Diarrhea is a common issue that most dog owners struggle with at some point in their canine companion’s life. It is defined as unformed or loose stools, usually occurring in larger amounts and/or more often. Diarrhea is not a disease but rather a symptom that can indicate many different diseases and conditions. Some of these are relatively simple and can be easy to manage with the proper treatment. Other causes of diarrhea may be more serious or even life-threatening. But how do you know when a simple upset stomach becomes an emergency?

What Causes Diarrhea?

Almost every dog experiences the occasional bout of diarrhea, but the cause isn’t always so clear. Some diarrhea resolves on its own, but other times, it requires immediate veterinary attention.

Any issue that causes inflammation in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract can cause diarrhea. Some common causes of diarrhea include:

  • Anxiety
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Eating a new diet
  • Eating foreign objects
  • Eating inappropriate food
  • Food intolerance or allergies
  • Infectious disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ingesting a toxic substance
  • Medication side effects
  • Pancreatitis
  • Parasites

Primary Care Veterinarian vs. Emergency Room

Many cases of diarrhea don’t require a veterinary visit at all. If it lasts for only a day, your dog maintains their usual temperament, and no other symptoms are present, it may be fine to watch and wait. (If you’re ever unsure, call your veterinarian for guidance.)

However, diarrhea becomes a cause for concern when it lasts for several days due to the risk of dehydration and the probability of it being part of a larger problem. Your dog may be suffering from a chronic condition and should be seen by your primary care veterinarian as soon as possible. Some non-emergency conditions that require a medical diagnosis include inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disorders, and intestinal parasites.

There are situations when diarrhea requires emergency veterinary treatment. These include: lethargy, fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, or weakness. Also seek emergency care when you see:

  • Bloody Stool – Dark, tarry stool or bright red streaks indicate your dog has blood in its stool, and emergency veterinary attention is warranted. Bloody diarrhea is one of the first signs of Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome, which can lead to severe dehydration and shock.
  • Dehydration: Lift your dog’s lip and touch his gums. If they appear grayish or brick red, and feel dry or tacky to the touch, call us immediately.
  • Vulnerability: Diarrhea can mean serious illness in puppies, seniors, unvaccinated, or immunocompromised dogs.

Coping with diarrhea is never fun, but being prepared can help you manage the situation. If you are concerned about your dog’s diarrhea, contact our team at The COVE, so we can help get your furry best friend on the road to recovery.

About Us

The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.