Acute Diarrhea in Dogs

This is Lola, my partner Mark's dog. One of the things that I love about dogs is that every dog we meet has something to teach us. Lola has taught me that no matter how smart or well-behaved a dog is, it is unfair to lock a dog in a truck with a steaming hot rotisserie chicken and expect the dog not to eat the chicken. Unfortunately for Lola (and for us), that volume of rotisserie chicken was too much for Lola, and she suffered from diarrhea throughout that night and the following day.

Acute or sudden onset diarrhea is one of the more common ailments that dogs will come to our clinic for. While sometimes we can identify the cause of the diarrhea (like Lola and the chicken), we often aren't able to determine the underlying cause.  

Most dogs that present with acute diarrhea will have frequent watery brown stools that may have blood or mucous present. These dogs are usually still bright and happy and hungry despite suffering from diarrhea.

For dogs with diarrhea lasting for two days or less that are still feeling bright, happy and hungry, I often recommend feeding small frequent meals of a bland diet for four or five days - my bland diet is usually an equal volume of cooked white rice and low-fat cottage cheese, boiled chicken breast or extra-lean ground beef. I recommend limiting fat intake in dogs with acute diarrhea, so avoid higher fat meats such as chicken thighs or pork. Rice is an ideal carbohydrate to use as it is highly digestible and relatively energy dense, and has some compounds that can decrease the amount of fluid lost in the diarrhea.

For dogs with the following clinical signs, I usually recommend a consultation and physical examination:

  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • blood in the stool
  • low energy level
  • uncomplicated diarrhea lasting more than three days

For these dogs, we may want to consider bloodwork to look for an underlying cause of the diarrhea, or a short course of antibiotics to treat the diarrhea. While many cases of diarrhea will respond to a bland diet, diarrhea can also be a clinical sign of a larger and more complicated disease process such as parvovirus, inflammatory bowel disease or liver disease, so for this reason it is important to work through cases that do not respond to supportive care.

Lola recovered from her episode of diarrhea uneventfully, and we learned a valuable lesson about separating her from the groceries. If your dog has diarrhea and you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at 867-633-5700.