As a doting pet owner, you likely feel alarmed whenever your dog is feeling bad. That's why it can be distressing to discover your dog has unexplained diarrhea. Our Oakland vets discuss common causes of diarrhea, what to do if you find bloody stool, and when it's time to call an emergency vet about your dog.
Bloody Stool in Dogs
Our vets at East Bay Veterinary Clinic have seen our share of Oakland dogs suffering from diarrhea.
While mild bouts of diarrhea may be alarming - and potentially messy to deal with - they are very common and may be due to intestinal distress.
These incidents are often directly tied to food; whether it be a bad reaction to your dog eating a small amount of something that didn't agree with their stomach, such as switching to a new brand of dog food that isn't right for them or getting into table scraps.
That said, sometimes a more serious cause may be behind your dog's diarrhea and bloody stool. Some of these may require an immediate visit to the veterinarian.
Diarrhea in Dogs - Common Culprits
Here are some of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs and blood in a dog's stool:
- Anxiety or stress
- Medications such as antibiotics
- Intestinal cancer
- Kidney or liver disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Bacterial infections such as salmonella
- Parasites - hookworms, Coccidia, Giardia, whipworms, roundworms
- Viral infections such as parvovirus, coronavirus or distemper
- Ingestion of foreign objects such as fabric, toys or bones
- Eating garbage or spoiled food
- Change in treats or diet
- Ingesting poisons or toxins
Because there is such a wide range of potential causes, you may find it difficult to know when your dog's symptoms warrant contacting your vet. In this post, we'll share some advice to help you decide when a case of diarrhea is worth a visit to your veterinarian.
Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs
The most obvious sign that you should consider calling your veterinarian is when your dog has bloody diarrhea. There are two types of bloody stool to watch for when your dog is experiencing diarrhea:
Hematochezia is caused by bleeding in the colon or lower digestive tract. It will be bright red in color and points to certain potential medical complications.
Melena is blood that's been swallowed or digested. This almost jelly-like, sticky, dark blood may mean a serious problem in your dog's upper digestive tract is the cause.
Singular streaks of blood are often a fluke. However, if there's consistent bleeding or there is large amounts of blood, this is a clear indicator of a much larger problem, such as a bacterial or viral infection, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, parvovirus or even cancer.
If you find blood in your dog's stool, in any amount, it is always best to contact your vet, describing exactly what you have observed will allow your vet to give you detailed instructions on what you should be watching for, and if it makes sense for your dog to come in for a visit based on their symptoms.
Other Instances Where Diarrhea in Dogs Is Reason to Contact Your Vet
If your dog has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your canine companion has two or more bouts of diarrhea.
If your dog is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away. Contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.
Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your dog is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious, and life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your dog is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.
Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your dog has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:
- Blood in stool
- Unusual drooling
- Lack of Appetite
- Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)
If your dog is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.
Treating Diarrhea in Dogs
Never give your dog human medications without consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to dogs.
If your dog has had one or two runny or soft stools, you may want to give your dog some time to recover by simply fasting for 12 - 24 hours.
A bland diet for a day or two may help to resolve your dog's issue. Plain-cooked white rice with a little chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling) may help to make your dog's tummy feel better. Once your dog feels better gradually reintroduce their regular food.
Other things that might help to soothe your dog's upset tummy include natural yogurt, probiotics, peeled boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, egg with no oil added, specially formulated dog foods, and medications prescribed by your vet.
When it comes to your dog's health it is usually best to err on the side of caution. By taking your dog in for an examination if you find blood in your dog's poop, you give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your dog's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.