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When to Worry About Your Dog’s Diarrhea

It’s not a topic anyone likes to discuss, but if you own a dog, chances are you have found yourself cleaning up a stinky brown puddle more than you’d care to think about. However, keeping an eye on our dog’s stools is an important way we monitor their health. While we usually can’t predict the onset, as owners, we need to become familiar with the different types of stools and learn the possible causes to help our vets pinpoint the problem. It’s important to know that Diarrhea is not a disease but rather a symptom of various concerns.


Common reasons for Diarrhea can include:

  • Intestinal infections from bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Parasites
  • Eating garbage or spoiled food
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Change in diet or treats
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones, and fabric
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons
  • Medications such as antibiotics

Another cause of an upset stomach is consuming inappropriate items, such as garbage, household materials or human food that is not suitable for dogs.


Acute Diarrhea can usually be treated at home. The common suggestion would be to withhold food for 12 to 24 hours, to allow the intestinal tract to rest, and provide water to ensure your pup is adequately hydrated. Small, bland meals should then be given to allow your pup’s sensitive tummy to ease back into solid foods. A bland diet is easily prepared by boiling unseasoned chicken breast with plain white rice (NO BONE, NO SKIN). Drain off any residual fat after cooking and don’t add salt or seasoning. Feed your dog a bland diet until the next day. If Diarrhea begins to improve, your dog has a good appetite, and there’s no vomiting, you can start to gradually add your dog’s normal food to the bland diet mixture. Call your vet if Diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours.

If your dog is still eating and drinking, that’s good sign. Never give over-the-counter or prescription medications without your vet’s advice. As always, check with your vet before doing any at home treatments because some dogs don’t need fasting and doing so could cause more issues, especially if the Diarrhea is not acute and followed by vomiting.

When to be concerned

If Diarrhea happens more frequently and for an extended period, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying cause. If your pet experiences lethargy, vomiting, weakness or other symptoms, in addition to continuing stomach issues, then it may be time to call your vet.

Chronic Diarrhea can mean disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), kidney/liver concerns, cancers, or food intolerances. Always defer to your vet to properly diagnose these concerns so that they can be accurately treated. If your dog has Diarrhea, try to collect a sample to take to your vet later. Make a note of the stool’s consistency and color. Is it watery? Pudding-like? Formed but soft? Is there blood present? Mucus? Is it black and/or tarry? Do you see pieces of toys, clothing, or other inedible material in it? Color can indicate a lot about what is going on inside your dog’s gut. Chocolate brown is normal, while colors like orange, green, or gray may signify issues with such organs as liver, gall bladder, or pancreas. Black tarry stool is very serious and may point to internal bleeding. If you see this, contact your vet as soon as possible.

When to call a vet ASAP

If any of the following circumstances apply, contact your vet immediately:

  • Episodes of Diarrhea that repeat over several hours
  • Extreme lethargy or lack of responsiveness
  • You suspect your dog has ingested a toxin
  • Their stool is black/has a tarry appearance
  • Your dog’s gums are pale, white, blueing, or gray in color
  • Your dog’s abdomen seems painful and/or distended
  • You see worms in their stool
  • Diarrhea occurs for more than 24 hours.

If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our office at (318) 686-5945.