What causes diarrhoea in dogs?

Diarrhoea — faeces that are soft to liquid in consistency — is a common problem in dogs, largely because they will put almost anything in their mouths. Most cases are not serious and resolve within a few days. The most probable cause of diarrhoea in dogs is scavenging — eating things such as table leftovers — or sudden changes in diet.

Other less serious causes can include allergies and food intolerance.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that diarrhoea may be the result of a more serious condition such as an infection, parasites, swallowing a foreign body or a poisonous substance. Infections with common viruses such as parvovirus, distemper and coronavirus may also trigger it.

Treatment may be needed if your dog suffers persistent diarrhoea so please contact your vet as soon as possible, or, out of hours, find your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or Vets Now 24/7 hospital.

Read our in-depth advice guide


How to treat dogs with diarrhoea

If the diarrhoea is accompanied by other signs such as profuse vomiting or lethargy please consult your vet. If this isn’t the case try following these guidelines:

If your dog is not vomiting:

Remove all food and limit your dog to water for 12 hours.  Make sure your dog has plenty of water to drink, to avoid dehydration.

After 12 hours, introduce small but bland meals — a couple of mouthfuls — such as cooked chicken or white fish and rice. Once the faeces starts to become more formed, gradually reintroduce your dog’s normal diet.

If your dog is vomiting mildly:

Allow your dog to have small amounts of water hourly — a few tablespoons at a time — but continue to withhold food for a further 10 hours.

If the vomiting stops, introduce small but bland meals as instructed above.  If your dog is still vomiting call your vet.

How to stop diarrhoea in dogs

There are several ways to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea in dogs. These include:

  • Avoid sudden changes in your dog’s diet
  • Do not give your dog bones (these can cause constipation or diarrhoea)
  • Do not give your dog small objects to play with
  • Do not feed your dog table scraps
  • Try to prevent your dog scavenging when out and about
  • Always keep your dog up-to-date with worming and vaccinations

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