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Published on January 23rd, 2019 | by Debbie Martin


Diarrhoea in Dogs – What You Need To Know

When a pet dog has diarrhoea the affliction may be short-lived if dog and owner are lucky. However just because it may go away as quickly as it starts that doesn’t mean you should just ignore it. Diarrhoea, although very common in dogs, can sometimes be a symptom of many different illnesses and depending on how it looks, your dog’s runny poo can tell a vet much about his general state of health.

How do You Know it’s Diarrhoea?

If your dog is producing runny, even liquid poo and is needing to defecate more than usual this is a sure sign of diarrhoea. It may only last a day or two, or for longer, but either way, it can be very unpleasant for both dog and owner. The important thing is to know when or if to take your dog to the vet or if you can treat him yourself at home.

What Causes Diarrhoea in Dogs?

Dogs are notorious scavengers and many an owner says that one of the most annoying things about their dog is his love of eating things he really shouldn’t. Many dogs are expert bin raiders, looking for anything to eat whether that be waste food or other detritus. Some dogs will scavenge on walks, hoovering up food dropped by people or even in some cases faeces from other animals. If your dog is a scavenger the best thing you can do is to teach him the commands ‘drop’ or preferably ‘leave’ to prevent him eating things that can harm him. Do this by distracting him with either a tasty treat or favourite ball at the same time putting him on his lead to lure him away from whatever is attracting him.

A Change in Diet

This is frequently a cause of diarrhoea in dogs. Their digestive systems are not designed for a varied or rich diet and by suddenly changing their regular food, or by giving them lots of different food treats in addition to their normal food, you can severely upset their stomach. If you want to change your dog’s regular food it’s best to do this gradually over the course of a week or even longer if he is a fussy eater or seems to be struggling to get used to the new food. Start by mixing in a small amount of the new food with the regular food and gradually increase these amounts until he is eating more new than old food. Control the number of extra treats while he’s getting used to the new diet. If you have any worries about any aspect of his diet ring your vet for advice.

A Stomach Bug or Virus

These can afflict a dog out of the blue and upset his stomach. Sometimes this can clear up after two or three days but there are instances where you will need to get him to the vet for treatment for instance if you notice any of the following:

  • Blood or mucus in his poo
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite


Worms can also be a cause of diarrhoea and especially in puppies or in adult dogs that haven’t been wormed for a long time. Young puppies will always have worms in their intestines which are passed to them through their mother; this is why vets will always advise that you worm puppies regularly – at 2, 4, 6, 8 and then 12 weeks of age. An adult dog, especially one which likes to scavenge from the ground outdoors, will need worming regularly and again your vet will advise you on the proper intervals.

A Blockage

Blockages can also be a big factor and a dangerous one in a dog developing diarrhoea. Most vets can relate stories of the surgeries performed on pet dogs that have eaten things they shouldn’t have like toys, bones, sticks, pebbles or items of clothing. You mention it and there will be a vet somewhere who has had to remove it from some hapless pooch’s insides. Unfortunately, although it can cause some amusement in some cases a blockage can be a serious matter and sometimes can be fatal.

What Are The Signs of a Blockage?

The first thing you’ll notice is your dog straining to defecate and nothing or very little coming out. Other danger signs include:

  • Your dog refuses to eat or drink
  • He appears to be in pain or discomfort
  • He may vomit
  • He may appear listless with little energy
  • He may stop wanting to go out

These signs will appear quite quickly and it is essential that you get your dog to a vet immediately for treatment and possibly surgery. Any delay could prove fatal.

Other Reasons to Call The Vet When Your Dog Has Diarrhoea

Many cases of diarrhoea will clear up by themselves after a couple of days. However, it is wise to call the vet if:

  • It fails to clear up after a couple of days or it does but then keeps recurring
  • He is vomiting as well
  • He goes off his food and doesn’t seem to want to play, go out for walks or is disinterested in what’s around him
  • He is elderly and has other health problems
  • He is a young puppy with other health problems
  • If you are worried it’s always best to consult your vet for advice

How to Help Your Dog to Feel Better

Just as we need a little extra care and pampering when we’re unwell so does your dog. Assuming that you have spoken to your vet and ascertained that there is no serious underlying reason for your dog’s diarrhoea you can follow the suggestions below to help him.


While his stomach is upset to feed him a bland diet consisting of boiled chicken and white rice, two foods that are easily digestible, and give smaller meals than usual; three or four meals a day for an adult dog is the norm. Once he starts to get better you can then gradually reintroduce his normal food but lay off any rich treats for a while so as not to overwhelm his stomach.


He will need to drink more than usual while he has diarrhoea to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration. Make sure you supply plenty of clean, fresh drinking water.


Don’t overtax him while he’s recovering and definitely don’t allow children or other pets to bother him. A dog that is feeling ill may be unexpectedly ill-tempered or aggressive so let him rest as much as he needs to. Allow him to dictate how much exercise he needs; he’ll feel more tired and less energetic while he’s ill but once he’s recovered you can start to build up his exercise over a few days until he’s back to normal.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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