Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets
Diarrhoea is a common problem in dogs. Here is some advice on how to cope with this symptom during lockdown.
If your dog suffers from mild diarrhoeic symptoms and remains bright and well, is energetic and has a good appetite, then careful dietary management may be the simple solution. Many mild bouts of diarrhoea will clear up after a couple of days by feeding a bland, light diet.
If your dog has diarrhoea and other symptoms, such as frequent vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy or bloody diarrhoea, then do contact your Vet for further guidance. Most cases of diarrhoea in dogs are not serious and will resolve themselves. However, it is worth bearing in mind that diarrhoea in dogs may be a symptom of much more serious conditions. Veterinary attention may be necessary in the following cases:
- Sudden and dramatic onset of severe, profuse diarrhoea
- Prolonged diarrhoea, where dietary management has failed to help
- Cases where other symptoms are present, particularly vomiting, lethargy and symptoms of abdominal pain
- Large amounts of fresh blood in faeces, or black, loose ‘tarry’ stools should always be investigated;
- Also if you suspect your dog may have ingested a toxic substance or plant, or have seen them eating part of a toy or bone.
To settle down mild diarrhoeic symptoms the initial recommendation, if there are no accompanying vomiting symptoms, is to feed a bland, light diet, ensuring that plenty of fresh water is always available. Start by feeding them small, frequent easily digested meals. This is important, in order to still supply the protein and calories needed for healing and to still meet their metabolic energy requirements. Feed small, frequent feeds, usually four to six light meals per day. This makes life easier for the digestive system and gives it less work to do. Feed an easily digested, light, low fat, easily digestible diet, such as cooked, non-oily, white fish and well-cooked boiled, mashed potato, softened with water only, not milk or butter. Also, well cooked, white-meat chicken and boiled, well rinsed, brown rice should also be well-tolerated. Low residue veterinary gastrointestinal prescription diets are also low in fat and highly digestible.
Common causes of mild diarrhoea symptoms in dogs are overfeeding, scavenging or any sudden changes in diet. So do not over-feed your dog, their bowels cannot cope with this extra work. Weigh your dog and then weigh out the food quantity advised for their specific weight using your kitchen scales to check the actual daily food quantities advised. Do not forget to also factor in any other foods given in addition to their main diet as these have to be digested too and may just be tipping the balance between what is exactly right and what is too much for them. Extra treats and chews are always best stopped altogether whilst addressing any diarrhoeic symptoms. Avoid rich, high fat, human foods and any sudden dietary changes to their usual routine diet. Changing over to a new diet too quickly without giving your dog’s digestion enough opportunity to adapt to the new ingredients or nutrient balance can also cause diarrhoea. You should always seek professional, veterinary advice before trialling any change in your pets’ diet.
When reverting to your pets’ normal diet after feeding a light bland diet, take things gently, gradually getting back to their normal food. Once their stools start to firm up, gradually reintroduce your dog’s normal diet over a two to three days mixing it with the bland diet, increasing the proportion of normal food with each successive meal. It may be better to soak their kibble using a little warm water prior to serving. Soft kibble is easier for the digestive enzymes to cope with, especially if it has been under some pressure.
Veterinary digestive pastes with added pre and probiotics, kaolin and pectin will also be helpful. These pastes contain binding and soothing agents for the gut and help replenish the friendly gut bacteria.
If you are at all concerned about your pet’s health your vet practice will still be able to offer you guidance and advice during this difficult time.