If you have a dog at home, the occasional diarrhea episode is to be expected. It’s not really a matter of if your dog will experience it, but when. Knowing what to expect when your dog has loose stools – and how to manage it – is good to have, especially before you need it. Dr. Karen Becker gives her recommendation to cure diarrhea episodes at home.
Causes of Diarrhea
There are many causes of diarrhea, but the most common reason by far is dietary indiscretion, which means your pet ate something he shouldn’t have and his body is trying to get rid of it as soon as possible.
If your dog eats a stick or a chew toy, diarrhea or loose stools are commonly the result. Just as your body is designed to eat different foods every day and not have diarrhea, so is your pet’s. If you feed your dog or cat the same food day after day, month after month, year in and year out, then suddenly switch to a new diet, a case of diarrhea is just about guaranteed.
It’s not the fault of the different food — it’s because your pet’s gut has been conditioned to process only one type of food, which is not ideal, nutritionally or physiologically.
Transitioning Your Pet to a Varied Diet
The goal is to diversify your pet’s diet to include a variety of foods with different nutrient contents, which ultimately fosters a diversified gut microbiome, and makes the digestive system strong and resilient.
Up to 80 percent of your pet’s immune system is located within the GI tract, so the more you focus on creating good gut health, the healthier your pet will be overall.
If you want to feed your pet a different food, you have to make the transition very slowly. A slow dietary transition means days to weeks for most dogs, and often weeks to months for cats. Start by feeding 10 percent new food blended with 90 percent old food for several days. Watch your pet’s stool and if all seems well, move to 20 percent new/80 percent old. Keep watching for stool changes and if none occur, move to 30 percent new food and 70 percent old, and so on, until you’re feeding only the new diet. The process should be slow enough that no bowel changes occur.
Treating a Pet With Diarrhea at Home
If your dog or cat is otherwise healthy and his behavior is normal, Dr. Becker recommends to withhold food — not water, just food — for 12 hours. A short-term fast gives the GI tract a chance to rest, repair and restore itself. Tissues can only heal when they’re resting.
Follow the 12-hour food fast with a bland diet. Dr. Becker recommends cooked, fat-free ground turkey and 100 percent canned pumpkin. If canned pumpkin isn’t available, you can use fresh, steamed pumpkin. If you can’t use either one of those, you can use cooked sweet potato or even cooked white potato.
Other Treatment Suggestions
Dr. Becker also recommends keeping some slippery elm on hand. Slippery elm is a neutral fiber source that works really well to ease episodes of diarrhea. It reduces GI inflammation and acts as a non-irritating source of fiber to bulk up the stool and slow down GI transit time.
Give your dog or cat about a half a teaspoon or a capsule for each 10 pounds of body weight with every bland meal. In addition to slippery elm, many pet owners have good luck with herbs such as peppermint, fennel or chamomile. These are especially helpful for the cramping and other uncomfortable GI symptoms that come with diarrhea.
If your dog’s diarrhea isn’t resolving or keeps returning, collect a sample of the stool and take it to your vet. Your vet can test it and do bloodwork to see if an infection is present. It may also be necessary to treat your dog for dehydration in the event that your pup has lost too much fluid.