Help! My Dog Has Diarrhoea

Updated November 29, 2020

‘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.  Sometimes it’s after eating something that’s off, other times it’s just too much of something new. That’s the subject of this article.

For this to be true, your dog needs to appear completely normal in every other way: no lethargy, no loss of appetite. Please see a vet straight away if there are any other signs of illness.

If you’re not sure of the cause, visit this page for all the common causes of diarrhoea in dogs.

What To Give A Dog For Simple Diarrhoea

For uncomplicated dietary diarrhoea, it’s reasonable to attempt home treatment for the first 24 hours.

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!

Vet Treatment Of Diarrhoea

If there has been no improvement in 24 hours, or there are any other signs of illness, it’s time to visit the vet. Of course, you can go straight away without waiting if you prefer.

Here at Walkerville Vet, we no longer use antibiotics for routine, uncomplicated diarrhoea. Here’s what our new protocol looks like:

Dog Diarrhoea Treatment Plan

dog giardia test
  1. Full physical to check for dehydration or signs of systemic illness. These dogs will be admitted to hospital.
  2. Testing for serious causes of diarrhoea such as parvovirus, coronavirus, Giardia & other parasites, with treatment as necessary.
  3. Dogs with a fever, or blood in the stool or puppies or seniors will receive antibiotics immediately.
  4. 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.
  5. If there’s no improvement after a maximum of two days, antibiotics may be given.

If most dog diarrhoea can be treated without antibiotics, why do many dogs still 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.

Related: Causes of Diarrhoea in Dogs

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
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.


3 Replies to “Help! My Dog Has Diarrhoea”

  1. Thanks for this valuable info.
    As we’re in Tassie we can’t easily get to visit you but would welcome the opportunity to seek your advice about our dog’s problem.
    He’s a 9 year old Boxer who has been suffering with very loose bowel motions for several months now.
    He originally lost appetite and weight and exhibited loose and nasty motions at this time. Bloods revealed a loss of protein. Scan was inconclusive , but led to exploratory surgery which showed nothing. antribiotics including metroniazole over 8 weeks finally got rid of an infection, but seem to have locked us into loose bowel motions forever.
    He gets half a macrolone tab each morning and this keeps his appetite up. We also give a daily dose of Protexin
    We’re using Hills i/d diet (a can of wet and 3 cups of dry daily),but the looseness continues.
    We’ve tried chicken and rice to no effect and also Hills z/d and another special food.
    Nothing works.
    The dog is happy and willing to play at any time.
    His coat is good and general health also.
    His original weight loss has been reversed and he’s a healthy 32.9kg
    He controls his motions but they are very loose emerging in a liquid stream.
    Motions are normal colour and there’s no mucus.
    Any thoughts you might have would be gratefully received
    Peter Hart

    1. Hi Peter. It sounds like you’ve done everything right and the problem is not responding. The best advice I can offer is to seek a referral. I am unsure is a canine internal medicine specialist is available in Tasmania, however. Let me know how you get on.

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