperating from dog colitis, make sure he's getting enough water. Diarrhoea can rapidly lead to dehydration, so your vet may recommend a drink enriched with electrolytes. Pedialyte, a formula for babies that's available in drug stores and supermarkets, is often given to dogs with dog colitis to help replenish important minerals depleted by diarrhea and dog colitis. Limit your pet's level of exercise to short walks while they are recovering from dog diarrhea.


Long term treatments

Longer term dog diarrhea is most likely to be a digestive problem so addressing with your vet should be the first port of call.

Elimination diets might be conducted to also try and understand if your dog has an allergy or intolerance. Grains, dairy and even chicken can be common allergens that cause stomach upset.

If your longer-term dog diarrhoea is the problem then another thing that you could try is looking at finding a way to re-balance the good bacteria in your dog’s gut – helping them to properly digest their food.

Bionic Biotic is a supplement full of natural ingredients to promote solid stools, healthy digestion, skin & coat. Packed with anti-oxidants, probiotics, fish oil, vitamins and minerals this natural supplement complements all diets perfectly. This probiotic health supplement is specifically tailored to actively promote solid stools and healthy digestion. Both probiotics and prebiotics promote a healthy gut microbiome, whilst the added antioxidants can help your dog fight off skin infections as they promote a robust immune system. It also provides important nutrients to reduce itching and scratching, with Biotin to help aid healthy fur growth; ideal for those whose itching leads to fur loss or thinning. On top of this, our Bionic Biotic supplement is packed full of other healthy ingredients, thus, we can potentially support and improve health in a number of areas including a dog’s skin, their gastrointestinal tract and their immune system. By supporting each of these key areas, we can ensure our dogs are fighting fit and can potentially prevent certain health conditions as a dog gets older, helping our pooches to always feel good on the inside and look great on the outside.


Treatment for puppies

Puppies are more prone to dehydration from diarrhoea than adult dogs and can become unwell quickly. This is why diarrhoea in puppies always merits veterinary attention. Your vet will examine your young dog and may advise some further testing such as a stool analysis. Treatment will largely depend on what has caused the loose stool. It may consist of probiotics, fluids, parasite treatment and a specific diet.


Preventing dog diarrhea


There are several steps you can take to minimise the risk of dogs diarrhea. When changing your dog onto a new brand of food, instead be sure to do it gradually to see how they react to it. Make sure your dog doesn’t eat anything that is lying around as this can contribute to dog colitis. Also keep an eye on their mood as this can be a sure sign of dog diarrhoea.

Remember, you are not alone – there are many dogs that suffer from dog diarrhea, runny stools and colitis. Ask your friends, people you see walking their dogs in the park and the internet can be an invaluable search tool to see how other people help dogs with runny stools.

Comments (2)

We’ve just started using Bionic Biotic as Naughty Neeks can sometimes have slightly loose stools and a bubbly tummy. We noticed a difference in 48 hrs, she is happier and we are happier, so now this is going to be part of our regular purchase! Thank you Pooch & Mutt 👏👏👏

Karen - May 25 2022
Pooch Admin

Hi Karen, fantastic to hear! Thanks for the comment.

Team Pooch - May 25 2022

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