Is anything worse than cleaning up your dog’s diarrhea? When your canine companion develops a case of loose stool, you—and they—want it cleared up ASAP. However, before we can properly treat your dog’s diarrhea, we need to determine the cause. Here are seven of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs.

#1: Your dog experienced a sudden change in diet

An abrupt change in your dog’s diet, whether planned or not, is one of the leading causes of diarrhea. If you run out of your dog’s regular kibble, do not grab a bag of a totally novel diet to tide you over. A major change in ingredients and nutrients can cause a seriously upset stomach in your dog. When you plan to change your dog’s diet, transition gradually taking at least a week to switch from your dog’s current food to their new food, slowly increasing the proportion of new food to current food each day. If your dog still experiences diarrhea despite the gradual transition, they may have a food sensitivity to an ingredient in the new diet. 

#2: Your dog has intestinal parasites

An intestinal parasite infection is another top cause of diarrhea in dogs. All manner of intestinal parasites lurk in the environment, and can easily be contracted from water sources, dirt, and animal feces. Most commonly, intestinal parasites are transmitted via the fecal-oral route, meaning your pet has to ingest fecal material containing the parasite eggs, larvae, or cysts. Infective feces can be in water, on food dishes, or tracked in on your shoes, clothing, or hands. After your pet ingests the parasite eggs or larvae, the invaders set up shop in their gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause diarrhea that can appear frothy, greasy, and bloody, and have large amounts of mucus, or smell particularly foul. A fecal exam will determine the causative parasite so appropriate treatment can be administered. 

#3: Your dog ate a toxic substance

Toxic substances often cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets. Food, household chemicals, plants, and many more items can be hazardous to pets, and may cause diarrhea when ingested. Before you plant a flower garden or share a snack with your furry pal, check the ASPCA’s website for lists of toxic plants and foods.

#4: Your dog has a gastrointestinal foreign body

If your dog is the sort to vacuum up any object in their path—edible or not—they are at an increased risk for developing a GI foreign body that becomes lodged in the GI tract and may cause diarrhea. A GI foreign body can also lead to vomiting, abdominal pain, anorexia, and lethargy. Left untreated, an object blocking your pet’s GI tract can cause necrosis and perforate the intestines, allowing digestive fluid to leak out and cause systemic infection (i.e., sepsis). A GI foreign body is a serious problem that needs immediate removal for your dog’s best prognosis.

#5: Your dog contracted an infection

Bacterial and viral infections are common culprits for canine diarrhea. Potential bacterial infection sources include raw meat and unwashed vegetables—if your dog eats a raw chunk of steak or gnaws on an unwashed garden veggie, they can contract Salmonella or E. coli. These pathogens are notorious for causing GI upset, particularly diarrhea, in affected pets and people. Always cook meat for your dog to the recommended temperature, and scrub fresh veggies thoroughly.

Infectious diseases caused by viruses can largely be prevented through appropriate vaccination. Parvovirus is one of the top offending diarrhea-causing viral infections, but canine distemper, coronavirus, and other rotaviruses can also cause foul-smelling diarrhea. Keep your dog’s recommended vaccinations current to protect them from viral infections that can cause serious illness.

#6: Your dog has a chronic illness

Diarrhea is a common sign associated with kidney or liver disease, and can occasionally appear in dogs with other chronic conditions, such as hypoadrenocorticism and diabetes. Chronic illnesses can often be successfully managed with regular veterinary check-ups, medications, supplements, and prescription diets, which minimize the potential for diarrhea, vomiting, and other issues that come with these diseases.

#7: Your dog is experiencing a medication side effect

Some prescription medications may cause diarrhea as a side effect. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are the most common culprit, although many other prescription medications can cause your dog to vomit and have diarrhea. Ensure you let our team know If your dog develops any negative medication side effects, so we can prescribe an acceptable alternative.

Cleaning up your dog’s diarrhea is an extremely unpleasant task, and one we want to help put a stop to as soon as possible. If your furry pal develops loose stool, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team in Southeast Texas for an appointment.