What to Do if your Pet Has Diarrhea

puppy on a couch

The digestive process is a normal body function for humans and pets alike. If your pet’s
digestive system is operating normally, he should be passing waste products from his body in
the form of soft but formed bowel movements on a fairly regular basis. However, our animal’s
stomachs are just as sensitive as our own, and it doesn’t take much to upset the balance.

If this happens, your pet could experience extremely loose and watery bowel movements and
may be unable to control when he ‘goes’. This is known as diarrhea and is just as common in
pets as it is in humans. It can cause pain, bloating, excess gas, and be extremely debilitating. It
can also be confusing and even frightening for your pet who probably doesn’t understand why
he is in pain and why he can’t stop pooping.

Fortunately, many cases of pet diarrhea are preventable provided you are able to determine the
underlying cause for the upset. Knowing what to do to support your pet if diarrhea does strike is
also important, as this can help keep him calm and comfortable until it passes or until medical
intervention can be sought.

Causes of pet diarrhea

There are many different conditions that can cause an imbalance in the digestive process and
cause your pet to experience episodes of diarrhea. In most instances, the condition will be
triggered by an intolerance to something that your pet has eaten.

Food allergies are common amongst animals with dairy, wheat, and beef, and they are some of
the most prevalent intolerances that can cause symptoms similar to what a human with irritable
bowel syndrome (IBS) would experience. Sometimes it may even be that your pet has decided
to snack on something that isn’t even edible! This could lead to his body to rejecting it through
vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Another key cause of pet diarrhea is stress. Animals don’t understand what is going on around
them as well as we do, and things like sudden changes in routine, a new baby/family member, a
new pet or even fireworks/Halloween could cause him to become so stressed that he suffers
from diarrhea.

Underlying illnesses and infections are less likely to cause diarrhea, but loose bowel
movements can be a symptom that something more serious is going on with your animal. For
this reason, persistent pet diarrhea should never be ignored.

What should I do if my pet has diarrhea?

If your pet has diarrhea, you shouldn’t panic. Many owners become terrified if their pet is unwell
because their furbaby can’t communicate exactly what is wrong. However, cases of diarrhea are
rarely life-threatening and so long as you seek help promptly, your animal is likely to make a full
recovery.

Nevertheless, here is what you should be doing if your pet is suffering from diarrhea.

Make sure he is drinking enough

When your pet has loose bowel movements, he will be losing water as well as bodily waste. If
he is going through repeated episodes of diarrhea, he could quickly become dehydrated. For
this reason, you should make sure you replace any lost fluids. If he isn’t drinking much, try
offering ice chips as an alternative. Try and monitor how much fluid he is drinking, as we will ask
you at your appointment.

Don’t try and feed him

Many owners worry if their pet stops eating, but this is actually a good thing in pets that have
diarrhea. Your furbaby probably won’t have much of an appetite, but even if he does you should
try and restrict food for at least 24 hours. This should enable what is causing the irritation in the
stomach and/or bowel to pass out and give him time to regain his equilibrium. When you choose
to start reintroducing food, opt for plain, dry meals such as cooked white rice or plain boiled
chicken.

Don’t be tempted to give him anti-diarrhea medication

While there are some human medications that you can share with your pet, it is not advisable to
give your pet anything without the express permission of your veterinarian. Even then, anti-
diarrhea medications could actually trap the irritating bacteria in his system, actually prolonging
the condition and leading to extensive diarrhea.

Watch closely for any symptoms that might signify an emergency

While most cases of diarrhea aren’t serious and resolve themselves fairly quickly, there are a
few scenarios in which immediate veterinary attention is needed. If any of the following
symptoms occur, you must get your pet to a vet immediately:
● Blood in the stools
● Rapid bloating of the stomach
● Rapid heartbeat
● Fast breathing
● Obvious signs of dehydration (sunken, dry eyes, dry nose, and gums, loss of skin
elasticity, panting, lethargy)
● Collapse

If you would like further advice on what to do if your pet has diarrhea, or if you would like to
book an appointment for your pet, call us in our Lake Mary, FL office today to learn more.