Loose stools can be caused by triggers such as dietary indiscretion, parasites, infections, stress, or ingestion of poisonous objects and while dogs can have loose stools and still be relatively healthy, it is important to find the cause and treat it together with your vet. We have also prepared a list of reviews of digestive enzymes for dogs which can be very helpful.
Causes of loose stools in dogs
Discussing the stools of your dog is not something any pet parents likes to bring up, but if you do own a dog, chances are you’ve already cleaned up more doggie runs than you’d like to admit. It’s completely normal for you to fear that something is wrong with your beloved pet once you notice irregular bowel movements, and in this article, we will explore this subject in-depth.
Loose stools or diarrhea is a very common canine affliction and it varies greatly in duration, frequency, and intensity from dog to dog. The way in which dogs digest food differs from the way humans do. While humans have a jaw shape and salivary enzymes made for breaking down a morsel in the mouth, dogs have jaws made for crushing, tearing, and wolfing food down.
Food travels faster down the canine esophagus and it enters the stomachs in bigger chunks. The stomach acids in the canine digestive system are up to three times stronger than those of humans, and that allows your canine companion to digest food that is almost intact.
Under normal circumstances, the transit time of the food from the mouth through the small and large intestines should be under 10 hours and produce a stool that is firm and well-formed at the end.
Many things can end up disrupting this system and cause diarrhea. Some such as eating too much grass are not serious while others can be signs of a life-threatening problem which is why it is always important to take note of how frequent your dog has loose stools.
While there are many reasons why a dog may develop loose stools, most causes can be attributed to the following triggers.
Dietary indiscretion is a common cause and it means that your canine pet eats too much or gorges on garbage and spoiled food. Veterinarians also name this “garbage toxicosis” or “garbage gut.” A purposeful change in diet can also lead to loose stools.
Parasites are also known for being a major trigger for loose stools and intestinal worms, in particular, can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, causing frequent and intense diarrhea. These parasites are most frequently present in younger dogs.
Puppies are also prone to viral or bacterial infections which is why if you have a young dog, you will need to pay particular attention to them if they suffer from loose stools. Unlike adult dogs, puppies are very fragile and diarrhea can be very taxing to their small bodies, which is why for puppies, the presence of loose stools should immediately make you call the vet.
Just as is the case with people, stress, anxiety or excitement can also be a trigger and cause lower bowel irritation or colitis. Furthermore, loose stools may also indicate that your dog suffers from metabolic diseases such as disorders of the liver, thyroid or pancreas.
Swallowing poisonous substances, plants, and medication or indigestible foreign bodies such as toys or socks may also upset the stomach of your pet. Some of these triggers may resolve on their own with simple supportive care while others may require specific therapy. It is important to know what the cause of the loose stool is before beginning to administer a remedy.
Types of dog diarrhea
A soft loose stool can be an indication of a change in diet, or it may mean that your pet has eaten more than it should have. When changing your dog’s diet, you need to monitor any changes in poop and alter the diet if you don’t notice any improvement. Soft, loose stools can also indicate giardia or other intestinal parasites.
When your pet is having three to five bowel movements a day and producing high volumes of diarrhea each time, the cause is likely a problem in the small intestine. This can be triggered by an injury, a viral infection, food allergies or bacteria.
If your pet has watery diarrhea in high volume you will need to bring a sample of the stool (preferably as soon as possible) to the vet for testing to determine the cause of the problem.
On the other hand, if your canine companion is producing more than five bowel movements a day and produces a low volume of diarrhea each time, the problem is probably in the large intestine. Your vet is the one who once again should determine the cause since the problem can be more complex and a homemade remedy may not be able to help.
Most cases of loose stools are mild and can be treated with the advice of your vet without a trip to the office. A short period of fasting between 12 to 24 hours and providing water in small amounts but frequently can allow the gastrointestinal tract to settle. This is the advice most vets will offer for mild cases of doggie diarrhea.
With that said, before deciding on a fast, you will need to make sure that your pet is healthy enough to endure it. Elderly dogs and puppies, for example, need nutrients and fasting might not be appropriate for them.
Puppies and old dogs do not have the physical reserves of a dog in its prime, so it is best to follow other recommendations from your vet if he or she does not consider that your pet is strong enough to handle fasting.
After the fast, you will need to reintroduce food slowly and many owners start with binders because they can normalize stool consistency. You can boil a few cups of high-quality rice in a lot of water, remove the grain and offer your pet the white soup that’s left. You may also add a bit of baby food or a splash of broth to make it more palatable.
Other foods that can help soothe stomach problems include boiled potatoes without the skin, cottage cheese, canned pumpkin, plain protein sources such as chicken or eggs, and certain herbs such as fennel.
You can also purchase specially formulated dog foods since many brands offer alternatives that feature ingredients specifically designed to soothe the stomach of your pet. These options may also be packed with probiotics and other digestive enzymes that can aid digestion. While you can find such products over the counter, the best one can be obtained from your vet.
You will need to remember that there is no single method that will work for all dogs, and in cases of mild loose stools that don’t require a trip to the vet you will need to do a little experimentation until you find the right formula.
Once you find a recovery diet that agrees with your dog, you should make sure to write it down since if loose stools happen rarely it is very easy to forget what worked the last time.
Know when it’s time to visit the vet
Trips to the vet can be expensive but not taking your dog to see a specialist when it needs it the most can lead to your pet’s condition getting even worse which in turn will require even more expensive care and medication. The right time to contact a vet depends from dog to dog since each pet parent will know what’s normal and what’s not for their pet.
There are, however, some benchmarks that can suggest when it is time to take your pet to a quick visit to the vet. Symptoms to keep your eye out for include lethargy, vomiting, fever, dry, tacky or pale gums, or general weakness.
Diarrhea that does not stop despite you trying home remedies that have worked in the past is another clear sign that a trip to a specialist is warranted. As a general rule, if the loose stools continue for more than a few days, you will need to take action and find the root of the problem together with the vet.
Furthermore, existing conditions such as diabetes, old age, cancer or any other medical issues can make your pet more vulnerable. In these situations, it is best to trust your instinct and call for professional help the moment you feel something is wrong.