Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats

Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats

One of the hardest things about the relationship with our furry friends is that they can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well!

Diarrhea is one of the most common problems that bring both dogs and cats to the vet. Diarrhea is both dogs and cats can be associated with a number of underlying conditions.

Loose stools are not fun for pet and owner alike. From cleaning up messes to getting up in the middle of the night to let your pet out to relieve themselves can become stressful quickly! 

The question remains. Why is this happening and how can I help? This answer will depend on a number of other factors that are causing loose stools.

In most cases, diarrhea in dogs and cats will resolve itself in a matter of a few hours or days. If your furry friend is acting normally with normal energy, appetite and no vomiting, are up to date with their vaccines, aren’t very young or very old and do not have any existing medical conditions, it is likely okay to “ride out” their diarrhea for 24 hours.

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Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats

Diarrhea Treatment

Cases of mild diarrhea typically responds well to some TLC and basic home care. It is important to monitor and assess your pet. If they seem well and aren’t displaying other symptoms such as lethargy, poor appetite or vomiting you are likely not dealing with an emergency situation.

To treat mild cases of diarrhea it is important to let your pet rest and ensure they have access to plenty fresh water. This will ensure they stay hydrated. It is also recommended to feed your pet a “bland diet”. This is a highly digestible, low-fat diet that will help improve your furry friend’s digestion.

 Such food includes boiled chicken breast, boiled white rice or prescription diet food.

Unfortunately, not all cases of diarrhea are simple and easy to treat. This symptom can sometimes be a sign of more serious problems, such as liver or kidney failure, diabetes, a severe viral infection, or allergic bowel disease. Some types of cancer can also cause diarrhea, especially if a tumor pinches off the bowel and causes an  obstruction or damages the structures of the stomach or intestines.

If diarrhea in dogs and cats last more than 36 hours, it is best to take your pet to be examined by a trained veterinarian, before serious illness occurs.

What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats?

There are many reasons your pet may develop diarrhea. Most commonly, diarrhea occurs when they have eaten something that isn’t part of their normal diet or when their diet abruptly changes. They changes do not allow your pet’s digestive system to adjust to the new food, increasing their likelihood of loose stools.

The list of possible causes of diarrhea in cats and dogs is long and varied. Some of the common causes are:

  • Viral, bacterial, and parasitic conditions
  • Rapid dietary change
  • Gastrointestinal toxins
  • Food hypersensitivity
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Systemic endocrine or metabolic conditions
  • Medication reaction

Diarrhea is one of the most common signs of gastrointestinal upset. Oftentimes it may be the cause of something simple like having eaten something bad. However, diarrhea can also be a symptom of something more complicated like cancer or organ problems.

The treatment for diarrhea in dogs and cats are aimed at the underlying problem. This can be temporarily withholding food or even complex surgery for more serious issues.

What is important to remember that regardless of the cause, prolonged diarrhea can lead to debilitating dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, protein loss and more. These imbalances can quickly become a vicious cycle that leads to serious illness, and even death if not recognised and treated on time.

Thus, it is always important to monitor your pet closely, when they are experiencing such symptoms. You know your furry friend best! If your pet’s energy level is lower than it normally is, they’re vomiting, have experienced weight loss or have a significant pre-existing medical condition that would make them less able to deal with the effects of dehydration, then you shouldn’t let their diarrhea go on any longer than 36 hours.

Similarly, if your pets are very young puppies or kittens or in their “golden years” their diarrhea should not go unchecked. As explained above, this can lead to dehydration and other complications that will prolong your pets suffering as well as make treatment more difficult and expensive.

When you are in doubt or have concerns about your pet’s health it is always best to have your pet evaluated by a trusted veterinarian. No amount of internet searching can compete with the physical examination, testing and the prescription of safe and effective medications of a trained and qualified veterinarian.

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Taking Your Pet To The Vet: What Will We do?

We all think that a quick google will help answer all our medical questions, however nothing beats the advice and opinion from a trained professional. Taking your pet to the vet is often the best option when you have concerns about their health.

A thorough questioning is crucial to determining the cause of your f\pet’s diarrhea. Common questions include:

  • How long has the diarrhea been going on?
  • What does the stool look like(what colour is it, is there any blood, etc? )
  • Is your pet on any medications or supplements?
  • What is your pet’s regular diet?
  • Has your pet recently gotten into the trash or compost?
  • Has your pet been around multiple other pets?

There really is a wealth of important information that your vet will obtain from a physical examination of your pet. These include whether or not your pet’s abdomen is painful, whether or not there is a mass or foreign body within your pet’s rectum, or elsewhere within your pet’s intestinal tract or other body systems such as the small intestines or large intestines.

Your vet will pick up on important things during the course of their physical examination that you may not have thought of or found yourself. They will be able to identify if your pet has inflammatory bowel disease, acute diarrhea, pancreatic insufficiency or their symptoms are a side effect of other veterinary medicine (if they are taking it)

Depending on what is found during your pet’s examination, various tests may be conducted to help include or exclude underlying conditions and causes. The most common test is the “fecal float and smear”. This test looks at intestinal parasites and bacteria. Additional test include blood tests, x-rays or ultrasounds.

Once your veterinarian has found the cause of your pet’s diarrhea, they will recommend treatments to help ease your pet’s symptoms. In most cases, a bland diet and time is all that is needed to resolve their diarrhea. However, if there is a more serious underlying cause various different treatments will be recommended. The treatment that will be most effective will be determined by the results of their history, physical exam and diagnostic testing.

diarrhea in dogs and cats THCV staff

Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats

Be Patient and Alert

When dealing with loose stools and diarrhea in dogs and cats, the answers and treatments can seem easy until they aren’t! Ultimately, it’s crucial to monitor your pet closely and to keep your veterinarian informed when you are concerned about your pet’s symptoms. Our pets can’t talk to us to tell us how they feel, its up to us to make sure they are healthy! When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian.

Need expert advice on managing diarrhea in dogs and cats? Contact The House Call Vet today and our team of enthusiastic veterinarians are happy to assist.

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