How To Effectively Diagnose & Treat Dog Diarrhea

What to Do When Your Dog Has Diarrhea

A dog with diarrhea is not exactly pleasant to be around. The sight and smell alone can be hard to stomach, much less knowing that your four-legged friend may be sick or in pain. Fortunately, in many cases dog diarrhea is due to little more than a change in food or a small parasite. However, it can be an indication that a more serious problem is afoot.


Diarrhea is not an illness that will go unnoticed. If your dog has it, he or she is frequently having either loose or liquid stools. You may also notice

  • Flatulence
  • Straining while going to the bathroom
  • Mucus or blood in the stool

Diarrhea can lead to weight loss and a decrease in appetite in your pet. He or she may also become lethargic and dehydrated.

What Causes Diarrhea?

There are a number of factors that could cause your dog to have diarrhea. If you notice the stool is black, it could be a result of internal bleeding, which requires immediate treatment. More often, diarrhea is a result of one of these common causes:

  • A change in diet or an allergy to a food
  • An infection or parasite
  • Eating something poisonous, spoiled, or even a foreign body, like a toy
  • Diseases of the kidney or liver

Stress and even certain medications can cause diarrhea in your pet as well. Taking your pet to your family veterinarian for an exam will help determine the root of the problem.

When to Call Your Veterinarian

If your dog has diarrhea, there are some initial things that you can do at home. In order to keep your pet from becoming dehydrated, it is important to have fresh, clean water available. If the diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, it is important to call your family veterinarian to schedule an appointment. You should also contact your family veterinarian right away if:

  • Your dog has dark or bloody stools
  • Your dog is lethargic
  • Your dog is vomiting
  • Your dog has experienced weight loss

NOTE: Puppies with diarrhea may actually have a serious disease, and it is best to consult a doctor to treat them as soon as possible.

Treatment Options

At your family veterinarian’s office, the doctor will likely take a stool sample. If you can, bring with you a fresh stool sample (double bag in a container or zip-top bag). This can help determine if there are parasites in your pet’s system. A blood test can also help identify the cause of the issue. If necessary, the veterinarian may order an ultrasound, endoscopy or a biopsy.

Once the veterinarian has figured out what is causing the diarrhea, you may be presented with a few treatment options, including medication or other measures, depending on the cause of diarrhea.

Preventing Problems

You can minimize the risk of your dog getting diarrhea by being proactive. For example, make sure your pet is up to date on yearly fecal exams, all vaccinations and has an annual physical exam. Limit snacks and treats, and do not allow your dog to eat items off the street, like garbage or food. Lastly, if you switch pet food, try gradually introducing it into his or her diet by mixing it with the current food he or she eats.

For further information on specific digestive illnesses, visit our medical library.