Diarrhoea in Dogs

Never a pleasant subject, but one that all dog owners have to address from time to time, and in some cases, a lot of the time!

So let’s divide the problem up into the two types of diarrhoea we Vets generally deal with: 

  • short term (acute)
  • long term (chronic)

We’re addressing term (or acute) diarrhoea initially

For many dog owners, it can almost have be predicted; the daily walk took a dramatic turn as your lovely canine companion is noticed rummaging a little bit too long in the undergrowth, or equivalent, coming up for air whilst triumphantly chomping on something unmentionable!  Trouble is coming and no matter how vigilant you are, these days will happen.  The important thing is: what to do next?  As a simple rule of thumb, that evening’s meal could do with being something very bland.  You all have your own home-made version, often chicken or fish and white rice and then just keep your fingers crossed that the ingested ‘grot’ wasn’t too atrocious.  The truth of that though will be told in the next 1-2 days.

Of course, this scavenging behaviour is a mind-set with dogs. By trade, they are hunter scavengers whereas us humans are hunter gatherers.  Both dogs and ourselves overtime have found hunting to be a bit laborious and potentially quite dangerous.  For us, collecting berries and suchlike was considerably easier than hunting; whilst for dogs, finding something that has been rotting for a week or two is their approach.  It’s a testimony to how robust their guts are that they can cope with this; most of the time.  When it goes wrong though the effect is all too obvious, yes that’s right we’re talking diarrhoea.


So why does acute diarrhoea make a dog uncomfortable?

That’s a consequence of dogs being four-legged.  By walking around on four legs it means that their intestines are suspended (via a ligament called the suspensory ligament) from the middle of the back.  When diarrhoea occurs, if it’s severe enough, that causes a rush, ‘the trots’, that can lead to a gut spasm.  That, in turn, pulls on this ligament which can be pretty painful.  It’s what we term colic.  The same happens to us as babies and toddlers crawl around on all fours.  As we grow and move to a sitting and standing position our intestines end up no longer suspended but sagging.  It’s one of the few (very few) advantages of being two-legged – belly pain is relatively uncommon.

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Should I seek veterinary help if my dog is uncomfortable?

Yes!  Whilst it is usually self-limiting, effectively means it should go away in time, colic hurts dogs a lot because of that gut spasm, and of course, we don’t always know what set it off in the first place.  What you can be certain of though, it will have been pretty unpleasant!  There is the possibility as well that the acute signs could be part of a developing pancreatitis, which is a lot more serious.

Usually, we can slow up the gut spasm pretty quickly with medication, and also provide pain relief as well.  If need be the veterinary equivalent of ‘light food’ is also available, we usually use Hills i/d.   

The other major advantage of addressing things early is that the faecal ‘rushes’, which are part of the acute diarrhoea, can be halted, meaning that you save yourself an awful lot of cleaning up, or the need to get up in the middle of the night to let your dog out!

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As for the more chronic, long term diarrhoea, this will be covered in our next blog. Give us a call on 01789 299 455 or fill in our enquiry form over on our contact page and one of our friendly team will be in touch shortly.