The truth is in the poop.
That’s right, we said it! Keeping an eye on our dog’s stools, albeit not the most appealing activity, is one of the ways we monitor his or her health. We don’t like to think about the inevitable diarrhea days (and the mess that comes with them), but they do happen. While we can’t predict it, as owners we need to become familiar with the different types of stools and learn the possible causes to help our vets pinpoint the problem.
Before you learn about the types of diarrhea, you’ll need to understand how and why it happens. It’s important to know that diarrhea is not a disease, but rather a symptom of a variety of concerns. According to Ernest Ward, DVM, diarrhea is “the result of increased speed of passage of fecal material through the intestine, combined with decreased absorption of water, nutrients, and electrolytes.”
Common reasons for diarrhea include intestinal infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. Another cause of an upset stomach that we pet owners know all too well is the consumption of inappropriate items, such as garbage, household materials or human food that is not suitable for dogs. Other dishonorable mentions include stress caused by changes in their environment, switching foods, illnesses, and allergies.
There are many different types of diarrhea in dogs. Knowing their characteristics can help you determine what to do to help your pet, whether it means switching food or visiting your veterinarian for further resolution.
Acute Diarrhea is usually treated at home. The common suggestion would be to withhold food for an extended period—around 12 to 24 hours—to allow the intestinal tract to rest, and provide water to ensure your pup is adequately hydrated. Small, bland meals would then be the next step to allow your pup’s sensitive tummy to ease back into solid foods. As always, check with your vet before doing this because some dogs don’t need fasting and doing so could cause more issues, especially if the diarrhea is not acute and followed by vomiting.
If diarrhea happens more frequently and for an extended period, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying cause. If your pet experiences lethargy, vomiting, weakness or other symptoms, in addition to continuing stomach issues, then it may be time to call your vet. Chronic Diarrhea can mean disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), kidney and liver concerns, cancers, or food intolerances. Always defer to your vet to properly diagnose these concerns so that they can be accurately treated.
Your vet may also ask you some questions about the GI upset, including if there is mucus or blood. It may sound a bit off-putting, but stools will tell a story that can be quite important. While you are monitoring your pet at home, make sure to keep track of what they ate before the diarrhea occurred:
- Did they ingest anything non-food related or an item that could upset their stomach?
- How much water did they consume?
- What have their bowel movements been like (consistency and color)?
- How often do they happen?
It can also be quite helpful to save a sample of the stool in the event that it needs testing by your vet. If you have multiple dogs, be sure to check and see if they all have the same symptoms, or is it just affecting one of your furbabies.
When it comes to your dog’s poop, it takes some investigative work to see what their bodies are trying to tell you. Be mindful of what your dog is eating, the regularity of their bowel movements, and how their diet and lifestyle affect their overall health. While some cases of diarrhea may be resolved in a few days, others may require regular management throughout your pet’s lifetime.
Blog Post Written By: Jasmine Kemper
JustFoodForDogs Nutrition Consultant