Your dog has diarrhea? As vets we are asked how to treat a simple episode of loose stool or diarrhea in dogs all the time. So I thought I would lay out some easy steps to take at home if you find your dog has made a mess.
First Check Your Dog’s Overall Health
Is your dog otherwise healthy? A little diarrhea is not always a reason to be majorly concerned. Yes I know it is no fun to clean it up, I have a 14 year old dog that has a sensitive stomach so I do that super fun task all the time.
Take this super short quiz to decide if you should treat your dog’s diarrhea at home or head straight for the vet.
If you answer NO to ANY of these questions you should call your vet and not try to treat at home until he or she says it is okay:
- Is your dog willing to eat a little (just offer a few kernels of food)?
- Is your dog mostly in good spirits?
- Is your dogs activity normal?
- Does your dog have diarrhea only (no other signs like vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, etc)?
- Has your dog had no more than 1 episode of diarrhea in 8-10 hours or 2 in 24 hours total?
- Is the diarrhea pudding (sorry about the food reference) consistency or firmer (soft stool or partial stool)? Basically is it not watery?
- Is your dog done straining? (If your dog is still trying to go for more than a few minutes but not much is coming out then this is a sign you need to call the vet.)
- Is your dog otherwise healthy with no other ongoing health problems? (If your dog has other health issues or is taking medications it is best to call your vet)
If you can answer yes to all of these it is likely that you can try to treat at home. If the diarrhea continues past 2 days despite treatment or if your dogs starts acting ill beyond the diarrhea, call your vet!
5 Steps to Treating Diarrhea in Dogs at Home
Step 1 – Don’t feed the next meal
Chances are they have eaten something that didn’t agree with them or managed to get a mild infection. It happens all the time to us humans and it is the same for dogs. The best thing to do is let that work it’s way through the dog’s system and allow the guts to have some time to recover.
Do not feed the next meal. This gives the GI tract time to rest and helps decrease the inflammation.
Make sure that your dog has plenty of water available. They need to replace the liquid they are losing. Never withhold water without your vet’s permission and instructions.
If your dog has mostly normal stool the next time you let them out then you are probably done right here. You can withhold a day of meals without doing any harm. Yes I know the puppy eyes are tough but rest is best.
Step 2 – Feed a mild diet
After skipping a meal if your dog still has loose stool then you will need steps two and three. A bland diet is needed. You can make a mild homemade diet for your dog very easily. The recipe below is not a complete diet so it should only be fed for a few days at most. If the diarrhea lasts for more than 2 days you should call your vet anyway.
- Mild Homemade GI diet:
- Cooked white rice
- Ground Turkey or Ground (or diced) Chicken: cook and drain of all fat and wash gently with water (to remove more fat which can increase stomach upset)
Yes that is it. Remember this diet is only very temporary. See below for the amount to feed.
You can also get bland diets from your vet that are commercially produced. One example is Science Diet I/D (it stands for intestinal diet).
Step 3 – Feed small meals
Give only one third to one quarter of a normal amount of a meal at first and see how that goes. It is much better to give small meals frequently than large meals when the GI system is upset. If the small meal goes well and diarrhea is not worse then give another 1/3.
Do this first with a bland diet and then with the normal food until you are back to normal meals and normal food.
Step 4 – Add probiotic capsules
If you happen to have probiotics available for yourself you can use these in dogs to. Just be sure that they only contain the cultures and not any other drugs or herbs.
You can give these 1-2 times. They should be adjusted by weight. Assume they think a human is about 180 lbs. So if the directions say to give one to two capsules to a human adult and your dog weighs 60 lbs, it would be ok to give one capsule. These are pretty safe but giving 5 to the same 60 lb dog when a human dose is 2 might make the diarrhea worse. It is better to keep the capsules intact so they can get through the stomach easier but if you need to split them up you can empty a smaller amount onto the bland diet.
Step 5 – Add Loperamide (Brand name Imodium)
If you have done all of the above and are into day two and the diarrhea is only a little better (if it is the same or worse call your vet) you can give one dose of Imodium or a generic containing loperamide HCL. Keep this for a last resort because it can cause the opposite problem, constipation. Again make sure that the label says it only contains loperamide HCL and no other active ingredients.
How much to give: For small dogs it is best to use the liquid so you can give the dose that is right for their weight. Dogs bigger than 20 lbs can use tables or caplets.
- Liquid. It typically comes as 1 mg per 7.5mL (but double check the label). Give 1 mL per 2 lbs of dog. So, A 10 lb dog would get 5 mL or 1 teaspoon (A teaspoon is about 5 mL).
- Tablets or capsules: Typically come in 2 mg tablets (but again double check.) Give 1/2 caplet for each 20 lbs of dog. So a 40lb dog can have 1 caplet. Round to the nearest 1/2 caplet (if in doubt round down).
Call your vet if you think you need to give another dose for diarrhea in your dog.
What Not to Do for a Dog with Diarrhea
Do not do any of these things for diarrhea in dogs:
- Give Pepto-Bismol (the pink stuff) without your vet’s instructions. It contains a form of aspirin which could irritate their stomach more. Plus if they vomit it, it really sucks to clean that out of the carpet.
- Feed treats of any kind
- Allow them to go outside unsupervised.
- You need to be able to see if they have additional espisodes of diarrhea
- You want to make sure they don’t eat anything else that could cause more upset. You might also find what it is they ate in the first place (Rotten dead thing, yum).
- Let them eat grass. Dogs will do this and it makes them vomit. Perhaps that is why they do it.
- Give any other medications without your vets instructions.
So that is it. Most simple episodes of diarrhea in dogs can be treated easily at home. However, if you have any questions, call your vet for advise. Better safe than sorry and they can guide you in any additional steps.