Diarrhoea in dogs - What you can do about it

Diarrhoea is usually a sign that the gastrointestinal function is disturbed. The causes can be varied, but often it is harmless. If the diarrhoea stops quickly, it does not need urgent treatment. You should observe your dog more closely to keep an eye on the frequency of the diarrhoea as well as the consistency. ‍‍

Article from
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM
Table of contents


If your dog has diarrhoea (medical term: diarrhoea), he defecates more often than usual and the faeces have a different consistency than usual. The diarrhoea can be mushy, watery (with or without blood) or even slimy. It usually takes between 12-24 hours from eating to defecation. Even the colour of the diarrhoea could provide information about what causes it. A distinction is also made between acute and chronic diarrhoea. Acute means for less than 24 hours and chronic for more than two weeks.

Diarrhoea is the most common symptom in dogs. The condition and general health of the dog determines whether or not a veterinarian should be consulted.


Diarrhoea is not a disease but a symptom. The gastrointestinal tract is not able to form the faeces and so it becomes mushy-watery due to water excretion. Diarrhoea should always be taken seriously due to the loss of water and electrolytes and usually occurs in dogs for the following reasons:

  1. Feed intolerances: A feed intolerance (allergy) or sudden change of feed is usually the reason for acute diarrhoea. Have you tried a new type of feed or changed from dry to wet feed? Feeding from the hand, such as leftovers from the table, can also cause severe diarrhoea. Many dogs do not tolerate all types of meat or react extremely to certain types of grain (barley, rye or wheat), which are contained in most foods. A radical change from dog food to BARF is also often another reason for sudden diarrhoea.
  2. Parasites: Parasites(worms or protozoa such as giardia or coccidia) are one of the most common causes of chronic or acute diarrhoea. Can you remember the last time you wormed your dog? Maybe the time has come to have a faecal sample tested or to worm your dog as a precaution. Giardia is relatively common in dogs, especially when they drink from puddles . Because of the high risk of infection, poo should be removed immediately! Worms are usually not visible to the naked eye! A faecal examination could give you certainty. But here, too, caution is advised! Just because no worm eggs were found in the faeces does not mean that your dog does not have worms!
  3. Gastroenteritis: As with us humans, viruses, bacteria and unicellular organisms (giardia) are responsible for gastrointestinal infections. Such infections usually occur more often in younger dogs. Especially in summer they plague our pets.
  4. Organ dysfunction: Pancreatitis, hormonal diseases, cobalamin and folic acid deficiency, or Addison's disease can cause chronic diarrhoea. If your dog also shows other symptoms such as vomiting and a changed coat, organ dysfunction can be the cause!
  5. Immune-related diseases such as IBD or tumours
  6. Poisoning by detergents, poison (rat poison, slug pellets, etc.), poisonous plants or food, fertilizers or pesticides as well as rotten food residues cause sudden and severe diarrhea. Diarrhoea often occurs as a side effect of antibiotics.
  7. Stress: Your dog loves you! But changes in the household such as a move, a new pet or a new partner can put dogs under a lot of stress. Stressful situations can be the cause of diarrhoea. Is your dog perhaps alone for too many hours or is he confronted with extreme stress situations every day?

Symptoms and diagnosis

In order to judge first of all whether your dog has diarrhoea, you would have to look at the excrement. Many dogs signal in advance that they will get diarrhoea, they get nervous, want to get out urgently or refuse their food.

If your dog has diarrhoea the following 5 things are important:

  • If the diarrhea is mushy or watery
  • Is the diarrhoea light brown, dark brown red or even black?
  • Is the diarrhea slimy or bloody?
  • Are worms visible in diarrhoea
  • Is the dog pressing without success?

Make sure you always have a thermometer at home. If your dog's body temperature is over 39.2°C, he clearly has a fever! Take a look at our article Dog fever.

A faecal analysis should only be done at your vet or at a special laboratory. Self-experimentation at home or in unauthorised laboratories, such as vendors who offer certain kits to send in, should be avoided as the results are often unreliable.

If you have a puppy under 8 weeks old that has diarrhoea, it is an emergency! Puppies tend to dehydrate and hypoglycemic!


It is normal that you panic easily when your dog suddenly has diarrhoea. What can you do about it?

  • Feeding or sober? This is a question we veterinarians are asked time and again. It varies from case to case. In general you should avoid feeding anything at all. After some time the dog should be fed small amounts of bland food to prevent the diarrhoea from getting worse.
  • What should be fed? Light food means easily digestible food such as cooked chicken and turkey as well as mashed potatoes. In case of an infection with Giardia, a special bland diet should be offered! Dairy products or pure milk, on the other hand, can aggravate the diarrhoea!
  • Diarrhea pastes or intestinal bacteria help enormously to regenerate the intestinal flora and to bind the water in the intestine.
  • Ensure sufficient water absorption! The water bowl should always contain fresh water.

If the diarrhoea lasts longer than 24-48 hours or you have the impression that it is getting worse and worse, the cause must be found.

The administration of antibiosis is clearly wrong according to the current state of medicine. Several studies have proven that an antibiotic has no effect on diarrhoea, but rather demands bacterial resistance! In addition, the intestinal flora of your dog will be destroyed even more than it already is with diarrhoea! Bacterial infections of the intestines occur very rarely in dogs.

The veterinarians at Dr. SAM are happy to help you assess the situation and give you useful tips through the online consultation.


  • The main cause of diarrhoea in dogs is food intolerance. If you have recently started feeding something new or have changed the manufacturer and flavour (e.g. instead of chicken, beef), this may be the reason. Abrupt feed changes should also be avoided! The digestive tract can get used to the new food more easily if it is slowly mixed with the previous food.
  • Certain organ diseases such as pancreatitis, inflammation of the liver or deficiency symptoms can be the cause of diarrhoea. To find out such organ diseases a blood test would have to be carried out. Only when the cause has been eliminated will the diarrhoea disappear.
  • Make sure your Always worm your dog. It is important that your pet stays worm-free! For a faecal examination , you should always submit a pooled faecal sample . This means that you should collect faeces for 3 days before sending it in. Many worm eggs are excreted irregularly, which means that the examination of a single sample may erroneously be inconclusive.

If you are unsure and would like to learn more about Dr. SAM - just click on the link and you will receive further insights into our work.

Best regards,
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
- Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM

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Article from
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM

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