‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Emergency Care
When To See The Vet For Diarrhoea
It’s especially important to see a vet straight away for:
- Puppies, old dogs or those without up-to-date vaccination
- Vomiting, not eating or other signs of illness
- Blood in the stool, excessive diarrhoea or possible poisoning
- Dry, tacky gums or any other sign of dehydration
Now dive deeper…
90% of the diarrhoea we see in dogs has only one cause: eating the wrong thing. That’s the subject of this article. If you’re not sure what it could be, visit this page for all the common causes of diarrhoea in dogs.
Strangely, I want to start by telling you what we should try not to use to treat this type of diarrhoea: antibiotics.
If most dog diarrhoea can be treated without antibiotics, why do many dogs get given a course? You don’t expect antibiotics for yourself, so why does your dog get them?
These simple questions have led to a lot of ethical soul-searching in vets around the world.
Why Dogs Get Antibiotics For Diarrhoea
- It’s effective. It’s quite clear to vets that a particular antibiotic called metronidazole is rapidly effective at stopping the most common sort of diarrhoea. That means less suffering for dogs.
- We know what it’s like. Anyone who’s had a dog with diarrhoea knows what a mess it causes, and we don’t want you to have one more minute of it than you have to.
- People expect it. We’ve been doing this for quite a while and many dog owners have become used to receiving antibiotics.
- We can’t be sure. Sometimes, antibiotics are indeed necessary.
Have we been doing the wrong thing by giving your dog metronidazole? The answer may be yes.
What’s Wrong With Using Antibiotics?
- The dose we use to fix simple diarrhoea could make more troublesome bugs resistant. That means worse diarrhoea like that caused by Giardia may become harder to treat, and even become a problem for humans.
- The normal bacterial population, called the microbiome, is affected by antibiotics and may take several months to recover. This could cause problems such as susceptibility to future infections.
- We could cause adverse effects from using unnecessary drugs.
OK, So What Do We Do?
Firstly, many vets have already stopped using antibiotics for diarrhoea, or never even started, and we salute them. Making clients happy isn’t always the best medicine but taking a different approach can be hard to explain.
Here at Walkerville Vet, we’re no longer going to use antibiotics for routine, uncomplicated diarrhoea. Here’s what our new protocol looks like:
Dog Diarrhoea Treatment Plan
- Full physical to check for dehydration or signs of systemic illness. These dogs will be admitted to hospital.
- Testing for serious causes of diarrhoea such as parvovirus, coronavirus, Giardia & other parasites, with treatment as necessary.
- Dogs with a fever, or blood in the stool or puppies or seniors will receive antibiotics immediately.
- Happy dogs with ‘normal’ diarrhoea, loose stool or mucus will be given a chance to get better with other treatments first. These include prebiotics, probiotics, binders, bland diet and antiemetics.
- If there’s no improvement after a maximum of two days, antibiotics may be given.
What To Give A Dog For Diarrhoea
The best diet for a healthy dog with mild diarrhoea is a bland meal such as minced chicken breast boiled with an equal weight of white rice. Skim off any fat that rises to the top and allow to cool.
Feed smaller than normal meal sizes and see your vet if diarrhoea persists beyond 24 hours. Please do not give any medications such as Imodium® or bismuth (e.g. Pepto Bismol®) without veterinary advice. These drugs only mask the illness, and may actually cause harm.
Sometimes the worst thing about simple diarrhoea in healthy dogs isn’t the effect on the dog. It’s the tremendous, disgusting mess it causes. You are always welcome to let us take your dog for a few days until it passes. We don’t charge too much for hospitalisation and it’s something we’re only too happy to deal with. Just another day at the office!
Related: Causes of Diarrhoea in Dogs
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.