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Dog Has Diarrhea but Acts Fine? Here’s What It Means and What to Do

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

jack russell pooping

It can be distressing when your dog isn’t feeling well, but what if he has diarrhea and seems to be fine? Should you be worried about this? Should you take him to the vet anyway?

We’ll go over some of the causes of diarrhea and how to treat it at home. We’ll also discuss when it’s important to have your dog looked at by your veterinarian. The health of your dog is of the utmost importance, and we’ll help you through this uncertain situation.

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Acute Diarrhea

The first step in order to understand what’s going on is figuring out what caused the diarrhea and whether it’s chronic or acute.

Acute diarrhea is quite common in most dogs since they love to use their mouths to explore everything, including eating things they shouldn’t. It also occurs suddenly and usually without any warning but only lasts for as long as the problem is ongoing. In some cases, the diarrhea will clear up on its own, sometimes with help from the owner, but other times it will need intervention from a vet.

chihuahua pooping_Shutterstock_CHUDEACH SATIT
Image Credit: CHUDEACH SATIT, Shutterstock
Some of the more typical causes for acute diarrhea are:
  • Food intolerance: Some dogs may experience an intolerance to certain foods (e.g., wheat and dairy), which can lead to stomach troubles, including diarrhea.
  • Intestinal parasites: These parasites can include tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms and can cause diarrhea. They are easy to treat and generally easy to spot (they show up in the poop).
  • Food allergies: A food allergy affects the immune system and is more serious than an intolerance but can also cause stomach upset.
  • Parvovirus: This virus is highly contagious between dogs and affects puppies and young dogs. It causes gastrointestinal problems and can be fatal.
  • Autoimmune diseases: The immune system tends to attack the intestine’s lining, which can lead to diarrhea in addition to other symptoms (stomach pain, fever, bleeding from the rectum, weight loss).
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: Also known as IBS, is closely linked to food intolerances and allergies but does cause diarrhea.
  • Change in diet: If you’ve added a new food to your dog’s diet rather suddenly, it could cause gastrointestinal problems. New food should always be slowly introduced into your dog’s diet over a period of 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Blockage: Swallowing an object that blocks the intestines could lead to diarrhea, although constipation might be more common.
  • Stress: Stress can be the culprit for many illnesses for dogs, including gastrointestinal problems. This can include separation anxiety, a new pet or family member, being introduced to a new household, boarding, and changes to the environment and home.
  • Eating the wrong thing: This could be spoiled food or something that has poisoned your dog. If you believe your dog has gotten into something he shouldn’t have, seek a vet immediately.
  • Medication: Sometimes, when your dog has been put on medication, a side effect can be diarrhea. Again, speak to your vet, and they will probably change the medication.

Chronic Diarrhea

rough collie is shitting on the grass
Image Credit: Alla Pogrebnaya, Shutterstock

This is diarrhea that becomes a common problem with a dog suffering from frequent bouts of diarrhea because of a medical issue. Some of the causes for acute diarrhea can also be chronic, particularly if the problem hasn’t been resolved (e.g., a dog that suffers from a gluten allergy whose diet isn’t changed).

Some of the more typical causes for chronic diarrhea are:
  • Poor digestion
  • Large intestinal diseases
  • Small intestinal diseases
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Dietary issues

If your dog seems to get frequent diarrhea and yet also seems to be okay, he should be taken to see your veterinarian to determine the cause. It could be a serious issue, or it might be an easy fix.

Diarrhea with No Other Symptoms

hungarian vizsla dog poops in the green park
Image Credit: SasaStock, Shutterstock

Most gastrointestinal issues are usually accompanied by a number of other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. However, if your dog only has diarrhea and otherwise seems fine, it could be that he is actually fine.

As previously mentioned, you first need to figure out why your dog has diarrhea. If you know he ate something he shouldn’t have, that could be the culprit, and you can take steps accordingly. If you believe he swallowed something dangerous, of course, you should rush him to the vet.

But if he’s recently gone through a stressful event and develops diarrhea shortly after, you just need to keep an eye on him and make some adjustments to his diet that we will go over next.

Otherwise, you should keep an eye on the actual stool. If you see any blood in it or any worms, you should definitely take him to the vet.

Also, if your dog has diarrhea for a number of days and just doesn’t seem to be getting any better, particularly if he isn’t able to keep any food or liquid down and is lethargic, this is an emergency situation, and he should be seen by the veterinarian immediately.

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The 4 Ways to Help a Dog with Diarrhea at Home:

So, your dog has diarrhea but otherwise seems perfectly okay. His appetite hasn’t changed, and he’s still drinking enough water and isn’t vomiting. You can absolutely wait without checking in with your vet for a couple of days to see if it gets better on his own.

Here are some methods you can use to help your dog’s poop to firm up:

1. Fast

Don’t feed your dog for 12 and up to 24 hours after you’ve noticed the diarrhea. This helps to clear up any stomach issues and helps to start the healing.

2. Bland Diet

After you’re ready to break your dog’s fast, you should be only giving him bland food. This means doing a little cooking or buying food with this in mind.

Boiled meat and steamed rice are the best options for a bland diet—ground beef, chicken, or ground turkey all work well (unless you suspect your dog may have issues with any of these), and the rice can be white or brown. You could make up a larger batch and feed your dog from it, so you’re not cooking each meal separately.

slow feeder dog bowl
Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

Start by giving small amounts every 4 to 6 hours, and if you notice an improvement, then start increasing the quantity and decrease the frequency for the next 2 days. Once your dog’s stool is back to normal, you can start adding your dog’s regular food with the bland. Start by adding 25% of the regular dog food with 75% bland and gradually increase to 50% each, then 75% to 25%, and then all regular all the time.

Just remember that it needs to be bland. No frying or baking—boiling only! And no added seasonings.

3. Canned Pumpkin

Adding canned pumpkin to your dog’s regular food will add an excellent source of fiber that has been known to help with diarrhea.

A dog that is small to medium in size can have 1 to 2 teaspoons of canned pumpkin added to each meal, and a dog that is more than 50 pounds can be given 1 tablespoon.

4. Decrease Food Amount

You can also decrease the amount you usually feed your dog by half as this helps give their gastrointestinal tract a bit of a break. This is only if the diarrhea isn’t too bad and as long as it seems to clear up on its own shortly after.

dog and a slow feeding bowl
Image Credit: eva_blanco, Shutterstock

When it’s Time to See the Veterinarian

The measures above should help your dog’s stool go back to its regular state, but you’ll want to take some steps if it doesn’t.

Again, if your dog seems okay after a few days, but the diarrhea isn’t clearing up, you’ll want to bring a stool sample to your vet so they can check for parasites or any other issues. If there are parasites, your vet will provide you with medication that you can administer at home.

However, if your dog starts to develop other symptoms—blood in the stool, vomiting, refusing to eat, lethargy—it’s definitely time to take your dog to see the vet. Other than the serious underlying health issues your dog may be suffering from, a very critical problem is dehydration.

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If you suspect or actually observed your dog eat something he shouldn’t have, but he is otherwise acting like his usual self, you can usually take care of him yourself. However, if you’re worried or if the diarrhea goes on longer than 24 hours, it’s time to take him to see your vet.

We want your best friend to be healthy, and even just calling your vet might help alleviate any concerns you have. We hope this article has helped to give you a better understanding of why your dog might have diarrhea and how to best handle it.

Featured Image Credit: Kiadtisak-Khwanyu, Shutterstock

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