Dog Diarrhea: Causes And Treatment

dog diarrhea
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Having a dog means having to deal with diarrhea. The two just go hand in hand. It’s usually messy … but it’s not always serious. Here are some things you need to know about dog diarrhea. This includes how to tell if it’s serious enough to see your vet.

What Is The Most Common Cause of Diarrhea In Dogs?

The number one cause of dog diarrhea is diet. Diarrhea may happen due to a change in diet, your dog eating something he’s not used to. But your dog can also get diarrhea if he’s eating a diet he’s had long term. ER veterinarian Dr Barrie Sands DVM says that many ER visits for dog diarrhea could be avoided. She recommends dogs eat a diverse, flexible whole food, meat-based diet. Dogs who eat the same processed kibble every day are more likely to get diarrhea if they eat (or get into) unusual foods.

Here are some other common causes of dog diarrhea …

Garbage Gut

This can be something your dog got into while counter surfing or raiding the trash can. He can get into trouble from eating something that’s too rich or even just pebbles. Or a pair of socks or Christmas decorations. These can cause irritation to the gut lining and result in diarrhea. Dogs can also get into dangerous substances like medications or recreational drugs, and if that happens, get to your vet quickly.

Viral Or Bacterial Infections

This can happen due to a weakened immune system. About 90% of your dog’s immune system is found in the gut. So if beneficial bacteria is low, problem bacteria or a virus can take over and cause problems. Two common viral diseases in dogs (especially puppies) are parvo and distemper … and diarrhea is often the first symptom that something’s not right. A bacterial infection could be food poisoning from contaminated food. 


Puppies are usually more prone to get parasites but it can happen to any dog. Once again, if the immune system isn’t at its best, parasites can take hold. Parasites include worms like roundworms, hookworms, shipworms and tapeworms, as well as problems like giardia and coccidia.


Have you ever moved or been away from your dog for a few days … added a crying baby to the household? And have you found your dog ends up with a case of diarrhea even though his diet hasn’t changed? That’s your dog’s way of showing stress … diarrhea.

Inflammatory Diseases

If your dog has colitis or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it can cause diarrhea. This is an irritation of the intestinal tract. Although the true cause isn’t known, parasites, weakness in the immune system, bacteria, genetics and food allergies can contribute to IBD.

Metabolic Diseases

These are specific breakdowns in the pancreas, liver or thyroid that can affect digestion and the way food travels through the gastrointestinal tract. 


Drugs, especially antibiotics, can cause diarrhea. Antibiotics kill bacteria … good along with the bad. And that’s a problem because if there aren’t beneficial bacteria to balance harmful bacteria then the immune system is weakened. That results in infections taking hold and can cause diarrhea.

What The Color And Appearance Of Dog Diarrhea Means

Diarrhea can have different appearances and colors. Here are some descriptions that will help you figure out what’s causing your dog’s diarrhea.

Normal Dog Stool
Normal dog stools should be chocolate brown and firm. If your dog is fed a raw diet with raw meaty bones, it may also be somewhat chalky because of the bone content. 

Green Dog Stool
Green colored stool can mean your dog has been eating excessive amounts of grass or vegetation … or it can be a gallbladder issue. Talk to your vet if it continues.

Blue Dog Stool
This is a sign your dog has eaten rat poison which is usually blue. This needs emergency attention, so take your dog to the vet immediately and take a sample of his stool with you if you can.

Orange Or Yellow Dog Stool
Orange or yellow stool can mean your dog has a liver issue, so see your vet if it continues.

Red Streaks In Dog Stool
Blood in the stool may be from an inflamed intestinal tract. You can also check for injuries around your dog’s anus. Straining can cause injury that would release specks of blood into his stool. If it’s consistent and often, there could be a more serious problem. 

Black And Tarry Dog Stool
This is a sign that there could be bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. See your vet if your dog has black, tarry stool.

Gray And Greasy Dog Stool
This might be a problem with the pancreas. Acute pancreatitis requires immediate veterinary care. Read more about pancreatitis.

White Flecks In Dog Stool
If it looks like there are grains of rice in your dog’s stool, it could be tapeworms.

So if you can determine what caused diarrhea in your dog, you can find some ways to manage it. Some chronic issues like metabolic disease and IBD require specific therapies. But for the most part, there’s a dog diarrhea home remedy that should work for your dog. 

When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog’s Diarrhea?

Diarrhea should only last 2 or 3 days in a healthy dog. If it lasts longer, your dog seems sick or if he’s acting abnormally, then you should contact your vet. Here are some things to be aware of.

If your dog has a loose stool but he’s still happy, eating and normal, just keep an eye on his behavior. If diarrhea continues and his demeanor changes … or he becomes lethargic, gets pale gums, can’t hold down food or water … talk to your vet.

Bloody Diarrhea In Dogs
First of all, blood isn’t always a sign of an emergency. If your dog has had diarrhea and has been straining to poop, his intestinal tract can get inflamed and release blood into his poop. There’s a difference between a few streaks of red or pink which isn’t usually a concern … and the actual flow of blood. If the stool is obviously black and tarry, this can be a sign of internal bleeding … so take your dog to your vet.

Loss Of Appetite
Often when a dog is sick he will naturally fast himself for a day or two. That’s usually a good thing as it gives the digestive system a rest. But don’t confuse this with a more serious issue like loss of appetite that goes on for longer. If he’s also lethargic, with a noticeable lack of energy and lack of interest in activities, then check with your vet.

Frequency And Duration

  • If you’ve treated your dog with home remedies that aren’t working … there could be a deeper problem. Time to have your vet check him out.
  • If he’s straining to poop and the amounts are minimal, he could have inflammation of the large bowel.
  • If he’s pooping often with large volumes, it coul be a small bowel disorder
  • If it’s lasting longer than “normal” for your dog … contact your vet.

And here are more signs that something isn’t right. 

Signs That Dog Diarrhea Is Serious

If your dog has 1 or 2 or more of these symptoms, take him in for medical care.

  • Loss of appetite or no interest in food
  • Not drinking or he’s dehydrated
  • Pain or discomfort when you try to move him
  • Pale or dry, tacky gums
  • Blood in his stool (dark, blackish or bright red blood)
  • Vomiting as well as diarrhea
  • Failure to urinate or reduced urination
  • Lethargy or weakness

Other Reasons To See Your Vet

It’s a good idea to check with your vet if your dog is …

  • A puppy, young or very small dog
  • Older or senior dogs
  • A dog with existing health issues like diabetes, Cushing’s or cancer

Diarrhea can make existing health issues worse because nutrients don’t have a chance to pass into the blood stream. And dehydration becomes a problem. Small dogs, puppies and senior dogs can’t survive a lack of nutrients or water for very long at all. 

How To Treat Diarrhea In Dogs

You can often manage dog diarrhea treatment at home … so here’s what to do if your dog has diarrhea

First, you want to be sure your dog isn’t dehydrated. Offer him bone broth to entice him to drink. This will also replenish vitamins and minerals he will have lost from frequent diarrhea.

Note: Dehydration is the biggest risk for a puppy with parvo, and your dog may need subcutaneous or IV fluids. Parvo is a special case needing more intensive care, so read more about how to manage parvo.

Fasting will also help your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract heal. If he doesn’t self-fast, as mentioned earlier, just withhold food for 12 to 24 hours. But don’t fast a puppy, a very small dog or an elderly dog. Instead, you can make a nutritious slurry by blending cooked veggies and chicken or turkey with broth. It will be easier to digest while also providing nutrients. And check with your vet to see what else you can do.

Start Solid Food Slowly
When your dog starts eating solid food again, it’s best to start with a bland diet of cooked ground chicken or turkey with pumpkin, or continue with the slurry, adding more of the solid foods. You want to make sure his digestive system is back to normal before reintroducing his regular diet.

Since diarrhea can be caused by an out-of-balance gut, add probiotics along with prebiotics to your dog’s diet. This will help rebuild the beneficial bacteria in the gut … and support and strengthen the immune system. There’s more detail on how to stop dog diarrhea at the link below.

RELATED: Stop dog diarrhea with these helpful home remedies …

Dog diarrhea is never pleasant but it’s definitely a fact of life with dogs. You can usually handle it on your own. But don’t be afraid to get your vet’s help if your dog isn’t acting like his normal self.


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