From Pet Health Learning Center
Dog Diarrhea (Canine Diarrhea)
Signs and Symptoms
Diarrhea is a problem that commonly affects dogs. It can arise as a result of a variety of different causes and involves the passing of soft or liquid stools, sometimes with a bad odor. Also, when a dog is suffering diarrhea, it tends to pass such stools with greater frequency and urgency than usual. In addition, a dog that is afflicted with this problem may experience tenderness in its rectal area and may have matted and soiled hair beneath its tail.
Rather than being an actual illness or disease itself, diarrhea is actually a symptom of other problems or conditions. The factors that can lead to diarrhea in dogs are numerous, and often the underlying cause will not be serious and this problem will only affect a pet for a very short period of time, clearing up on its own. However, in some circumstances diarrhea is a sign of a more serious, and occasionally life-threatening, condition.
If your dog is suffering from diarrhea and you are trying to determine whether this is serious or not, there are a number of signs to look for. First of all, if your dog is chronically experiencing diarrhea, he or she should be examined by a veterinarian. In other words, if the diarrhea persists for more than a few days, this could be a sign that the underlying cause could be serious. Moreover, continued diarrhea can lead to dehydration which can have serious health consequences of its own.
Even in cases of acute, short-lived diarrhea there are warning signs that you can look out for in order to determine the seriousness of the situation. For example, if you observe blood in your dog's stool, this is very likely cause for concern. In addition, if your dog has a fever or is suffering from abdominal pain or bloating, you should contact your veterinarian. Lethargy and listlessness along with diarrhea can also be signs that your dog is suffering from an underlying condition that requires attention. If your pet is vomiting as well as experiencing diarrhea you should alert your veterinarian immediately. Finally, if your dog is elderly, suffers from other health problems, or is particularly young, you should always contact a veterinary doctor when a case of diarrhea arises. This is due to the fact that such dogs are particularly prone to the negative effects of dehydration and also because, in the case of puppies, diarrhea can be a symptom of an infection of deadly parasites.
Since so many different factors can give rise to diarrhea, it's not always easy to determine the particular cause in an individual case. However, there are a number of different tests that can be used when attempting to make a diagnosis for a dog that is suffering from diarrhea. Some of these tests include blood tests, fecal tests, x-rays, endoscopies, and ultrasounds.
Blood tests can alert a practitioner to the presence of a variety of conditions that can potentially cause diarrhea in a canine patient. For example, anemia may be a sign that worms such as hookworms are present in the dog's system. Also, abnormal changes to the levels of white blood cells could suggest that a dog is suffering from allergies or an infection. Fecal tests serve a similar purpose, allowing veterinarians to observe whether worms or harmful bacteria are present in the canine's stools.
X-rays, including barium x-rays, can also be a helpful diagnostic tool in situations where diarrhea is troubling a dog. These radiographs can allow veterinary doctors to identify foreign objects in a dog's system, such as toys or other items that a dog may have swallowed. Additionally, x-rays will reveal abnormal masses and irregularities with the intestinal walls. Ultrasounds will also reveal abdominal abnormalities, and this diagnostic tool can be used to identify problems with soft tissue that x-rays do not reveal.
Endoscopy is another diagnostic tool that a veterinarian may employ. This procedure requires anesthesia and involves passing a small scope into the intestine. This allows for examination of the intestine and also allows veterinarians to obtain small samples of the intestinal lining that can then be further studied for problems. Thus, there are a number of different ways that a veterinarian can test for an underlying cause of a dog's diarrhea, although pinpointing a cause in an individual case may not always be possible.
As suggested previously, diarrhea is categorized either as chronic or acute. In chronic cases, symptoms persist for weeks or even months while in acute cases, symptoms arise suddenly and are short-lived. In the majority of cases, canines suffer from the acute form of diarrhea. Healthy adult dogs that are fed once a day tend to defecate once a day. Similarly, adult dogs that are fed twice a day typically defecate twice a day. When experiencing diarrhea, however, dogs need to defecate more frequently and urgently than normal.
In addition to the categorizations of chronic and acute diarrhea, this problem can also be divided on the basis of whether it is related to the large intestine or the small intestine. This distinction can be important as different medical conditions and illnesses can cause diarrhea in different sections of the intestines. When diarrhea comes from the large intestine, a dog may have trouble passing its feces. Furthermore, mucous may accompany the stool. On the other hand, when diarrhea originates from the small intestine, stools tend to be abnormally large and have a particularly bad odor.
The reason that a dog's system may trigger diarrhea to occur is in order to quickly expel toxins from the body, before they have a chance to be absorbed. Sometimes one or two episodes of diarrhea are enough to get rid of these toxins; however, when the underlying cause is more serious the body may continue to react in this manner, providing a warning sign of the triggering illness or medical condition and also leading to other problems such as dehydration.
Causes The potential causes of diarrhea are numerous and range from minor incidents or conditions to more serious and severe illnesses. Many times, diarrhea is caused by something that a dog has eaten. This can include swallowing foreign objects, ingesting garbage, eating food that is of low quality or that has gone bad, or eating food that a dog is allergic to. Toxins such as insecticides can also cause diarrhea, as can contaminated water, intestinal parasites, and viruses. Canines living in kennels are particularly prone to exposure to infectious parasites and to bacteria such as salmonella, which often cause diarrhea. Furthermore, life-threatening illnesses such as cancer have also been known to give rise to diarrhea in some canine patients. Numerous other factors can also trigger diarrhea, and the ones listed above are just a few of the broader and more common causes. If your dog's diarrhea is causing you concern, contact your veterinarian and he or she will be able to determine whether or not the underlying cause of the problem is serious or not.
Treatment The treatment required for a dog suffering from diarrhea will depend upon what is causing the problem for an individual pet. For instance, if parasitic worms are the cause, a deworming treatment will get rid of the parasites and put an end to your pet's diarrhea. However, in non-severe cases where treatment of an underlying condition is not required, there are a number of steps that you, as a pet owner, can take to ease your dog's suffering and to help shorten the length of time that diarrhea will affect your pet.
To begin with, dietary changes can be very helpful and effective. Sometimes reducing your pet's food for a day or two can help to quickly clear up diarrhea. Another technique is to feed your dog a homemade, bland diet until the symptoms have passed. In cases of large intestine-related diarrhea, a high-fiber diet may prove effective. Certain homeopathic remedies and supplements can also provide relief for dogs experiencing diarrhea.
Homeopathic remedies contain natural ingredients, some of which have properties that can effectively reduce the discomfort of diarrhea and the length of time that it lasts for. Natural substances such as barberry and peony, for example, have antibiotic properties that can help to combat diarrhea-causing bacteria. Other ingredients such as ginger, myrrh, and thyme reduce pain, spasms, and inflammation, thereby reducing the troubling symptoms of diarrhea and increasing your pet's comfort.
In most cases, diarrhea will quickly clear up on its own or can be treated quite easily. However, if your dog is showing any signs that its condition may be more serious, or if the diarrhea persists, be sure to alert your veterinarian as soon as possible.