If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, the last thing you want to do is feed them something that will make it worse. In this article, we will discuss the best diet for a dog with diarrhea and provide some tips on stopping stomach upset and creating a healthier, happier pet.
Causes of Diarrhea
Causes of diarrhea in dogs can vary from diet to infection. Mild cases of diarrhea in otherwise healthy dogs are typically nothing to worry about and are likely just due to something the dog ate. However, some causes, like chronic illness, require veterinary advice.
Some common causes of diarrhea in dogs include:
Dogs can have sensitive stomachs or may eat something they shouldn't, which can cause them to have diarrhea. This could be anything from table scraps to garbage or even another animal's feces. In cases like this, the upset stomach typically isn't serious and can usually be treated at home. That is, as long as the dog hasn't eaten something toxic, such as onions or garlic.
A virus, bacteria or parasite can cause diarrhea in dogs. A bacterial or viral infection can cause serious health problems, as can a parasitic infestation. These issues can even be deadly in some dogs, so if you suspect that your dog has internal parasites or a problem like canine parvovirus, seeking treatment is crucial.
Dogs with intestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or pancreatitis may have bouts of diarrhea. Both conditions can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, decreased appetite, abdominal pain and other symptoms. However, with pancreatitis, dogs sometimes present a tell-tale sign of pancreatitis called the "praying position." In this position, the dog lowers its front legs and head to the floor and leaves its rear end elevated.
Intestinal tract issues can be fatal if left untreated. If your dog shows symptoms of pancreatitis or dehydration due to an upset stomach that causes intense vomiting or diarrhea, see a vet for diagnosis and treatment.
Some medications, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs, can cause diarrhea as a side effect. Typically, the vet will warn you in advance if diarrhea is a common side effect of medication.
Either way, it's a good idea to contact the vet who prescribed the medication to let them know your pet's reaction and get their advice.
Certain types of cancer, including intestinal cancer, can cause diarrhea in dogs, as can intestinal blockages. That said, if symptoms persist in a dog with diarrhea, the pet should undergo a thorough evaluation to find out the underlying cause of their upset stomach.
Allergies are a common cause of diarrhea in dogs. Dogs can develop food allergies to any type of food, but some of the most common allergens include beef, dairy, chicken and soy. If your dog is allergic to one of these foods, he or she may experience diarrhea as a result. They may also vomit or scratch more than usual.
If you believe allergies may be causing your dog's diarrhea, a vet can help you monitor the dog's regular diet to find out the specific food causing an allergic reaction. If necessary, vets can also perform allergy tests to pin down the offending ingredient.
Anxiety or Stress
It's not just diet that can cause diarrhea in dogs; anxiety and stress can also be a factor. Anxious or stressed dogs may have trouble digesting their food, leading to diarrhea. Some common signs of stress in dogs include panting, pacing, drooling and vomiting.
If you think your dog may be stressed, try to provide them with a calm and quiet environment. You may also consider talking to your veterinarian about anxiety medications or behavioural therapy. A common cause of anxiety could be the arrival of a baby.
Abrupt Changes in Diet
Changing your dog's diet without any warning can lead to shifts in the dog's stools. Dogs may have diarrhea or vomiting after a quick food change as their body adjusts to the new diet. For this reason, it's usually best to change a dog's regular diet slowly, phasing in the new food gradually over several days.
It's essential to keep in mind that the best way to approach upset stomachs is to prevent them from occurring in the first place, which usually means providing a healthy diet, supporting a good digestive system with dietary supplements and preventing the animal from eating inappropriate or spoiled food.
The best way to discourage diarrhea in dogs is by feeding them a diet that is high in fibre and low in fat. Dogs prone to getting diarrhea should avoid fatty foods like bacon, sausage, cheese and processed foods like kibble. Instead, feed them a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
Another way to prevent diarrhea is by keeping your dog's vaccinations up to date. Dogs can get sick from many of the same viruses and bacteria that cause human diarrhea, so it is important to make sure they are protected against illness.
Use Dietary Supplements
Even dogs who eat nutritious foods may need supplements to process their foods efficiently and absorb nutrients. Dietary supplements can help balance gut flora, improve digestion and make up for diet deficiencies.
Dogs that eat a diet of processed foods like kibble are especially prone to deficiencies since these foods are low in fibre and high in sugar. This can lead to problems like diarrhea, gas and constipation.
Some good dietary supplements for dogs with diarrhea include probiotics, digestive enzymes and omega-fatty acids. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to keep the gut healthy and functioning correctly. Enzymes are necessary for breaking down food so the body can absorb the nutrients. And omega-fatty acids are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.
Keep the Dog Calm and Relaxed
Another way to prevent your dog from getting diarrhea is to keep them calm and stress-free. Nervous dogs may develop diarrhea or other symptoms.
Some ways to keep your dog calm and stress-free include:
Providing a safe and comfortable space for them to relax in
Giving them plenty of exercise and playtime
Avoiding loud noises or chaotic environments
If your dog already has loose stools, keeping them in a quiet, familiar and safe area may help reduce symptoms caused by anxiety.
What's Best for Your Dog's Stomach?
The best diet for a dog with diarrhea is bland and easy to digest. Owners should not feed a dog with stomach problems anything spicy or high in sugar, as sugary or seasoned foods can worsen diarrhea.
Developing a Healthy But Bland Diet
When your furry friend has stomach problems, you want to put as little stress on their stomach as possible. When a dog's stomach is upset, and it's fed its regular food, it can lead to more diarrhea. Bland foods, however, generally don't upset the stomach.
Examples of Bland Food
If you've been searching "diet for dog with diarrhea," you've come to the right place. Below we've put together a list of a few bland foods that usually make good dog food when your pet has diarrhea.
White and sweet potatoes are two of the best options to feed a dog with diarrhea. They are both bland and gentle on the stomach, so they can help reduce diarrhea and restore balance to the digestive system. White and sweet potatoes are also great sources of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, making them good for your dog's health.
Never serve a white or sweet potato raw. Raw potatoes can be toxic to dogs and must be cooked before consumption. It's typically best for dog owners to bake or boil the white or sweet potato and mash it before serving it to their canine companion.
Boiled white rice can fill your dog's stomach and give them the helpful calories they need to maintain strength and overall health while also having a limiting effect on the animal's intestinal tract. The rice is easy to digest, and dog owners can mix it with lean protein to create a filling but bland meal.
It also has soluble fibre, which can help firm up the dog's stool.
One food often recommended for a dog with diarrhea is canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin is a good source of fibre, which helps regulate the dog's digestion. As such, it's usually inoffensive in the bowels and can actually help slow diarrhea. It also contains plenty of Vitamin A and other vitamins and minerals that contribute to your pet's overall health.
Dog owners should not feed a dog pumpkin pie filling, which includes ingredients not suited for a dog with diarrhea. Plain canned pumpkin should be provided to the animal instead.
Bananas have many benefits to offer dogs on bland diets for stomach issues like diarrhea. For one, bananas contain pectin, a soluble fibre good for soothing the GI tract. They also give the dog much-needed moisture and potassium.
Dogs only need a little banana to give them energy and sustenance, usually about 5ml per 4.5 kilograms.
Applesauce is another easily-digested food product that's full of moisture and vitamins. The soluble fibre and plentiful water in applesauce can assist in replacing lost fluids and lessening the occurrence of diarrhea. As with pumpkin, dog owners should not feed a dog applesauce with additional ingredients. It should be plain and unsweetened.
Keep in mind that not all vets recommend that you feed fruit to a dog with diarrhea and recommend starchier, bland food instead.
A dog's regular food typically includes lean protein, and it's usually okay to feed a dog lean protein food when it has diarrhea. Turkey, skinless chicken breasts and lean ground hamburger meat are very digestible if they're not cooked with butter, oil or seasoning.
As mentioned above, lean proteins like cooked chicken can be mixed with rice or other foods to give the dog a well-rounded meal that doesn't irritate its GI tract.
Plain Yoghurt or Cottage Cheese
Feeding plain yoghurt to a dog for diarrhea can help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut and control diarrhea. Yoghurt is high in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help to keep the gut healthy. It is best to use plain, unsweetened yoghurt for this purpose.
Cottage cheese is another food that is often high in probiotics, protein and fat and can help treat diarrhea in dogs. Like yoghurt, it is best to use plain, unsweetened cottage cheese. You can include a small amount with your dog's food. Keep in mind that using small amounts is necessary. If overused, cottage cheese can actually make diarrhea worse.
Why Is Fibre Important?
Fibre is an important nutrient for dogs with diarrhea because it helps to regulate bowel movements. Soluble fibre can reduce diarrhea and restore regularity. Many foods are high in fibre, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
There are a few things to keep in mind when feeding your dog a high fibre diet. First, make sure to gradually increase the amount of fibre in their diet. Too much fibre too quickly can worsen the dog's diarrhea. Second, make sure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh, clean water. A diet high in fibre can cause dehydration, so make sure that your dog stays well hydrated.
What to Do for a Dog with Runny Stools
In addition to diet, there's a lot you can do to stop diarrhea and get your dog back on track.
Discuss Your Dog's Stomach Issues with a Vet
There are many different causes of diarrhea in dogs, and the only way to know for sure what is wrong is by seeing a professional. The vet will likely do a physical examination and run some tests, including a fecal exam, to determine the origin of your pet's gastrointestinal problems, whether it's a sensitive stomach, a lack of beneficial bacteria, allergies or a more severe issue.
Fasting for Healthy Dogs
Many people believe that dogs with diarrhea should fast, going without food for up to 24 hours. This is because the digestive system needs time to rest and heal. As such, it is often best to withhold even treats from a dog with diarrhea until they are feeling better.
However, you can and should still provide your dog with fluids during this time to prevent dehydration. You can give them water or ice chips, and once they feel better, you can slowly reintroduce them to their regular diet.
Please keep in mind that withholding food is controversial, and not everyone agrees about the benefits of a restricted diet. It's also not advisable for all dogs. For example, pet owners shouldn't withhold food from puppies, senior dogs and canines with health problems. It's also recommended to avoid withholding food for toy breeds, like Chihuahuas.
That said, many vets recommend that owners withhold food for a time when an otherwise healthy dog has diarrhea, so the stomach doesn't contract or become irritated.
Watch Carefully for Signs of Dehydration
One of the most important things to do when a dog has an upset stomach is to make sure that they are getting plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a common complication of diarrhea, so make sure your dog has access to fresh water. Your vet may also recommend giving the pet an electrolyte solution to help replace your furry friend's lost fluids.
Medicines for Dogs with Diarrhea
To treat diarrhea, a vet may prescribe medications. If that's the case, follow the directions for use and contact the vet if you notice any issues following dosage.
Alternatively, the vet may recommend supplements with probiotics to create a healthier GI tract, special diets to avoid allergic reactions or over-the-counter solutions, like kaolin clay and pectin to protect the intestinal lining and help promote normal bowel movements.
Things That Can Trigger Diarrhea
Several things can trigger diarrhea in dogs. Some common triggers include diet changes, viruses, stress and infection. In addition, there are specific foods that can cause diarrhea in dogs.
Here are some of the most common offenders:
If your dog has diarrhea, you'll want to avoid feeding these foods and always avoid feeding a dog table scraps. Instead, focus on feeding your dog inoffensive, easy-to-digest foods, as we discuss above.
Chronic Diarrhea in Canines
Most cases of diarrhea in dogs are acute and will resolve on their own in a short period. However, some dogs may suffer from chronic diarrhea, a longer-term problem that requires treatment and often has an underlying cause.
If your dog has chronic diarrhea, it's essential to contact the vet for diagnosis and treatment, as chronic diarrhea can signal serious health problems.
When is Diarrhea an Emergency?
If acute diarrhea persists for more than a day or if your dog has other symptoms such as vomiting, fever or blood in the stool, we recommend seeking advice from the vet immediately. The animal may have a more serious condition than a simple stomach upset and probably needs prompt treatment, especially if they're dehydrated due to diarrhea or vomiting.
Diarrhea can be a sign of many different things, from dietary indiscretion to intestinal parasites, so it is important to get your dog checked out by a professional if it does not improve on its own.
Additionally, for some animals, diarrhea is always an emergency. Puppies and senior dogs, for example, always need a vet's attention if they have diarrhea because they tend to be more vulnerable to dehydration and have weaker immune systems than strong and healthy adult dogs.
Dogs with pre-existing conditions like diabetes should also receive immediate care if they experience diarrhea.
Your Dog's Diet in the Long-Term
After your dog has recovered from a bout of acute diarrhea, it's time to consider their long-term diet. The diet that you feed a dog with diarrhea will differ from the diet they've eaten while suffering from an upset stomach in most cases.
If it was a one-off experience, feeding a dog its normal food again slowly, usually over the course of a few days, may be the best course of action. Alternatively, the vet may recommend prescription dog food or a dog food designed for a sensitive stomach.
Food supplements may also be suggested to balance the flora in the GI tract and contribute to a healthier gut.
Reducing Dog Diarrhea with Diet
With a little TLC and the right diet, most pet owners can help their dog overcome their diarrhea and get back to their old selves in no time.
If you have any concerns or questions about what to feed a dog or how to treat your dog's diarrhea, remember that's it's always advised to consult a vet.
By Dr. Guangda Xue (Danny), BSc, MRes, PhD
Animal scientist specialised in gut health development and inflammation management