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What Is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is characterized by frequent loose or liquid bowel movements. It can be caused by something as simple as a change in diet or a more serious illness or infection.  A single bout of diarrhea is generally not a cause for concern in dogs—but if it persists for more than a day, it can lead to dehydration and may indicate an underlying health issue and should be checked out by a veterinarian.

What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs?

  • Change in diet or food intolerance
  • Ingestion of non-food, garbage, spoiled food, and poisonous items
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Internal parasites
  • Disease, colitis, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  • Certain medications
  • Stress

What Are the General Symptoms of Diarrhea?

Loose or liquid, frequent stools are the most common symptoms of diarrhea in dogs.

Other signs include:

  • Flatulence
  • Blood or mucus in stool
  • Changes in volume of stool
  • Straining to defecate

The following may also accompany diarrhea:

  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urgency to defecate

If your dog’s diarrhea is black, he could be experiencing internal bleeding of the stomach or small intestine and should be examined by a vet immediately.

When Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

Bring your dog to the vet if his diarrhea continues for more than a day, or if you observe:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Dark-colored or bloody stools
  • Straining to defecate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice your puppy has diarrhea, as it can be an important indicator of serious diseases in young dogs.

How Can I Prevent Diarrhea?

Keep in mind that even perfectly healthy dogs will sometimes get diarrhea. Here are tips to reduce the likelihood of occurrence:

  • Keep up to date with your dog’s vaccinations.
  • Make sure your dog is free of parasites by following your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  • Don’t let your dog have access to garbage, spoiled food, etc.
  • When walking your dog, watch that he does not eat anything off the street, does not eat plant material or drink from puddles.
  • Minimize stress in your dog’s environment.
  • If you decide to switch your dog’s food, it’s a good idea to introduce it gradually, mixing it with his current food to ensure an easier transition for your pet’s GI tract.