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Diarrhea in Dogs - When is It an Emergency?

Diarrhea in Dogs - When is It an Emergency?

Unexplained diarrhea can be a spooky experience for Visalia dog owners. Today, the vets at Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services explain some common causes of diarrhea, what to do if your dog's stool is bloody, and when it's time to call an emergency vet.

The Dog Days of Diarrhea

Us vets at Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services treat our fair share of Visalia dogs suffering from diarrhea.

This is to be expected, mild bouts of diarrhea are very common in dogs and can be caused by mild intestinal distress. Often times intestinal distress is directly tied to food: whether it be an adverse reaction to your dog eating a small amount of something that doesn't agree with them, such as table scraps, or from switching to a new brand of dog food that isn't right for them.

That said, there are also a number of more serious reasons why your dog could have diarrhea, some of which will require veterinary attention immediately.

What are the common causes of Diarrhea in dogs?

Below are some of the most common reasons for diarrhea in dogs:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Change in diet or treats
  • Eating garbage or spoiled food
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones, and fabric
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons
  • Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus
  • Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia
  • Bacterial infections - such as salmonella
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Medications such as antibiotics

With such a wide array of potential causes, it can be difficult to know when your dog's symptoms are reasons to contact your vet, read on for advice to help you decide when a case of diarrhea is worth a visit to the doctor.

What if there is blood in my dog's diarrhea?

The most straightforward indication that you should consider contacting your vet is when your dog's diarrhea is bloody. There are two types of bloody stool to look out for when your dog is experiencing diarrhea

Hematochezia results from bleeding in the lower digestive tract or colon. It is bright red in color and indicates certain potential medical complications.

Melena is blood that has been digested or swallowed. This dark, sticky, almost jelly-like blood indicates that a serious problem in your dog's upper digestive tract might be to blame.

Singular streaks of blood are often a fluke. However, if the bleeding is consistently present or if the bleeding is in larger amounts, that is a clear indicator of a much bigger problem, such as a viral or bacterial infection, parvovirus, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and even cancer.

If you find blood in your dog's stool, in any amount, it is always best to contact your vet, describing exactly what you have observed will allow your vet to give you detailed instructions on what you should be watching for, and if it makes sense for your dog to come in for a visit based on their symptoms.

When is diarrhea reason to contact an emergency vet? 

If your dog has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your canine companion has two or more bouts of diarrhea.

If your dog is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your dog is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious, and life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your dog is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your dog has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your dog is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.

How is Diarrhea in dogs treated?

Never give your dog human medications without consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to dogs.

If your dog has had one or two runny or soft stools, you may want to give your dog some time to recover by simply fasting for 12 - 24 hours.

A bland diet for a day or two may help to resolve your dog's issue. Plain-cooked white rice with a little chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling) may help to make your dog's tummy feel better. Once your dog feels better gradually reintroduce their regular food.

Other things that might help to soothe your dog's upset tummy include natural yogurt, probiotics, peeled boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, egg with no oil added, specially formulated dog foods, and medications prescribed by your vet.

When it comes to your dog's health it is usually best to err on the side of caution. By taking your dog in for an examination you give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your dog's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

If your dog has diarrhea, contact our Visalia vets to book an examination for your dog. Our vets at Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services have experience in diagnosing and treating the causes of diarrhea in dogs.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from Visalia and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

(559) 739-7054 Contact