Loose or runny stool in dogs is a common problem that can be caused by an innocuous dietary indiscretion or a significant medical issue. Our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team offers dog diarrhea details, so you know when to seek veterinary care for your four-legged friend’s gastrointestinal (GI) upset.

Dog diarrhea causes

Numerous issues can lead to loose or runny stool. Common causes include:

  • Dietary change — Any sudden change in your dog’s diet can lead to GI upset, including diarrhea. 
  • Garbage gut — Some dogs can’t resist investigating and eating discarded items that may irritate their GI tract.
  • Parasites — Intestinal parasites, such as hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia, can cause diarrhea.
  • Infection — Bacterial and viral infections can lead to diarrhea. Viruses, such as parvovirus and canine distemper, are particularly concerning in puppies.
  • Food allergy — Food allergies typically cause dermatitis issues for dogs but can also lead to GI upset.
  • Stress — Some dogs develop diarrhea in stressful situations, such as traveling, boarding, and visiting the veterinarian.
  • Toxicity — Toxin ingestion can cause diarrhea in dogs.
  • Foreign body — A dog who ingests a foreign body that results in a GI obstruction can get diarrhea.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — IBD leads to an intestinal inflammation that causes chronic diarrhea.
  • Hyperthermia — Dangerously high body temperatures can damage the GI lining, leading to diarrhea.
  • Cancer — Cancer, especially conditions that affect the GI tract, can cause diarrhea.
  • Pancreatitis — Pancreatitis inhibits digestive enzyme function, which leads to loose or runny stool.

Dog diarrhea color

Your dog’s feces color can help determine the cause of their diarrhea. Consider the following:

  • Green — Excessive grass consumption or a gallbladder problem can cause green feces.
  • Orange or yellow — Excess bile can color feces orange or yellow, which indicates a liver or biliary issue.
  • Red streaks — Red streaks in your dog’s feces means they are bleeding from their lower GI tract or anus.
  • Black and tarry — Black, tarry feces means your dog is bleeding from their upper GI tract.
  • Gray and greasy — A pancreas or biliary issue can cause grey, greasy feces.

Dog diarrhea emergency

If your dog has a diarrhea episode but otherwise seems normal, you can likely monitor their condition and treat them at home. Circumstances when you should seek immediate veterinary care include:

  • Your dog is a puppy or a senior citizen
  • Your dog has an existing medical condition
  • You know or suspect your dog was exposed to a toxin
  • You know or suspect your dog ingested a foreign body
  • Your dog has blood in their feces
  • Your dog suffered a trauma
  • Your dog’s temperature is above 104 degrees
  • Your dog has other signs, such as lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, and abdominal distention or pain

You should also seek veterinary care if your dog’s diarrhea doesn’t resolve after 24 to 48 hours. 

Dog diarrhea at-home treatment

If your dog’s diarrhea doesn’t require immediate veterinary attention, you can take the following at-home treatment steps:

  • Withhold food — Withhold food to let your pet’s GI tract rest, but ensure they have access to clean, fresh water to help prevent dehydration.
  • Feed a bland diet — If your dog’s diarrhea seems to resolve after 12 to 24 hours, offer a small amount of bland food, such as cooked white rice and plain boiled chicken breast. If they tolerate this well for 24 to 48 hours, you can switch them back to their regular food.
  • Avoid medication — Never medicate your dog without seeking advice from our veterinary team to avoid a potential toxicity.

Dog diarrhea prevention

Not every diarrhea case can be prevented, but you can decrease your dog’s diarrhea risk by:

  • Vaccinating your dog — Keep vaccines up to date to protect your dog from diseases that can cause diarrhea.
  • Securing your garbage — Keep your garbage in secure closed containers to prevent dumpster diving.
  • Keeping counters clear — Keep food in closed containers, behind closed doors, or on high shelves to prevent counter surfing.
  • Avoiding table scraps — Feed your dog only a well-balanced diet meant for their life stage, plus occasional nutritious treats, such as cucumbers, green beans, and baby carrots.
  • Switching food carefully — If you change your dog’s food, switch gradually over 7 to 10 days.
  • Reading ingredients — Before you feed your dog a new product, check the label to ensure the product does not contain pet toxins or allergy-inducing ingredients.
  • Providing year-round parasite control — Provide year-round parasite control to protect your dog from intestinal parasites.
  • Scheduling regular wellness checks — Ensure your dog sees a veterinarian at least once a year to detect conditions that need appropriate management to prevent diarrhea.

If your dog’s feces are runny or loose, contact our Westerville Veterinary Clinic, so we can determine the cause and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.