If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, it can make you feel helpless to watch them be uncomfortable without knowing what to do to help them and make them feel better. One of the biggest concerns pet owners have when their dog is suffering from diarrhea is figuring out what to feed a dog with diarrhea. What should you feed a dog with diarrhea? It is tricky to figure out what to feed your dog without further exacerbating their gastrointestinal issues but also making sure they are getting the nutrition they need. To help answer the question, “What can you feed a dog with diarrhea?” use this as a guide to help diarrhea in dogs, common causes, treatments, and foods to adopt while they have diarrhea to ameliorate their symptoms.
Diarrhea in Dogs
If you own a dog, there is a high probability that your pet has experienced diarrhea at some point during their life. Diarrhea is a common issue among dogs and can stem from a number of different causes. Diarrhea can vary in severity, frequency, and duration depending on the dog and the underlying cause of their diarrhea. Understanding how diarrhea arises, the common causes of diarrhea, symptoms of diarrhea, and warning signs to look for in your dog’s stool will help you to detect any gastrointestinal abnormalities early on.
An Introduction to a Dog’s Digestive System
Many pet owners make the mistake of thinking that their dog digests food the same way that human beings do. While a human being will chew food in their mouth and the enzymes found in human saliva will help to break down that food, the method of eating for dogs is significantly different. The mouth and jaw structure of a dog are designed for dogs to crush, tear, and scarf down their food. While saliva enzymes in the mouth of a human being serve as a tool to break food down, in dogs these salivary enzymes are present primarily to kill bacteria.
This difference is why dogs can often consume foods that would make a human being extremely sick. As a dog eats and swallows, the food they are consuming is transported down their esophagus and into their stomach. Food that reaches the stomach is often still in chunks and upon arrival, the stomach acids will begin to break down the food. It is important to note that canine stomach acids are roughly three times more powerful than those of their human counterparts, which is why they can chew their food far less and still digest it. In a healthy dog, it will take roughly ten hours from when they eat their food until it is processed through the small and large intestines and result in a firm stool. Diarrhea occurs when something disrupts this normal digestion process, resulting in a loose, watery stool. There are a number of different reasons that a dog may develop diarrhea.
Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs
Diarrhea can result from a number of different issues and health conditions and these potential causes can range from not serious to potentially life-threatening. Finding the cause of why your dog is experiencing diarrhea is extremely important for them to get the treatment they need. While some causes of diarrhea in dogs may resolve themselves on their own, there are a number of potential causes that will require the help of a licensed veterinarian to diagnose and treat. Below are a handful of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs.
- Stress or Emotional Upset: Just like their human counterparts, dogs experience stress and can manifest their stress in physical symptoms. If your dog is experiencing stress or emotional upset, it is possible that they may develop diarrhea as a result. For example, if you are moving from the home they have lived in for a significant amount of time and they begin to have their familiar surroundings change, a dog may develop diarrhea as their body processes the stress they are feeling. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from diarrhea as a result of stress, it is best to try to remove any stressors from their environment and give them extra affection. If that does not help, seek the help of a licensed veterinarian to determine the right course of action.
- Change in Diet: If you attempt to change your dog’s food suddenly or rapidly, then they may develop diarrhea as a result. A dog’s digestive system will take time to adjust to a new diet, so it is best to change food gradually over the course of one to two weeks to prevent the appearance of any gastrointestinal issues. If your dog has developed diarrhea due to a rapid diet switch, slow down the rate at which you are transitioning their food so that their stomach can adapt to the new proteins in their food and can digest them properly.
- Food Intolerance: Some dogs may experience diarrhea as a result of a food intolerance. If this is the case, it is important to figure out what food their body is intolerant to so that you can omit it from their diet moving forward. Once they are no longer consuming the food their body is intolerant to, their diarrhea should resolve.
- Antibiotics or Other Medications: A number of different antibiotics and medications can cause diarrhea as a side effect. If diarrhea becomes severe or persists after your dog has stopped taking the antibiotic or medication, it is vital that they see a licensed veterinarian to see if there is another cause for their diarrhea. Pay close attention to them if they develop diarrhea as a side effect of an antibiotic or medication to make sure that they do not become dehydrated or develop any other side effects.
- Food Allergies: Many dogs suffer from food allergies that can present a number of different symptoms, including diarrhea. If you suspect your dog may suffer from canine food allergies, you can work with your veterinarian to determine what allergens your dog is allergic to and then you can remove those allergens from their environment and diet accordingly.
- Dietary Indiscretion: What your dog eats will have a huge effect on their health and how they feel. If a dog is eating in excess of what they need, eating food that is rotten or spoiled or is eating trash, then their body will react accordingly. Many veterinarians refer to this as “garbage gut” or “garbage toxicosis,” because your dog’s body cannot and will not process what it is consuming normally, resulting in diarrhea. To prevent this, make sure your dog eats only fresh foods, control the portions of food your dog eats so that they maintain an ideal weight for their lifestyle, and make sure that all garbage is closed off from your dog.
- Parasites: Several different types of parasites result in diarrhea within dogs that contract them. If your dog has contracted a parasite, it may have a weakened immune system. The most common parasites for a dog to have that will result in diarrhea as a side effect are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia. If you suspect your dog may have a parasite, it is important to bring them to a licensed veterinarian immediately.
- Illnesses: A number of different illnesses can cause your pet to develop diarrhea, including canine inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, kidney and liver disease, and cancer in dogs.
- Poisonous Substances or Plants: If your dog accidentally ingests a poisonous substance or plant, their body may develop diarrhea as it struggles to process the harmful substance. If this is the cause of diarrhea, you need to take your dog to a licensed veterinarian immediately for treatment.
- Swallowing a Foreign Object They Can’t Digest: Unfortunately, sometimes dogs eat things we know they shouldn’t. In some cases, a dog may eat a foreign object that their body cannot digest, such as several socks, a rock, or a toy. If this occurs, they may develop diarrhea as their body struggles to regulate its digestion. If your dog has eaten a foreign object that has become lodged in its digestive tract, they will require veterinary intervention.
- Viruses: Diarrhea can also be caused by a number of common viruses including canine parvovirus, coronavirus, and distemper in dogs. These can be dangerous and it is important to consult a veterinarian to determine the right treatment method.
Treating Diarrhea in Dogs
Finding the right treatment method for your dog will be dependent on what the underlying cause of their diarrhea is. For example, if they have a food allergy, you will need to determine what they are allergic to under the advisement of your dog’s veterinarian, find them a food that does not contain anything they are allergic to, and switch them to their new food. The methods for treating diarrhea can vary widely because of how many different causes it can have.
Feeding a Dog With Diarrhea
It can be extremely difficult to find the right food to feed your dog that will help to abate their diarrhea and will not further upset their stomach. For some dogs, it may be beneficial for them to fast briefly so that their stomach can clear whatever was causing diarrhea to occur and the gastrointestinal tract has the opportunity to settle. Generally, a fast will require withholding food for anywhere between twelve to twenty-four hours. Below are the three basic steps to follow when your dog is having diarrhea:
- Provide access to clean water to prevent dehydration.
- Boiled meat is a safe basic food for your dog. See more detailed list below for other foods to try.
- If symptoms last more than 24 hours, contact your vet immediately.
It is important that the dog is healthy enough to endure a fast. For example, a fast may not be the right choice for a puppy or an elderly dog as they are extremely reliant on nutrients. It is also important to make sure that if your dog is having diarrhea that it has constant access to water, even during a fast. Diarrhea can quickly dehydrate a dog, which can be dangerous. Following a brief fast, it is best to slowly reintroduce foods to your dog that contain binders to help normalize the consistency of your dog’s stool. Below are a handful of foods to feed your dog if he is suffering from diarrhea.
- Canned pumpkin (not pie filling, plain pumpkin) can be effective in helping to treat diarrhea in dogs because it is high in soluble fiber, which will add bulk to your dog’s stool by absorbing water. In addition, pumpkin contains a number of essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, E, and C, potassium, and iron.
- Cottage cheese
- Probiotics are live bacteria that help to regulate digestion and may help some dogs combat diarrhea.
- White rice
- Rice water is made from boiling high-quality rice in water and then draining the water out of the pot to give to your dog.
- Boiled potatoes (without their skin)
- Yogurt can be beneficial for helping a dog suffering from diarrhea if they are able to tolerate dairy products. Yogurt contains bacteria that can have gut healing properties.
- Herbs, such as fennel, are able to help settle upset stomachs and regulate digestion.
- Plain protein can also be a good food source to give a dog that is suffering from diarrhea. For example, you can scramble from eggs (without any butter or oil) or could boil chicken (without skin). These are bland sources of protein that will help your dog’s gut settle while also giving them nutrients.
It is important to keep in mind that the foods you give your pet who is suffering from diarrhea will vary from dog to dog based on a number of different factors. Be sure not to give your dog any foods that they are intolerant of or are allergic to as this will only exacerbate their gastrointestinal distress. It will likely take trial and error to find the right combination of foods to help soothe your dog’s stomach.