Diarrhoea in dogs

Diarrhoea is an unpleasant experience for our dogs (and for us!). Your dog has diarrhoea if they are producing soft or watery poo.

As dog owners, it’s important we understand the causes, symptoms, and treatments for diarrhoea – as well as the ways we can prevent diarrhoea from upsetting our canine companions.

Causes of diarrhoea in dogs

The first step in successfully dealing with our dogs’ diarrhoea is to discover what’s causing it. 

However, there are so many causes of diarrhoea in dogs that it can sometimes make it difficult to find the reason they’re suffering from it. 

Some common causes of diarrhoea in dogs:

  • Swallowing an inedible object (e.g. stick, toy, sock, etc.).
  • Eating something toxic (e.g. chocolate, garlic, grapes, etc.).
  • Sudden changes in their diet.
  • Food intolerance or allergy.
  • Worms and parasites (e.g. giardia).
  • Viral infection (e.g. parvovirus).
  • Bacterial infection (e.g. salmonella).
  • Inflammation (usually redness or swelling) of their large intestine (colitis).
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
  • Inflammation of their pancreas (pancreatitis).
  • Liver disease.
  • Reaction to medicine.

Symptoms of diarrhoea in dogs

Soft stools (poo) can vary in amount, consistency (the way it holds together) and colour when your dog has diarrhoea.

Due to the different causes of diarrhoea in dogs, there are many symptoms that might appear, alongside their watery stools:

  • Gurgling sounds from their tummy.
  • Passing wind.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Possible vomiting.
  • Lethargy (quieter than usual).

It’s important to contact a vet immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in their poo.
  • Bloated stomach.
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Looking very unwell.
  • Signs of pain, like crying/yelping or standing in ‘prayer position’ (front legs on the floor, back legs standing up).

If you need to take your dog to the vet for diarrhoea, you may need to bring along a sample of their poo, too.

What to do if your dog has diarrhoea

If your dog is suffering from mild diarrhoea, you’ll need to monitor them to make sure they stay bright and alert. 

As well as monitoring your dog, to help them feel better when they have mild diarrhoea, you should:

  • Provide plenty of clean, fresh, drinking water, day and night.
  • Feed them a small amount of bland food – plain white rice and flavourless boiled chicken breast (no skin or bones!), for example.
  • Let them rest (avoid activities, like going for a walk, until they’ve recovered).

What’s the difference between ‘acute’ and ‘chronic’ diarrhoea?

Acute diarrhoea isn’t usually linked to a medical condition and tends to last a couple of days. Provided your dog doesn’t have any serious symptoms, acute diarrhoea can be treated at home, following advice from your vet.

Chronic diarrhoea typically lasts for over three weeks and is often connected to a medical condition. If your dog is suffering from chronic diarrhoea, your vet will perform tests to find out what’s causing it.

How long will their diarrhoea last?

The amount of time your dog has diarrhoea will depend on many factors; for example, whether they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have or they have a health condition.

Please contact a vet if your dog has had diarrhoea for longer than 24 hours.

Preventing diarrhoea in dogs

Luckily, there are lots of ways to prevent diarrhoea in dogs!

Here are some top tips to help your dog avoid diarrhoea:

  • Keep up with their worming treatments and vaccinations.
  • Feed them good-quality dog food.
  • Make any dietary changes gradually (over two weeks).
  • Don’t let them eat anything they shouldn’t be eating.
  • Only let them play with dog-safe toys.

Best way to clean up your dog’s diarrhoea 

Although it’s rare, there are some causes of diarrhoea in dogs than can be passed to humans if their mess isn’t properly cleaned up.

In all cases of diarrhoea, it’s essential the mess is cleaned, and the area disinfected as quickly as possible, to prevent the spread of potentially harmful diseases.

Cleaning up dog diarrhoea inside your home: 

Step 1 – Use a dog poop bag (or two!) to pick up as much of the mess as you can.

Step 2 – Safely throw away the full dog poop bag in an outside bin.

Step 3 – You could sprinkle cat litter or sawdust onto the damp stain to soak up any moisture, before removing the cat litter and spraying the spot with disinfectant. If you don’t have cat litter or sawdust, soak the stain by spraying it repeatedly with disinfectant.

Step 4 – Wipe moisture from the disinfected spot using sheets of kitchen roll, then throw the dirty kitchen roll away in an outside bin (prevents odours from lingering!).

Step 5 – Wash your hands thoroughly before doing anything else!

Cleaning up dog diarrhoea in your garden: 

Step 1 – Use a dog poop bag (or two!) to pick up as much of the mess as you can.

Step 2 – Safely throw away the full dog poop bag in an outside bin.

Step 3 – If on a hard surface (like a patio), either pour boiling water on the spot (careful not to burn yourself/others!) or squirt a little bleach-and-water mixture (making sure to keep your pet away from you while you clean) onto it. To clean up diarrhoea from grass, you’ll need a hose to wash away any remaining specks of diarrhoea with clean water. Whichever option you choose, you’ll need to keep all pets and children away from the area until it has fully dried.

Step 4 – Wash your hands thoroughly before doing anything else!

Cleaning up dog diarrhoea while out and about: 

Step 1 – Use a dog poop bag (or two!) to pick up as much of the mess as you can.

Step 2 – Safely throw away the full dog poop bag in the nearest bin.

Step 3 – During summer months, you might be able to sprinkle some dry dirt over the area, to mop up any remaining moisture. If on grass, or during wetter months, you can pour some of your bottled water over the area, to remove any leftover signs of diarrhoea. 

Step 4 – Use hand sanitiser to clean your hands as best as you can, before washing your hands thoroughly as soon as possible.

For expert advice about your dog’s diarrhoea, if you’re an Animal Friends (dog or cat) policyholder, you can access free vet video consults 24/7 with Joii Pet Care.


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