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It’s not a topic anyone likes to discuss, but if you own a dog, chances are you’ve found yourself cleaning up a smelly mess of dog diarrhea. Most dogs will experience loose stool or diarrhea at some point in their life. Diarrhea is a common dog condition and it varies in frequency, duration, and intensity from dog to dog.

You might not be able to totally prevent your dog’s diarrhea, but knowing why dogs get diarrhea might help limit the number times your dog has an unpleasant episode. Sometimes you’ll know the cause of your dog’s digestive problems; for instance, when they are something that they shouldn’t have. But in some cases, diarrhea in dogs can be a cause for concern.

It can be helpful to have dog diarrhea treatment on hand when this strikes. Dog diarrhea medicine and anti-diarrhea supplements for dogs can be helpful, depending on the cause of diarrhea.

Why Dogs Get Diarrhea

There are several differences between the way dogs and people digest food. Enzymes in our mouths break down food while it’s still in our mouths. Dogs’ mouths and jaws are made for wolfing down food, and their enzymes mostly kill bacteria. This is why they can tolerate things in their mouths — food or otherwise — that would send humans to the hospital.

Food travels rapidly down the dog’s esophagus and enters their stomach in chunks, where most digestion takes place. A dog’s stomach acids are about three times stronger than those of people, so they can digest food that is pretty much whole. Under normal circumstances, the time it takes for food to get from a dog’s mouth and through the small and large intestines should be under 10 hours, with the end result being a firm, well-formed poop.

Top Causes of Dog Diarrhea

Many things can disrupt this well-balanced canine digestive system, causing dogs to have diarrhea or constipation. Some causes, like eating too much grass, are not serious at all. (Some dogs really enjoy grazing on grass.) Others causes can be life-threatening problems, such as an indigestible object (like a rock) lodged in the stomach, or a disease like cancer.

German Shepherd puppy exploring in the grass.
©Lisovyleo -

When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian. There are many reasons why a dog may develop loose stools or diarrhea, and sometimes the cause is clear. But in other cases, it can require further investigation. Common causes of dog diarrhea include eating what they shouldn’t, whether it’s too much food or spoiled food, changes in diet, food intolerance or allergies. 

But other factors can cause diarrhea in dogs. Parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, can cause diarrhea. Other illnesses, like Coccidia, Giardia, Parvovirus, and Distemper, could also be the cause. If you can’t identify the cause of your dog’s diarrhea, it persists over a few days, or it’s accompanied by other symptoms, talk to your veterinarian about next steps. Not all of these diarrhea treatments will be helpful if your dog’s diarrhea is linked to something more serious, like kidney and liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.  

Stress and other medication can also cause dog diarrhea. Change in schedule or diet can be things that cause dogs stress. Diarrhea can also be a side effect of another medication, so if your dog is on antibiotics or other medication, check with your veterinarian to see if diarrhea is a potential side effect.  

How Poop Reflects Your Dog’s Health

The consistency and color of diarrhea reveal a lot about the cause of the diarrhea and what is happening in your dog’s gut. Take careful note of the color, consistency, and anything else that might help you describe your dog’s symptoms to a vet. In many cases, dog diarrhea will resolve after a few days of home treatment, but it’s a good idea to give your vet a call if it continues any longer, or you don’t know why they’re having it.

Knowing the normal color, shape, and consistency of your dog’s poop will help you and your vet figure out what is wrong when your dog gets diarrhea. These factors will help your vet determine where the problem is originating along the dog’s digestive tract.

What Dog Poop Should Look Like

A “perfect” dog poop looks chocolate brown, is shaped like a log, compact, and easy to scoop. Experts say it should feel like cookie dough or Play-Doh when pressed. Large volumes of poop, a pudding-like or watery consistency, signs of jelly-like mucus, or blood streaks are all not normal.

Pug pooping outdoors in tall grass.
Jeng_Niamwhan/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

What Does Dog Poop Color Mean?

Color can also indicate a lot about what is going on inside your dog’s gut. Chocolate brown dog poop is normal, while dog poop colors like orange, green, or gray may signify issues with such organs as liver, gall bladder, or pancreas.

Black tarry stool in dogs is very serious, and may point to internal bleeding. If you see black tarry poop or bright red blood in your dog’s poop, contact your vet as soon as possible. Purina has also provided a handy reference—a color wheel of dog poop.

How Often Your Dog Poops

Small amounts of poop with straining, several times in an hour, can be a sign of inflammation of your dog’s large bowel. Three or four dog poops with large volume suggest small bowel disorder.

Objects in Dog Poop

Oddly shaped or colored solid objects can tell you what your dog has gotten into. Several small white rice-like shapes, for example, may signify a tapeworm infestation. Grass, wood, or string could tell you that your dog has eaten something that they couldn’t digest.

As gross as it may seem to look at your dog’s poop while you clean up your backyard or pick up after them on your evening walk, it’s important that you examine your dog’s poop regularly as a gauge for what their normal poop looks like. This way, when you notice something off, or if your dog has diarrhea, you can give your vet as many details as possible.

Armed with this knowledge of what’s normal and abnormal for your dog’s poop, the vet will be able to tell you whether to schedule and exam or whether you can treat your dog’s diarrhea at home.

Dog Diarrhea Treatments

AleksandarNakic/Getty Images Plus

A great many cases of dog diarrhea are mild and, with your vet’s advice, can be treated at home without a trip to their office. There are a number of key ingredients you’ll often find in dog diarrhea treatments, including kaolin and pectin. Kaolin helps to absorb and remove bacterial toxins, while pectin detoxifies, coats, and soothes gastrointestinal membranes.

Many treatments also include probiotics, which promote the growth of good bacteria in your dog’s colon.  Your dog’s diarrhea may respond to a regimen of very basic treatments, which come in a few forms. An over-the-counter dog diarrhea treatment is good to have on hand, and can be ordered online for quick delivery for those occasional bouts of loose stools or diarrhea that every dog can experience.

Dog diarrhea treatments come in many forms, including liquid. Liquid dog diarrhea treatments are a good option for mild digestive problems like vomiting, diarrhea, and gas, when you know the cause of diarrhea and you have the green light from your vet. These are often fast-acting and provide quick relief.

Chewable dog diarrhea treatments and paste diarrhea treatments can make your dog feel like they’re getting a treat. Powder dog diarrhea treatments are a good choice if your pet isn’t good at taking medication. These are often tasteless, and can be sprinkled over your dog’s regular food.

Fasting Your Dog for Diarrhea Relief

Withholding food from your dog for 12 to 24 hours, and frequently providing fresh, clean water in small amounts can help clear the cause of the digestive upset and allow your dog’s gastrointestinal tract to settle. It’s usually the first line of attack for diarrhea. Before you decide to fast your dog for diarrhea, be sure that your dog is healthy enough to handle it—call your vet if you aren’t sure. Puppies and elderly dogs, for example, aren’t candidates for fasting. Also, a fast may not be appropriate for small dogs who do not have the physical reserves of their larger cousins. Always consult your vet if you have any doubt if fasting is right for your dog.

Diarrhea in dogs can lead to dehydration, so make sure to give your dog access to fresh, clean water at all times. You may also offer diluted unflavored Pedialyte to help maintain electrolyte balance, but only under a vet’s advice.

Foods That Can Help Dog Diarrhea

Labrador Retriever being given a stainless steel bowl of food.
©chalabala -

After letting your dog fast for diarrhea relief, simple foods are usually slowly introduced to your dog’s diet. Many dog owners start with foods that act as binders, which can help normalize stool consistency. Some tried-and-true methods include:

  • Boil high-quality white rice in a lot of water, strain out the grains, and offer your dog the cooled-off creamy white, starchy broth that’s left. A splash of unsalted chicken broth or a spoon of meat baby food can make it more palatable.
  • Plain, cooked white rice
  • Pumpkin can help with dog diarrhea. Canned 100% pumpkin puree that you already have on the shelf, pet-safe pumpkin powder, or a pet-specific canned pumpkin for dogs has the odd distinction of being effective both for diarrhea and for constipation. If you purchase canned pumpkin in a grocery store, be sure to read the label to be sure it’s 100% pumpkin and not “pumpkin pie filling” which includes sugar and other ingredients in addition to pumpkin.
  • Plain yogurt with active cultures can help dogs who can tolerate milk and milk products.
  • Probiotics to promote live bacteria that aid digestion (these are also found in yogurt)
  • Boiled potatoes without skin
  • Plain, low-sodium, low-fat cottage cheese
  • Plain protein sources such as egg (cooked with no butter or oil) or chicken (without skin)
  • Herbs, such as fennel, may have gut-soothing properties
  • Some manufacturers offer sensitive stomach dog foods that can soothe stomach problems. You may need to get sensitive digestion prescription dog food with a prescription from your vet.

Methods that work for one dog’s diarrhea may not help another dog, so you might need to do a little experimentation to find the right formula when your dog gets the runs. It might also be helpful to write down what works to stop your dog’s diarrhea and what doesn’t, so you’ll know what to do if your dog gets diarrhea again.

Once you find a recovery diet that agrees with your dog’s digestion and doesn’t cause a diarrhea relapse, you can slowly increase the portions over a period of days, and then start to add small amounts of your dog’s regular food until your dog’s poop is back to normal.

©otsphoto -

Should You Walk a Dog With Diarrhea? 

If your dog is feeling well enough to exercise, it’s fine to talk to them on a walk as usual. Just be sure they have access to clean water to stay hydrated. Just note that doggie cleanup may be a little messier than usual. 

When Should You Worry About Dog Diarrhea?

If your dog has other symptoms — such as lethargy, fever, vomiting, or weakness — in addition to diarrhea, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. You may also want to bring them in for a checkup if diarrhea persists for more than a few days, as your vet may want to check for parasites, infections, or illnesses that could be causing the problem. 

The right time to contact a vet for dog diarrhea depends very much on what’s normal for your dog’s poop habits. Unfortunately, some dogs are more prone to digestive disorders than others, so it helps to be mindful of what is and isn’t out of the ordinary for your individual dog.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.
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