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Diarrhea Debunked

Posted 04.27.16 by Emily Lindsey

One of the most common problems we veterinarians see with our pets is diarrhea. Yuck, right?

Diarrhea can have many causes, and some are very serious and scary. The best way to help your dog’s diarrhea improve is to see your veterinarian! They will need to figure out why he has diarrhea in order to treat it.

Here are just a few causes of diarrhea:

  1. Stress
  2. Intestinal parasites (worms)
  3. Foreign body obstruction
  4. Pancreatitis
  5. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  6. Irritable bowel disease
  7. Cancer

Your vet has many tools at their disposal to help find out why your pet is having diarrhea. They may need to take xrays to look for items stuck in your pet’s stomach or masses in the intestines and surrounding area. They will more than likely run labwork to look for pancreatitis or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and rule out other organ function issues. They will also need to check the patient’s poop for worms by running a fecal float in house.

Surprisingly for many of my clients, they’ll bring their dog in for “constipation,” when in fact, he has diarrhea. The symptoms can look the same – straining to poop.


Sometimes when your pet is stressed, be it from a car ride, grooming, having visitors in the house, a new pet or baby in the house, etc… their intestines can overreact. You may notice soft or watery stools, and sometimes even blood.

Some pets eat things they shouldn’t- they get into the trash, counter surf, eat your dinner, swallow an entire toy, or they may play with rocks or sticks outside. Regardless of what the object is, they may get diarrhea because of this. Toys or indigestible items can cause an obstruction in the intestines which can be very dangerous. They can become very sick and even need surgery to remove the item!
Foods that the pet is not used to eating can cause inflammation in the intestines leading to diarrhea or pancreatitis as well. Thankfully, this can usually be managed with medication.
Some plants, medications, and human foods are poisonous to our pets leading to further tummy issues. Things like chocolate, onions, lilies, and medications can make our pets very sick and cause organ failure. The first sign of toxicity is often diarrhea. If your pet gets into something toxic, please notify your vet right away!

If there is blood in the poop, it is very important to inform your vet. Sometimes blood in the stools is due to stress, causing “stress colitis”. But some pets can get “hemorrhagic gastroenteritis” where they loose too much blood in the stools. This can be very serious and require hospitalization.  If the stools are black and tarry, they may have an ulcer. Depending on the severity of your pet’s symptoms, your vet may be able to help the diarrhea by medication, but they may need to keep them in the hospital, give fluids to rehydrate them, or do further treatment to help them feel better.

Sometimes, pets can have chronic diarrhea, (diarrhea that has gone on a long time). This is when we worry about chronic conditions like irritable bowel disease, food allergies, chronic pancreas issues, and cancer.

Puppies that have diarrhea can become very sick very fast so do not wait. The most serious thing we worry about with puppies is a viral disease called parvovirus. This can progress quickly and the patient will need treatment from their vet right away! Puppies also commonly get intestinal parasites. But a simple deworming can help if this is the case.

If your pet isn’t feeling well and having diarrhea, please let us know. We will be glad to help them with their tummy troubles.

Written by: Christina Munn

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