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Treating Acute Diarrhea And Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs
David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Dogs commonly develop acute diarrhea. Because we are all concerned about our dog's welfare, we often run them in to see the veterinarian at the first signs of diarrhea. This is usually not necessary, and often will end up being detrimental to the dog if antibiotics are needlessly prescribed. Chronic diarrhea is less common, but is more serious and will require more effort to correct. First, lets look at acute diarrhea.

Acute Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea starts suddenly and lasts for a few days to a week or two. Most cases of acute diarrhea can be handled at home.

When do you need to take your dog to see the veterinarian? Look at how they are acting. Dogs that can be watched at home will act reasonably fine the whole time. They eat, drink, play, and have fairly normal energy. Of course, everyone with diarrhea will not feel 100% normal, so expect your dog to be a bit "off" until the diarrhea resolves.

Let's begin by defining what we mean when we say that a dog has diarrhea. Diarrhea, in the minds of many people, means a watery stool. Actually, the definition is much broader, and includes any abnormal stool that is softer than normal. This includes watery stools, straining and trying to defecate and only passing gas, soft-formed stools, soft stools with abnormal color or odor, and "cow pie" type stools.

In our canine friends, consumption of items found around their "world" is common. It is in the nature of a dog to eat many things we would never eat. Dogs are omnivores that are primarily carnivorous... with a touch of scavenger thrown in! This makes them prone to eat some things, both digestible and indigestible (for example, sticks and stones) that do not agree with them. The result: diarrhea.

They will commonly vomit a few times as well as have diarrhea, again, to clear their body of the unwanted toxins. Diarrhea purges the body of harmful or unwanted toxins, not a true "disease".

Dogs will naturally develop diarrhea as a means to return themselves to health. Acute diarrhea is usually a healthy, healing process, not a disease. So, now that we know that this is not a problem, and in fact it is a healthy reaction to help them heal themselves, what should we do?

Most cases are easy to treat at home and don't require a visit to the veterinarian. After all, we don't run to the doctor every time we have a touch of diarrhea.

If your dog has diarrhea and seems to be reasonably strong, happy and active, simply follow these guidelines:

  • Cut the amount of food you are feeding in half
  • Feed home cooked bland diets; they are vastly superior to the commercial bland diets promoted by many veterinarians
  • Bland foods include:
    • 1/3 meat
      • Cooked meats that are very low in fat such as chicken (you can also boil hamburger, which will remove all the fat)
    • 2/3 rice or other bland grain
      • Cottage Cheese
      • White Rice (some will do better on cooked oatmeal)
    • Do not add any oils or fats to the diet at this point
  • To the Bland Food, add:
  • Yogurt 1-3 tablespoons per meal (yogurt is soothing but does not really provide any significant beneficial bacteria.... see our information about Lactobacillus sporogenes)
  • Provide a probiotic. We recommend Lactobacillus Sporgenes, click here to order
  • Boiled Sweet Potato: 2-4 tablespoons
  • Consider giving Gastriplex if your dog has repeated bouts (click here to order Gastriplex)

Keep feeding this bland diet for at least a couple days after the diarrhea clears up.

When should you take your dog to the veterinarian? If your dog seems to:

  • Act very sick
  • Be lethargic
  • Show bloating or abdominal pain
  • Be feverish (Rectal temperatures above 103.5 degrees F)
  • Be dehydrated (one way to try to decide if a dog is dehydrated is to feel his or her gums... if they feel dry or tacky, there may be dehydration present)
  • Have persistent vomiting
  • Be passing large amounts of blood in the stool

Chronic Diarrhea

Dogs with healthy digestive systems should be able to eat a large variety of foods, including raw foods, without developing diarrhea. Dogs that need to eat special foods to keep from having diarrhea are not healthy. Don't ignore the symptoms by feeding hypoallergenic or bland diets. Find out what the problem is and fix it. Our Phone Consult service can help.

Chronic diarrhea means:

  • Diarrhea, with one or more of these symptoms:
    • Watery stools
    • Soft-Formed Stools
    • Mucus coated stools
    • Blood coated stools
    • A normal stool followed by a soft stool
  • The diarrhea could be continual
  • The diarrhea can also be off and on, with some good days followed by some bad days
  • Your dog might act sick during the worst bouts of diarrhea, while other dogs might act normal the whole time
  • As the problem continues, dogs can loose weight, develop a rough coat, become lethargic, or lack the zest for life they used to have

Long-standing diarrhea can become a severely debilitating disorder. Over time, the body loses valuable nutrients (maldigestion), becomes depleted of immune system functions, and becomes toxic (25% of the body's detoxification mechanism resides in the intestinal lining). This cycle of events damages the body's ability to repair itself. Secondary disorders often develop which worsen the prognosis. Because of the chronic damage to the rest of the body, there are not enough immune function and metabolic products to heal the intestines. Thus we have a cycle of deterioration that can be very hard to reverse.

Conventional medicine often fails to heal chronic diarrhea. Its approach tends to follow along a couple lines. First, the dog is fed foods that are extremely bland and easy to digest, often called "hypoallergenic diets".

Acute diarrhea is a process the body uses to heal itself, not a disease. Don't be alarmed if your dog is acting reasonably well. This healing reaction should be supported, using our suggestions, not inhibited by the use of antibiotics or over the counter drugs designed to stop diarrhea.

This may help for a short time, but the body needs complex nutrients for optimal health - nutrients that are destroyed by the extreme processing employed in making commercial diets.

Secondly, conventional veterinary medicine relies on multiple courses of antibiotics, often combined with immune suppressive drugs (corticosteroids, for example). Unfortunately, many cases are only palliated, not cured, and over time the dog will worsen. This is an excellent example where holistic therapies can help cure your dog.

The causes of chronic diarrhea include:

  1. Leaky Gut Syndrome
  2. Intestinal parasites, especially whipworms (tapeworms are usually harmless) and more rarely roundworms and coccidia.
  3. Giardia, Clostridium, bacteria (these are usually secondary infections, see also Paraguard for treatment of Giardia)
  4. Food Allergies (this is usually secondary to the Leaky Gut Syndrome)
  5. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  7. Chronic digestion of foods and indigestible objects such as rocks and sticks
  8. Organic diseases such as liver disease, thyroid disease and kidney disease
  9. Dysbiosis (a relatively permanent alteration from a normal intestinal microbial flora to an abnormal bacterial, fungal or protozoal population)

As you can see, there are many problems that need to be addressed to heal these patients. Our guidelines can help many patients, but severe cases need a knowledgeable holistic doctor. For phone consults, click here

Products To Aid In Healing Dogs With Chronic Diarrhea

Read about Chronic Diarrhea, click here
  1. Gastriplex - intestinal healing formula
  2. Lactobacillus sporogenes - beneficial bacteria
  3. Ultraclear Sustain - complex nutraceutical formula to heal the gut
  4. MediBulk - beneficial fiber that also absorbs toxins
  5. Similase - digestive enzyme support
  6. Paraguard - antimicrobial products that may help with Giardia, bacteria and protozoans
  7. Dipan 9 - Pancreatic digestive enzyme
Dr. Dave McCluggage, founder of, was Holistic Veterinarian for the Year 2000, click here to read his biography.
Contact Information, click here.
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