Diarrhea Causes and Treatment in Dogs (cont.)

When Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

Bring your dog to the vet if his diarrhea continues for more than a day, or if you observe lethargy, vomiting, fever, dark-colored or bloody stools, straining to defecate, decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice your puppy has diarrhea, as it can be an important indicator of serious diseases in young dogs.

What Can I Expect at the Vet's Office?

Your veterinarian will examine your dog for underlying illnesses and assess for dehydration. He or she may take a stool sample to check for the presence of internal parasites, as well as conduct blood tests to identify a possible cause of the diarrhea.

Other diagnostic tests might include radiographs, ultrasound, cultures, endoscopy and biopsy. The diagnostic tests performed and treatment recommended will depend on how the long the diarrhea has been going on and the severity of your dog's condition.

Are Certain Dogs Prone to Diarrhea?

There are certain breeds that may be predisposed to developing conditions that lead to diarrhea. German shepherds, for example, are known to have an increased prevalence of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in the breed. Bernese mountain dogs are prone to gastrointestinal cancers. Young dogs are more likely to have infectious and parasitic-related diarrhea than adult dogs.

How Can I Prevent Diarrhea?

Keep in mind that even perfectly healthy dogs will sometimes get diarrhea. Here are tips to reduce the likelihood of occurrence:

  • Keep up to date with your dog's vaccinations.
  • Make sure your dog is free of parasites by following your veterinarian's recommendations.
  • Don't let your dog have access to garbage, spoiled food, etc.
  • When walking your dog, watch that he does not eat anything off the street, does not eat plant material or drink from puddles.
  • Minimize stress in your dog's environment.
  • If you decide to switch your dog's food, it's a good idea to introduce it gradually, mixing it with his current food to ensure an easier transition for your pet's GI tract.

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk.

If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.