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Help! My Dog has Diarrhoea. What Can I Do? Part 1

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by Nick Thompson

Part 1: Acute, Sudden Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea – difficult to spell, but easy to understand. No one wants to know about it, or even discuss it, until it comes visiting, and then they want it gone.

We’re going to give you an easy-to-understand guide to sorting these episodes out as quickly, safely and naturally as possible.

First, definitions: ‘diarrhoea’ (spelt in the US as ‘diarrhea’) comes from the Greek, meaning, dia – “through”, and rheo, “flow”. Says it all, really. It is defined as ‘loose, watery stools (bowel movements, aka poos). It’s uncomfortable, potentially dangerous and can really change your relationship with your dog, depending on how expensive your living room carpet is.

Second – is this a new thing, a one-off, once in a blue moon, or has the dog been loose for over two weeks? The former is called acute diarrhoea, the latter, chronic. Vets approach them differently. In this piece, part 1, we’ll look at acute diarrhoea. In part 2, we’ll look at chronic diarrhoea.

Acute/Sudden Diarrhoea

Acute diarrhoea, if not too bad, is pretty common. If the dog has raided the bins or eaten the wrong food, most owners are familiar with mild, self-limiting squidgy poos. The old approach was to starve for 24 hours, then put them on chicken and rice for a few days. Today, we find chicken to be the cause of some gut sensitivity, and rice too, come to that. We’d suggest white fish and quinoa (buckwheat or amaranth are also good), or just green veggies if you can’t get these more exotic options. Don’t starve your dog. Meat to veg should be fed at about 80:20 proportions. Feed until the dog is well, then keep going for 2-3 days to allow things to really settle.

With acute diarrhoea, if the dog is bright and not particularly affected by the problem, just follow the advice above, and most will improve. Adding a bit of marshmallow or slippery elm powder can be a useful addition, too (½ tsp per 10kg bodyweight with each meal daily).

If the acute diarrhoea persists for more than a week, and the dog is fine, then probably worth getting them checked. If they go off colour at all before the week is out (sluggish, hunched or off their food), then get them to the vet that day. They may be dehydrated from fluid loss. This can make them feel poorly. When they’re like this, they may not fancy drinking, so compounding the dehydration leading to a potentially dangerous vicious cycle. They may need medication or intravenous fluids, so get them to the vet the same day.

Vets, when presented with mild diarrhoea, will generally give you a probiotic and something to bind the stool if they can find no other complications. This, with some good nutrition advice, is often all that’s needed. Metronidazole may be discussed but should be declined unless needed critically.

If the dog is not well, unfortunately, this potent drug, which massively injures the delicate microbiome, might have to be used. Puppies often get diarrhoea. The same rules apply as above. Antibiotics should be avoided unless the welfare of the puppy is at stake.

If you can take a stool sample with you when you take your acute or chronic diarrhoea dog in to the vet, it may help the them select the antibiotic most beneficial to the condition and least damaging to your dog’s gut bugs. Vets can also, if necessary, look for the presence of worms and other bugs like Giardia or Coccidia, which can present with sudden onset or recurrent ‘squits’.

Raw Fed?

If a dog is raw fed, my experience is (and that of thousands of raw feeding owners I’ve spoken to) that they get fewer diarrhoea issues than kibble fed dogs. If they do happen to get an acute bout, follow the guidance above, but put them on to the blandest raw food you’ve got. Tripe, if you know they’re good on it, is often a go-to in this scenario. It’s easy to digest, very appetising and probiotic. Don’t use it unless you know the dog is 110% fine with it, from recent experience. If in doubt, go for bland raw turkey, pork or fish products, but, again, only if you know these meats really sit well with their digestion.

Overall

Most mild acute diarrhoea will sort itself out. If you’re wise enough to feed raw, you won’t see this messy disease half as often as the kibble fed dog.

Why? The thinking is that the raw fed dog has a minute, but steady stream of beneficial bugs going through the gut every single day from their raw food. Kibble-fed dogs have much less because they are eating a sterile, ultra-processed product. Kibble cannot continually prime, tone and educate the canine immune system, unlike raw food.

If you have an acute diarrhoea dog, before panicking, look at how the dog is. If they’re well, then you’ve got a few days to give bland food, not starve, and see how they go. If you’re feeding either food type (raw or kibble) and you’re looking at a sick dog, then you must get them seen ASAP.

See Part 2, where we talk about dogs with chronic, long-term diarrhoea.

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