Dog diarrhea is caused by a number of factors, ranging from simple digestive issues to serious illnesses. It is common health condition characterized by loose bowel movements and abdominal pains.
While most cases are mild and easily treated at home with natural remedies, others could be a sign of more serious problems.
Diarrhea that develops suddenly in an otherwise healthy dog is often due to scavenging behavior, stress, a sudden change in diet, or viral, bacterial or parasitic infections.
More chronic diarrhea can be caused by dietary allergies or intolerances, stress, some types of parasites , bacterial infections, pancreatic disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, some types of cancer, and diseases outside of the gastrointestinal tract.
1. Dietary indiscretion
The most common cause of diarrhea in dogs is what veterinarians call dietary indiscretion. This means that the dog has eaten something other than normal dog food. Leftovers, food that is partly rotten, grease from the barbecue grill, and more: many dogs love to get into and eat what they shouldn’t, and it often leaves them with diarrhea.
There’s actually a name for it in veterinary circles—“garbage toxicosis” or “garbage gut.”
2. Change in diet
Dogs that experience a quick change in diet often develop diarrhea (and sometimes vomiting). This happens commonly when people feel that their dog is bored with a certain diet or when they introduce new treats. If a dog’s diet needs to be changed, it should always be done gradually so as not to induce gastrointestinal upset.
It may take a few days for a dog’s digestive system to adapt to new proteins. That’s why many dog-food manufacturers recommend that you go slow when you switch from one brand of food to another.
3. Food intolerance
Food intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies may cause diarrhea in dogs. Skin involvement, such as scratching, redness, and hair loss is also commonly seen in association with these conditions. One example of a food intolerance is that many dogs are lactose intolerant and develop diarrhea when given milk products.
Parasites are frequently diagnosed in dogs with diarrhea, especially puppies. Hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms are all parasites that cause dog diarrhea. Coccidia and giardia are single-celled organisms that are common causes of diarrhea in dogs as well.
5. Swallowing an indigestible foreign body, like a toy or a dozen or more socks
If a dog ingests something that isn’t edible, it is called a foreign body, and this can cause diarrhea (and often vomiting and decreased appetite). A foreign body may be a ball, stick, rock, toy, cloth, or any other non-food object that a dog may eat.
6. Infections with common viruses
Viral infections of the gastrointestinal system can cause diarrhea in dogs. The most common of these are parvovirus, distemper virus, and coronavirus. These illnesses are all more common in very young puppies or, in the cases of parvovirus and distemper, unvaccinated dogs.
7. Bacterial infections
Salmonella, E.coli, Clostridia, and Campylobacter are among the most common of the bacteria that cause intestinal infections and diarrhea in dogs. They are most often diagnosed in very young dogs and those that have conditions that cause immunosuppression. Dogs on raw food diets may be more susceptible to bacterial infections than other dogs, as well.
Inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, causes diarrhea in many dogs that suffer from it. This condition often causes vomiting and lack of appetite. Pancreatitis is commonly caused when dogs get into or are given a food item that is high in fat. If the dog is not used to this, pancreatitis can occur as a result. This causes pain, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, and sometimes other organ involvement.
9. Illnesses, such as kidney and liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer
Chronic diarrhea, loss of appetite, and vomiting can be signs of more serious issues occurring within your dog’s body. Diseases of the digestive tract or the surrounding organs can cause bloody stools, painful bowel movements and many other debilitating side effects.
Conditions like inflammatory bowel syndrome may result from sensitivity to certain foods or allergies. IBS is the inflammation of a dog’s intestines that can cause chronic diarrhea, vomiting, gas, upset stomach, fatigue and weight loss. IBS can affect dogs of all ages, but it is commonly found in older dogs and certain breeds who are predisposed to digestive issues. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and other potent medication can also contribute to dogs with loose stools.
10. Poisonous substances or plants
Sudden diarrhea is one of the first symptoms of dog poisoning. Stomach discomfort is common after your dog has eaten a toxic substance. Lead-based products, poisonous plants, and household products are some of the few things that can result in gastrointestinal problems. These substances are dangerous and can cause a real health scare if left untreated. When your dog ingests these toxins, the body naturally wants to expel the poison, which leads to detoxification processes of vomiting and diarrhea. Always ask your vet in the case of dogs with diarrhea.
You can find toxic products all over your house. Things such as chocolate, human medications, mushrooms, laundry detergents, chalk, charcoal and plants can be very harmful to your pet if ingested.
11. Stress or emotional upset
Dogs that experience stress often develop diarrhea. This is most common in puppies just coming into a new home or dogs in shelters. It is also a common occurrence when new animals are brought into the home or a person in the household leaves or has a new schedule.
12. Antibiotics and other medications
Along with helping cure infections, antibiotics are also known to cause the runs. Gastrointestinal problems are common side effects of antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to kill harmful bacteria in our bodies caused by infections. However, antibiotics kill not only the bad bacteria but good bacteria as well. “Good” bacteria is needed to balance the digestive system, without them your dog will experience stomach discomfort and cramps. Antibiotics can disrupt this bacterial balance and result in diarrhea during and after your dog’s antibiotic treatment.