Diarrhea, which constitutes any form of soft stool, is a common occurrence among our canine friends. Very often it could result from a food allergy or change in dog food, stress, a side effect of medication or perhaps a side effect of table scraps, raiding the trash, eating something naughty out in the yard or a more serious medical condition. There are various steps for treating a dog's diarrhea.
Assess the situation to determine a possible cause of the diarrhea. For instance, is your dog on medication or did she raid the trash or partake in your pizza? Worms are also a common cause of diarrhea and dogs can easily get worms being outside in the grass around other dogs' feces. Certain worms are visible in the dog's stool (tapeworms look like grains of rice, round worms look like spaghetti) and others are not. If worms are visible, you can purchase an over-the-counter dewormer. However, not all worms are visible and not all can be treated with a dewormer. Intestinal parasites that are not worms such as Giardia can also cause a dog to have diarrhea. A fecal flotation test at the vet's office should detect any kind of worm or other intestinal parasite. Diarrhea can also result from your dog swallowing some type of poison or chemical. If you suspect any type of poison was ingested such as a household cleaning product, plant or food, seek veterinary care immediately (see Resources below for a link to my article on how to protect your dog from poisons). Or it can result from various medical conditions such as colitis, pancreatitis or kidney infection.
Feed your dog smaller portions of a home-cooked, bland diet about 2 to 3 times a day. Start off with white rice and a tablespoon or two of cottage cheese. If your dog won't go for it, you can add some ground beef, but make sure to rinse it off after you cook it to get rid of the fat. Low-fat meats such as boiled chicken or turkey can work also, but beef is actually better. Oatmeal may be substituted for rice and 1 to 3 teaspoons of yogurt can be added to aid in digestion.
Continue to feed the bland diet until the diarrhea clears up and for a few days after.
Wean your dog back to his regular food over the course of a week by working in small amounts of his regular dog food, or if diarrhea is a fairly common occurrence, try switching to a highly digestible or sensitive stomach formula dog food or homemade diet. Many vets also recommend adding a small amount of canned pumpkin to the food on an ongoing basis for an additional source of fiber and to firm up the stool.
If the diarrhea doesn't clear up within a few days of applying the above steps, seek veterinary attention. The vet will take a stool sample and prescribe an antibiotic such as metronidazole (flagyl).
Do not feed your dog table scraps, bones or treats while he has diarrhea to avoid further irritating the intestinal tract. Be sure to keep cleaning products and other chemicals out of reach and try to monitor your dog's activity while outside, especially if lawn fertilizer, insecticides or rat poison have been used. These are all common causes of diarrhea and can be toxic.
If your dog has more than three or four episodes of uncontrollable diarrhea in a 24-hour period or the stool contains blood or is black and tarry, seek veterinary attention immediately. If the diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting, fever, lethargy or your dog is not eating, also seek veterinary attention ASAP. There are various conditions that can cause diarrhea and require a doctor's care such as a viral infection, intestinal parasites or colitis. Check with your veterinarian before administering any over-the-counter human medications such as Imodium A-D, Kaopectate or a holistic remedy. Make sure your dog is getting enough water to avoid dehydration. If she becomes dehydrated, seek veterinary attention immediately.