Not Your Average Dog Food
If you’ve cared for a dog, you’ve probably seen your dog having diarrhoea at some point.
It’s no surprise, given that diarrhoea in dogs is one of the most common conditions veterinarians come across.1 Studies show that up to 28.6% of dogs experienced diarrhoea within the previous month2, but most often, it’s uncomplicated and resolves within two days. Only 37.4% of dogs with diarrhoea are taken to a veterinarian, usually when it’s lasted for more than two days.3
10 important at-home care tips for when your dog has diarrhoea
If your dog has severe or chronic diarrhoea, shows other signs of being unwell, or is in a susceptible group (e.g., puppies, elderly, unvaccinated), it’s important to have them assessed by a veterinarian.
Yet, only 10% dogs with diarrhoea may require veterinary treatment, and most often, diarrhoea is mild and self-limiting.4 Such cases of uncomplicated diarrhoea resolve within 1-5 days once the cause is addressed or if symptoms are treated.5 If you’ve gone through Part 1 of this series on diarrhoea - What causes diarrhoea in dogs?, you should be able to understand the type and potential cause of diarrhoea. If you’ve determined that your dog has mild or uncomplicated acute diarrhoea, you can follow some simple steps at home to help them recover.
1. Pick a spot for them to recover that is easy to access and clean.
Give them ample opportunity to rest, by providing them with a quiet and comfortable area. Pick a well-ventilated spot that is close to an exit for emergencies, and one that is easy to clean up after any accidents.
2. Frequently offer water to drink to prevent dehydration.
Even acute diarrhoea could become serious rather quickly due to dehydration caused by fluid loss. Be sure to offer your dog small volumes of water frequently to maintain a healthy hydration status.6-8
3. Avoid rich foods and don’t give medications or supplements without veterinary advice.
Avoid fatty foods, treats and snacks for now as they can be harder to digest. Also, never give your dog any over the counter medications (e.g., anti-diarrhoeal) or supplements without veterinarian recommendation, as many over-the-counter products used in humans are toxic and dangerous for your dog.6-9
4. Consult your veterinarian before considering withholding food from your dog.
You may have read information online that recommends withholding food from your dog if they have diarrhoea, but it’s important to understand that it’s not a blanket statement.
Fasting isn’t recommended in puppies as they may deteriorate very quickly, and any puppy with diarrhoea should be assessed by a veterinarian. Similarly, adult dogs with chronic diarrhoea shouldn’t be fasted as these cases are usually more complicated and require veterinary expertise to understand the underlying cause before treating it.10
There are mixed recommendations on whether adult dogs with mild or uncomplicated diarrhoea should be fasted initially for 6-24 hours. Some veterinarians suggest that this prevents overworking the gut and allows your dog’s digestive system to rest and recover, while other veterinarians recommend avoiding fasting entirely as evidence suggests nutritional support improves recovery of both, the gut, and the patient.5-8 Always contact your veterinarian before considering withholding food from your dog, as they will recommend the best course of action.
5. For acute small bowel diarrhoea, use a ‘bland food’ diet approach.
If your dog’s diarrhoea started suddenly, they don’t strain or without much change in the frequency of defecation, and they pass watery, dark, and potentially fatty/frothy looking faeces, they likely have ‘acute small bowel diarrhoea’.7, 8, 11
To help them recover, feed your dog simple, highly digestible, bland food, in the form of small and frequent meals. A common recommendation is a low-fat, single protein and simple carbohydrate combination such as boiled white rice and lean, skinless, boneless chicken, fed in small portions 3-6 times a day. Other options include tofu, lean beef, white fish, turkey, boiled egg, peeled boiled potatoes, tapioca, and porridge oatmeal, however, always check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet. Keep in mind that this isn’t nutritionally complete and balanced, and is only recommended while your dog’s gut is still recovering.5, 6, 8, 9, 12
6. For acute large bowel diarrhoea, use a ‘high dietary fibre’ diet approach.
If your dog’s diarrhoea started suddenly, they are passing small amounts of semi-formed faeces, more often and after straining, with either blood and/or mucus in it, they likely have ‘acute large bowel diarrhoea’.7, 8, 11
Increasing soluble and insoluble dietary fibre in the food may help the gut recover and reduce straining. Common recommendations for dietary fibre sources are adding canned pumpkin or unflavoured psyllium (e.g., 1 tsp/10 kg body weight) to your dog’s food. This may also help if your dog has stress-induced diarrhoea.5, 6, 12
7. When you aren’t sure what type of acute diarrhoea your dog may have, use a ‘high dietary fibre, bland food’ diet approach.
If your dog’s diarrhoea started suddenly, but you find the symptoms harder to differentiate or they show some symptoms of both, small and large bowel diarrhoea, it’s possible that they have ‘mixed bowel diarrhoea’.7, 8, 11
Prepare a meal that combines strategies addressing both types of diarrhoea with a low-fat, simple, bland meal with added dietary fibre (e.g., boiled white rice and lean, skinless, boneless chicken, with added unflavoured psyllium mucilloid).12 Ask your veterinarian for recommendations of a psyllium mucilloid supplement and the dosage.
8. Ask your veterinarian about probiotics, prebiotics or synbiotics for your dog.
In humans, probiotics and prebiotics may support immunity and gut health, including helping prevent or treat certain types of diarrhoea.13-15 Research shows mixed results in dogs, and the use of different strains, small number of trial participants and confounding factors makes it harder to compare results from different studies.16
Based on currently available evidence, many veterinarians may recommend probiotics, prebiotics or synbiotics for dogs with diarrhoea as they may show potential for preventing or improving clinical symptoms. They may prevent or reduce diarrhoea associated with stress or antibiotic-use, and may reduce the duration or severity of acute or chronic diarrhoea in some dogs.5, 7, 10, 17-24
9. After recovery, ensure a slow transition to their usual diet.
Once your dog shows signs of recovery, don’t rush to move them back to their usual diet. Instead, gradually re-introduce their usual food by mixing it into their bland diet, and slowly increasing the proportion of their usual food. 6, 9
10. Trust your gut - when in doubt, always seek veterinary help.
If your dog shows other signs of being unwell, isn’t responding to supportive at-home care, or if it’s been more than two days of diarrhoea without improvement, it’s time to take your dog to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will ask you some questions to understand the type and cause of diarrhoea, and based upon the information you provide, they will determine what diagnostic and laboratory tests are required and the best treatment options for your dog.
Your veterinarian may recommend dietary changes or prescribe medications to stop the diarrhoea, maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, support repair and recovery of the gut, kill any infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, protozoa), deworm, reduce inflammation, or suppress the immune response.5, 7, 8, 10, 25
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Ilume’s meals are nutritionally balanced, fresh, and gently cooked using natural, whole, and high-quality ingredients. Gentle on the gut and soothing to the soul, ilume can change your dog’s relationship with their food.
Don’t take our word for it. ilume customers vouch for the difference it has made to the health and well-being of their dog, whether that’s an obvious excitement at mealtime, improvement in their poos, better gut health, improved skin and coat health, or a happier and healthier dog.
- O’Neill DG, James H, Brodbelt DC, Church DB, Pegram C. Prevalence of commonly diagnosed disorders in UK dogs under primary veterinary care: results and applications. BMC Veterinary Research. 2021/02/17 2021;17(1):69. doi:10.1186/s12917-021-02775-3
- Stavisky J, Pinchbeck GL, German AJ, et al. Prevalence of canine enteric coronavirus in a cross-sectional survey of dogs presenting at veterinary practices. Vet Microbiol. Jan 6 2010;140(1-2):18-24. doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2009.07.012
- Pugh CA, Bronsvoort BMC, Handel IG, et al. Incidence rates and risk factor analyses for owner reported vomiting and diarrhoea in Labrador Retrievers - findings from the Dogslife Cohort. Prev Vet Med. May 1 2017;140:19-29. doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2017.02.014
- Hubbard K, Skelly BJ, McKelvie J, Wood JL. Risk of vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. Vet Rec. Dec 1 2007;161(22):755-7. doi:10.1136/vr.161.22.755
- Armstrong J, Intervention G. Approach to diagnosis and therapy of the patient with acute diarrhea. Todays Vet Prac. 2013:20-56.
- Turner DB. Your Dog Has Diarrhea: What to Do and NOT Do. Preventive Vet. https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/your-dog-has-diarrhea-what-to-do
- Marks SL. Diarrhea. Canine and feline gastroenterology. 2013:99.
- Battersby I, Harvey A. Differential diagnosis and treatment of acute diarrhoea in the dog and cat. In Practice. 2006;28(8):480-488. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/inpract.28.8.480
- Newsletter CUCoVMsD. Diarrhea: Worry or wait? Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/health-info/diarrhea
- Hall E. Canine diarrhoea: a rational approach to diagnostic and therapeutic dilemmas. In Practice. 2009;31(1):8-16. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/inpract.31.1.8
- Stavisky J, Radford AD, Gaskell R, et al. A case-control study of pathogen and lifestyle risk factors for diarrhoea in dogs. Prev Vet Med. May 1 2011;99(2-4):185-92. doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2011.02.009
- Coates J. Using Diet to Treat Diarrhoea in Dogs. PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/jcoates/2013/july/using-diet-to-treat-diarrhea-in-dogs-30647
- Mandal A, Sahi PK. Probiotics for diarrhea in children. Journal of Medical Research and Innovation. 2017;1(2):AV5-AV12.
- Li Y, Xia S, Jiang X, et al. Gut Microbiota and Diarrhea: An Updated Review. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021;11:625210. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2021.625210
- Yang B, Lu P, Li MX, et al. A meta-analysis of the effects of probiotics and synbiotics in children with acute diarrhea. Medicine (Baltimore). Sep 2019;98(37):e16618. doi:10.1097/md.0000000000016618
- ugan MC, Rudinsky AJ, Parker VJ, Gilor C. Use of probiotics in small animal veterinary medicine. J Am Vet Med Assoc. Mar 1 2017;250(5):519-528. doi:10.2460/javma.250.5.519
- Sivamaruthi BS, Kesika P, Chaiyasut C. Influence of Probiotic Supplementation on Health Status of the Dogs: A Review. Applied Sciences. 2021;11(23):11384.
- Schmitz S, Suchodolski J. Understanding the canine intestinal microbiota and its modification by pro-, pre- and synbiotics - what is the evidence? Vet Med Sci. May 2016;2(2):71-94. doi:10.1002/vms3.17
- Nixon SL, Rose L, Muller AT. Efficacy of an orally administered anti-diarrheal probiotic paste (Pro-Kolin Advanced) in dogs with acute diarrhea: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical study. J Vet Intern Med. May 2019;33(3):1286-1294. doi:10.1111/jvim.15481
- Rose L, Rose J, Gosling S, Holmes M. Efficacy of a Probiotic-Prebiotic Supplement on Incidence of Diarrhea in a Dog Shelter: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Vet Intern Med. Mar 2017;31(2):377-382. doi:10.1111/jvim.14666
- Aktas MS, Borku MK, Ozkanlar Y. Efficacy of Saccharomyces boulardii as a probiotic in dogs. Bull Vet Inst Pulawy. 2007;51:365-369.
- D'Angelo S, Fracassi F, Bresciani F, et al. Effect of Saccharomyces boulardii in dog with chronic enteropathies: double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. Vet Rec. Mar 3 2018;182(9):258. doi:10.1136/vr.104241
- Rossi G, Pengo G, Caldin M, et al. Comparison of Microbiological, Histological, and Immunomodulatory Parameters in Response to Treatment with Either Combination Therapy with Prednisone and Metronidazole or Probiotic VSL#3 Strains in Dogs with Idiopathic Inflammatory Bowel Disease. PLOS ONE. 2014;9(4):e94699. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094699
- Kelley RL, Minikhiem D, Kiely B, et al. Clinical benefits of probiotic canine-derived Bifidobacterium animalis strain AHC7 in dogs with acute idiopathic diarrhea. Vet Ther. Fall 2009;10(3):121-30.
- Westermarck E. Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs: What Do We Actually Know About It? Top Companion Anim Med. Jun 2016;31(2):78-84. doi:10.1053/j.tcam.2016.03.001