Dogs with Diarrhea Veterinarian

As a veterinarian, one of the most common things I am asked about is diarrhea in dogs. What’s causing my dog’s diarrhea? Should I be worried? What tests and treatments does my dog need? Of course, the answer to these questions depends on why your dog has diarrhea. In the following article, I will discuss some of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs and provide some insight into common tests and treatments available.

There are a wide variety of causes for diarrhea in dogs. To help make this complicated subject a little more straightforward, it helps to divide these causes into categories. The first of these is dietary indiscretion or intolerance. Sometimes, dogs will eat things they shouldn’t have from the trash or outside.

Some dogs with sensitive stomachs can get diarrhea simply from switching to a new food too quickly or getting a new bag of dog treats; this is a very common cause, and treatment for it is simple; a bland Diet and some medication, and your dog will be back to normal quickly.

While dealing with diarrhea from edible but unhealthy foods is a straightforward matter, things that dogs like to eat are not always edible! Rocks, socks, peach pits, corn cobs, crayons, money, batteries—the list goes on and on.

These “foreign bodies” will sometimes pass through the intestines and end up in your dog’s bowels. While there, they can become an obstruction or even perforate the bowel. In this case, radiographs are necessary to evaluate the severity of the problem, so treatment—possibly including surgery—can be performed.

GI bacterial changes are another common cause of diarrhea in dogs. Some examples include Campylobacter, Clostridium, E. Coli, and less commonly Salmonella. In cases where bacteria is suspected, antibiotics may help relieve your pet’s diarrhea.

Viruses also may be responsible for causing diarrhea. In particular, parvo-enteric virus or “parvo.” This virus most commonly attacks young dogs (under 2 yrs) or the elderly, although any dog can be infected. Parvo is a catastrophic disease resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, not eating, and lethargy. Fortunately, a vaccine is available, which, when given appropriately, is 99% effective at preventing your dog from acquiring this disease.

Another possibility we often consider worms or other intestinal parasites. There are many worms and GI parasites that commonly infect dogs. Roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, hookworms, coccidia, and giardia are among the most common parasites we see.

For cases where GI parasites are suspected, a routine fecal sample and test can help diagnose them. Treatment depends on which type of parasite is present. Once the parasites are detected, medication can be prescribed, which will eliminate them.

Unfortunately, there are some cases where the cause of diarrhea is more sinister, and treatment is often difficult; this is the category reserved for sick dogs with more serious underlying diseases. Many diseases can result in diarrhea, including intestinal masses, inflammatory bowel disease, certain systemic diseases and conditions, and many more.

Dogs who are systemically ill will likely have other signs, including anorexia, weight loss, or lethargy. Your veterinarian is best equipped to help diagnose if your dog has a more serious underlying disease.

Veterinarian For Dogs With Diarrhea

There are numerous causes of diarrhea. While many of these are fairly benign and easy to treat, other causes are of much more concern. If your dog is having diarrhea, we strongly advise that you schedule a visit with a member of our Veterinary Hospital who can determine the cause and discuss the treatment options available.


Jeffrey Stupine V.M.D.

Medical Director

World of Animals