Dogs

Diarrhea in dogs – how to help and what to feed a dog with diarrhea

If you are a dog owner, you know that diarrhea happens more often than we would like. It’s an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. So let’s take a closer look at the main causes of diarrhea in dogs, how can you help your dog at home, and when to call a vet. 

I know that diarrhea can be especially anxiety-inducing when you have a puppy. Here is everything you need to know about puppy diarrhea

If your dog has any kind of bowel problem that lasts longer than 1-2 days, I would recommend taking him to a vet.

It’s also good to note the frequency, stool color, consistency (yes, there are different shapes 🙂 ), and anything else that might help you describe it to your vet in case you need to.

You should always be careful when handling a dog with diarrhea. There are several diseases you can catch from your dog. So please be careful, especially if you have small kids.


While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.


Most common causes of diarrhea in dogs

Diarrhea is a symptom, not a disease.

It can be caused by several health problems:

  • infection (bacteria or viruses)
  • parasites 
  • diet (sudden change in diet, food intolerance, garbage or rotten food, eating too much …)
  • ingestion of toxins or poisonous plants
  • medication
  • stress 
  • ingestion of a foreign body (for example a toy)
  • underlying illness: hormonal disease, diet, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, acute pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney or liver disease, cancer…

As you can see, diarrhea in dogs can be caused by many things and we need further tests to determine the real cause. 

Acute diarrhea in dogs is mostly caused by

  • infection (bacteria or viruses)
  • parasites 
  • diet (sudden change in diet, food intolerance, garbage or rotten food, eating too much …).

However, if it doesn’t get better over 2-3 days, you need to see a vet for further diagnostics. 

puppy diarrhea - why does puppy stool color matter

What to feed a dog with diarrhea

A lot of the cases will resolve after a few days of home treatment. But you can always play it safe and give your vet a call, just to be on the safe side 🙂

Your dog should have access to fresh water all the time (this is a general rule, not just in case of a health problem). Diarrhea in dogs can cause severe dehydration, so make sure your dog is drinking enough fluids. 

Here are a few things you can try at home:

1. Fasting:

Withholding food for 24h hours is the most common intervention. It’s supposed to let the gastrointestinal tract settle and recover. 

BUT: 

  • it’s not suitable for puppies 
  • your dog needs to be healthy (if your dog has a pre-existing medical condition consult fasting with your vet)
  • I would be careful with fasting senior dogs, please talk to your vet before you try it
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2. Home-cooked diet:

Your dog needs frequent small amounts of bland, low-fat meals for 24-72 hours. 

Assuming diarrhea stops, you can reintroduce his normal diet gradually over 3-5 days. 

Examples of a home-cooked diet:

  • 1 part cooked rice + 1 part boiled lean meat (turkey or chicken, shredded into small pieces), boiled eggs, or cottage cheese
  • Pumpkin puree (100% pumpkin puree from a grocery store, or home-cooked)
  • Boiled potatoes without skin – mashed

I wouldn’t put an exact number on the amount. Just give him small amounts every few hours. 

3. Specially formulated veterinary prescription diets:

There are a few veterinary diets specially formulated for dogs with GI issues (such as Royal Canin or Hill’s prescription diet). Talk to your vet about which one is best for your dog. 

When to take your dog to a vet

Whenever you have the feeling that something’s not quite right. You know your pup, trust your instincts ☺️

But also, see your vet if your dog:

  • has any bowel problems for longer than 48 hours
  • has other symptoms such as vomiting, dry or pale gums, fever…
  • shows signs of lethargy, weakness, or dehydration
  • has blood in the stool
  • the stool is very dark or yellow
  • is taking medication (antibiotics…) or has an existing medical condition
  • wasn’t dewormed for a longer time
  • isn’t vaccinated 

If your dog isn’t vaccinated against parvovirus infection, any sudden change in your pup’s bowel movement is a potential warning sign.

How is the cause of diarrhea in dogs diagnosed?

Since diarrhea is a symptom that can mean many different things, we look at your dog’s medical history, clinical signs, results of blood and stool tests, and predisposing factors. Sometimes further diagnostic tools like X-rays or Ultrasound are needed.

When you take your pup to a vet, it’s good to know when the problem started, and what else is/was happening (any other signs, behavior changes, changes at home…).

It’s also good to note the frequency, color, consistency, and anything else that might help you describe it to your vet in case you need to. And yes, we vets do find those gross photos really helpful 😃

In case of diarrhea in dogs, we will also need a stool sample.

How do vets treat diarrhea in dogs?

Since diarrhea is a symptom, treatment depends on the cause.

Treatment will vary depending on the cause from supportive treatment, probiotics, deworming products, antibiotics, and medications to surgery or hospitalization.

There are several veterinary diets for dogs with gastrointestinal problems (for example Hill’s prescription diets or Royal Canin veterinary diets). Your vet will advise you on which diet is best for your dog.

Fresh and clean water is very important. Dehydration can lead to collapse and can be potentially life-threatening. So make sure your pup is drinking enough. If not, contact your vet.

Please don’t buy any products by yourself, talk to your veterinarian about what’s best for your dog.

Although diarrhea in dogs is an unpleasant problem, it usually resolves after a few days of home treatment. However, you know your dog best, so if something seems “off”, it’s better to call your vet. 

Good luck 🙂

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2 Comments

  • nia

    Awww! I hope this doesn’t happen to my dog but this was really helpful to know in case it does. Thank you for this!

  • Rachel

    Great ideas for the home cooked options! My dog loved pumpkin puree when he was sick and it helped his digestion! Didn’t know they can have cottage cheese, will keep that in mind if it comes up again!

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