When your dog has diarrhea, you mostly just want it to stop, but you need to do a little detective work to figure out the cause, as the treatment can take very different paths, depending on the cause.
Acute dog diarrhea is that which lasts only a short time, and is usually caused by your dog eating something that doesn't agree with his tummy. Diarrhea is actually part of the body's defense mechanism, ridding the system of the toxic substance. It can be helpful to allow your dog to continue with the diarrhea until his system is cleansed. In this case, your treatment will center on keeping the dog from getting dehydrated by providing plenty of fresh water, but very little else.
Chronic dog diarrhea occurs when there are bigger problems. Chronic diarrhea is much less common than acute cases, and it usually lasts longer than a week or two. It may be caused by something simple like food allergies, or it may point to a harder-to-treat problem like inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis. Certain parasites like whipworms and roundworms may also cause diarrhea. Treatment of chronic diarrhea involves getting rid of the underlying problem, perhaps by using medications and a special diet.
You likely clean the messes out of your yard on a somewhat sporadic basis, particularly if you live in a very snowy climate. However, when your dog has diarrhea, it is important to clean up quickly so that no other animal has the opportunity to investigate the puddle of stool. In the event that the diarrhea is caused by an infection, it can be passed to your other pets, as well as to wild animals through the stool.
As you are cleaning up, look for worms in the stool, which can be an important diagnostic tool for your veterinarian. You should also note the texture, amount, and color of the stool and tell your vet if you cannot bring a sample to the office. Certain infections will cause the stool to have certain characteristics that can help your vet to isolate the cause.
Finally, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and any implements you used for clean-up. Use warm water and soap on your hands and lather for at least 20 seconds to kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present. Dip clean-up tools in bleach or alcohol to kill germs. Some of the bugs that cause dog diarrhea can infect humans, as well, so don't take a chance - wash up promptly after any possible exposure.
To help your dog get over a case of diarrhea, it helps to cut the amount of fat and foods that can cause further upset. In humans, pediatricians often recommend the BRAT diet, which can be modified to help your dog regain his normal bowel habits. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. For a day or two, this diet will be fine for your dog, but you may want to add some boiled chicken if you keep the dog on this diet for longer than 48 hours to provide for his protein needs.
For the first day or two, your dog's stomach is likely to be upset, and he may not have much of an appetite. Don't force feed the animal, and if you have more than one dog, you may want to feed the ill dog in another room so he won't eat just to prevent the other dog from getting all the food. As long as your dog is drinking water, you don't need to worry. He will begin eating again in a few days, as the stomach heals itself and rids the body of toxins.
If your dog stops drinking or develops signs of dehydration, it is time to check with the vet. Your vet may recommend prescription medications or may ask you to dose your pet with over-the-counter human remedies to stop the diarrhea. Pepto-Bismol for dog diarrhea, as well as Immodium and Kaopectate or their generic equivalents can be effective in treating your dog's diarrhea. You should only use these medications with the full knowledge and recommendation of your vet, as they may interact with other medications your dog is taking.
The biggest danger of dog diarrhea is often the dehydration that can follow. This is particularly important if your dog is vomiting and has diarrhea. You can monitor your dog's water balance with a few simple tests. The dog's nose should be moist, as should his gums. If they are not, your dog needs fluids. If you pinch a little bit of skin at the back of the dog's neck, it should go back to it's normal shape within a second or two. If it remains tented, your dog needs fluids. Finally, pay attention to how often your dog is relieving his bladder. If urination stops, he is not getting enough fluids to offset the fluids being lost through diarrhea.
Once your dog is willing to eat, you will want to provide very bland foods at first, then work your way back to a normal diet. Continue feeding the BRAT diet, with supplemental boiled chicken until the diarrhea completely stops. Once your dog begins having more normal stools, you might begin adding yogurt to restore the helpful bacteria which the diarrhea likely has washed from your dog's intestinal tract. Then you might add mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, and sweet potatoes, one at a time.
As long as your dog tolerates each addition, keep adding a wider variety of vegetables. After a few days, you might want to try a half portion of the dog's regular food mixed with boiled chicken and some vegetables. If the dog tolerates that without any more diarrhea, you can revert to a more normal diet.
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