Diarrhea in Pets: What to Do and When to Worry


Diarrhea in pets can be very troublesome and uncomfortable for your furry friend, but it’s usually not serious and it usually resolves on its own within a few days.

However, you’ll need to take care of your pet in order to make them feel better as soon as possible since diarrhea can lead to dehydration if left untreated for too long.

Learn how to diagnose diarrhea in pets and what to do when your dog or cat has this issue.


Call your veterinarian

If your pet has diarrhea, the most important thing you can do is watch him closely for signs of dehydration. If your veterinarian cannot get you in right away, start an IV at home if possible.

Use oral rehydration therapy (ORS) solutions such as Pedialyte® or Gatorade® as described below, and bring a sample of your pet’s stool with you to your appointment.

In some cases, antibiotics may be needed for severe diarrhea caused by infection. Antibiotics will not work for milder cases of food poisoning, nor are they effective against parasites that might cause diarrhea.

Your veterinarian will decide what is best depending on the severity of your pet’s symptoms. Signs of more serious diarrhea include a high fever, vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, and weight loss.

Symptoms that warrant immediate attention include bloody stools or black stools; continued vomiting; abdominal pain; swollen abdomen; rapid breathing or heartbeat; extreme thirst despite drinking large amounts of water; reduced urination – less than one per day even when fluids are given intravenously.

Always contact your veterinarian immediately if these occur because emergency care is often necessary. 

The best way to prevent chronic diarrhea in pets is to maintain good hygiene around their living space, feed them a balanced diet, avoid foods that irritate their stomachs, and provide plenty of fresh water.

For example, it would be wise to refrain from feeding rabbits lettuce and cats fish oil supplements because both have been shown to induce digestive problems in your pets 


Keep your pet hydrated

Watch for signs of dehydration, including sunken eyes, a dry mouth, thirst, or lack of urine. Get veterinary help if you see these symptoms.

Keep your pet hydrated with clear liquids like water or chicken broth. Use canned food as needed while they are recovering from diarrhea; avoid using dry food or hard-to-digest treats.

Give them the same diet when they return to normal stool patterns. If you can’t keep their oral fluids up, consider feeding them small amounts of ice chips at regular intervals and call your vet right away.

If vomiting accompanies diarrhea, it may be caused by viral gastroenteritis, which is not serious but could last 2-3 days without treatment. In that case, watch for weight loss and dehydration.

A visit to the vet is still recommended if symptoms persist longer than 24 hours or if your pet is severely dehydrated. It’s important to know that acute diarrhea, lasting less than 48 hours, is usually due to something simple such as dietary indiscretion.

But chronic diarrhea can have many causes and requires a veterinarian’s examination to diagnose the problem. Diarrhea can also signal an underlying illness.

Your vet will want to perform a fecal test, blood work, and urinalysis to find out what’s causing the problem. You’ll need to provide a fresh sample for this exam, so don’t wait too long before calling your vet!


Consider probiotics

In some cases, your pets may have a bacterial infection that can be treated with a course of antibiotics. But sometimes, it’s something worse, like parasitic infections or cancer.

If you’re still unsure about what’s going on with your furry friend, there are a few ways to determine the cause of their diarrhea, says Dr. Eric Edwards, an emergency vet at Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Los Angeles.

One is to take a stool sample and send it to a lab for analysis. Another is to run tests for certain parasites or worms, he says. These can often be done at home.

Your vet will also want to know if your pet has lost weight and how much water they’ve been drinking. A pet who has lost weight is more likely to have an illness such as cancer, says Dr. Edwards.

It’s important not to wait too long before seeking help, since this could lead to other problems such as dehydration. I don’t think I would wait any longer than two days, says Dr. Edwards. But every animal is different. 

The sooner your pet gets treatment, the better off they’ll be — so talk to your vet about any symptoms you notice. They might prescribe medicine to get things moving again or provide dietary advice.

They might recommend probiotics, which can help promote good bacteria and discourage bad bacteria, according to Dr. Zain Kassam from New York City-based Animal General Veterinary Services.

And when all else fails? Surgery might be necessary, says Dr. Edward.


Avoid junk foods

Junk foods can be hard on the digestive system of pets, including those with an upset stomach. Junk foods such as soft drinks, candy, ice cream, chips, or other high-fat, high-sugar foods can cause diarrhea.

Healthy snacks like baby carrots or celery sticks may help. Also, make sure your pet has plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated.

If you have a puppy or kitten that is not eating solid food, offer them some infant rice cereal mixed with their favorite wet food. If they are dehydrated, they need subcutaneous fluids administered by a veterinarian.

You should also call the vet if your pet’s symptoms last for more than 24 hours, including blood in the stool, weight loss, lethargy, or fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Diarrhea can also lead to dehydration and become fatal. It is important to take care of any signs of dehydration immediately. The first sign of dehydration is dry skin and gums.

Next comes sunken eyes, sluggishness, weakness, muscle tremors, reduced heart rate (pulse), increased respiratory rate (breaths per minute), low urine output (fewer than two urinations per day), and dry nose and mouth (lack of saliva production).

All these signs could mean your pet needs intravenous fluids given by a veterinarian.


Watch out for signs of dehydration

Signs of dehydration include sagging skin, sunken eyes, sunken fontanelle (soft spot on top of a baby’s head), dry mouth or nose, and few or no tears when crying.

Other signs that a pet is dehydrated are decreased thirst, soft feces, restlessness, or lethargy. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms after diarrhea episodes or vomiting episodes you should consult with your veterinarian right away.

In some cases, the animal might be over-hydrated if they have had diarrhea for more than 24 hours and still seem thirsty.

In this case, it is best to have the vet evaluate them before rehydrating them because it could lead to too much water being ingested at once which can be dangerous for an animal’s body.

Dehydration can be caused by various reasons such as illness, exercise, and excessive heat. Dogs who vomit often due to gastric ulcers may also experience dehydration.

The most common cause of dehydration in cats is feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). FIP starts with fever, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, and coughing.


Know when it’s time to see the vet

If diarrhea continues for more than 2 days, has blood or mucus mixed with it, or if it’s followed by vomiting, call your vet.

Milder cases may be as simple as giving your pet some probiotics (good bacteria) like acidophilus which you can get at any pharmacy without a prescription.

If the diarrhea is accompanied by fever then an antibiotic is indicated. But first, ask yourself if your pets are stressed about something.

Did he just move into a new home? Is there a new baby in the house? Is he afraid of thunderstorms? Dogs are very sensitive to changes in their environment and can easily become stressed out.

I suggest getting some calming herbs that might help him feel better. I recommend chamomile, lavender, ginger, lemongrass, and licorice root extract because they have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in addition to relaxing.

Make sure you speak with your veterinarian before administering anything that hasn’t been cleared beforehand.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email