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Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea is the most common sign of intestinal disease and results with the small intestines cannot absorb the proper amount of material, when they secrete too much fluid or both. Generally dehydration and electrolyte imbalances occur.

There are several causes of diarrhea. Eating spoiled food, ingesting of foreign material, dietary changes, food allergies, infection (viral, bacterial or fungal), parasite, and toxins are generally the most common ones.

Most pets with mild illness will recover with minimal treatment and therefore only a physical examination and fecal analysis is needed for their assessment. Patients with moderate illness are more likely to have metabolic abnormalities, so more lab tests, x-rays and endoscopy may be needed.

Patients with mild illness are usually treated as outpatients by dietary management, antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medications and, if needed, oral rehydration. Patients with moderate to severe illness may be hospitalized for more intense treatment. Their treatment may include: IV fluid therapy to hydrate the patient and replace lost electrolytes and balance their pH, motility drugs to help the patient slow down the intestines so more fluid is absorbed, antibiotics to decrease abnormal bacteria, pain medication for cramping, and dietary modifications.

If your pet has a sudden onset of diarrhea, restrict their food intake for at least 24 hours; then gradually increase intake. Frequently offer small portions of a bland diet that consists mainly of carbohydrates and protein. Avoid fats and lactose. Bland diets include commercial prescription diets and boiled rice, tapioca, macaroni, or potatoes, combined with boiled lean meat (e.g., chicken and hamburger), eggs, cottage cheese, or yogurt. Once the diarrhea resolves, the diet can then be gradually changed back to the patient’s regular diet.

If the diarrhea persists, or if the animal’s condition worsens…

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