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Believe it or not, there are several types of diarrhea. It’s important to know the normal state of your dog’s stool so that you can accurately determine if it’s any different than normal. You should also be aware of the normal condition of their gums and eyes for a more accurate assessment.
Soft Stool With No Blood Or Mucous
If your dog has soft feces, it may be something as simple as having eaten a new food or an object that wasn’t meant for consumption. However, it may also be a sign of parasites or stress. Monitor your dog closely and seek medical attention if the condition persists or worsens.
Greasy Gray Stool
When dogs have this type of diarrhea, it is usually a sign that they have eaten a greasy food or too much fat. Reduce the fat content of the food your pup consumes to see if this solves the problem.
Black Stool With A Tar Type Texture
When your pup has a black, tarry look to his feces, it’s a sign that there is old blood in his or her system. This may be a sign that the pup ate something that caused internal damage, or that he or she has a serious disease such as cancer, or a tumor. Seek medical attention immediately.
Dogs that have liquid diarrhea may have a viral or intestinal infection. Since dogs are at high risk for dehydration in these situations, be sure to monitor the pup closely and use preventative methods of treatment. If the condition persists, seek medical attention.
Dogs who develop a stool with a mucous-type membrane or stringy substance may be at serious risk for diseases such as Parvo. It may also be an indication of the presence of parasites. Seek medical attention immediately.
Worms Or Other Living Things
If you notice that there are worms or other living things present in your dog’s stool, promptly take him or her to the vet so they can be treated accordingly.
Solid Stool With Fresh Blood
When your pup has any type of blood in their stool, he or she is experiencing a serious health problem. If the blood is fresh, it is a sign that there is currently bleeding inside of your pup. It may be in the large intestine or the anal glands. Your pup may have eaten something that perforated his or her intestinal wall or this may be a sign of the eruption of a tumor or an ulcer. Seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Soft Or Runny Stool With Blood Or Blood Clots
Bloody diarrhea can be an indication of a serious health problem. That problem can range from something the dog has eaten to more serious conditions like parasites or Parvo. The fact that your pup not only has diarrhea but also has blood in the diarrhea should be taken seriously. The condition may pass with a day or two if the pup has eaten something unhealthy, but if the pup has a disease such as Parvo, the pup can quickly dehydrate and die within a day or two. Seek medical attention immediately.
Infographic: What Does Your Dog’s Poop Color Mean
Seeing the Vet for Diagnosis and Treatment
If your dog's constipation does not improve with the above tips within about a day, then it's time to go to your family veterinarian. After getting a thorough history, your vet will perform a physical examination, including abdominal palpation to feel for stool in the colon.
Your vet may recommend radiographs (X-rays) to see if your dog is constipated and determine the severity of it. Excess stool can be easily seen on radiographs, which may reveal an obstruction if there is one, but these do not always show up.
Depending on your dog's age and the exam findings, your vet may also recommend lab work to assess your dog's organ function, electrolyte balance, blood cell counts, and more.
If your dog is truly constipated, your vet may recommend an enema to remove the backed-up stool. Subcutaneous fluids may also be recommended to hydrate your dog. Also, your vet may prescribe a medication like lactulose to help your dog with bowel movements.
Most dogs do not need to be admitted to the hospital for constipation. Usually, the treatments can be done in a couple of hours and your dog can return home for the night. If your dog is very dehydrated or has other medical problems, it may need intravenous fluids and/or additional treatments that require hospitalization.
If your dog has persistent or recurrent bouts of constipation, your veterinarian will work to determine the cause and best course of treatment. In some cases, you may be referred to a veterinary specialist for a second opinion, advanced diagnostics, or specialized treatments.
Stool Problems - pets
This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.
Diarrhea is the passing of loose or liquid stool, more often than normal. Diarrhea can be caused by diseases of the small intestine, large intestine or by diseases of organs other than the intestinal tract. Your ability to answer questions about your pet's diet, habits, environment and specific details about the diarrhea can help the veterinarian narrow the list of possible causes, and to plan for specific tests to determine the cause of diarrhea. (Anatomy of the digestive system: dog / cat)
Small intestinal and large intestinal diarrhea have different causes, require different tests to diagnose and are treated differently. Small intestinal diseases result in a larger amount of stool passed with a mild increase in frequency about 3 to 5 bowel movements per day. The pet doesn't strain or have difficulty passing stool. Animals with small intestinal disease may also vomit and lose weight. Excess gas production is sometimes seen and you may hear the rumbling of gas in the belly. If there is blood in the stool it is digested and black in color.
Disease of the large intestine including the colon and rectum cause the pet to pass small amounts of loose stool very often, usually more than 5 times daily. The pet strains to pass stool. If there is blood in the stool, it is red in color. The stool may be slimy with mucus. The pet does not usually vomit or lose weight with large bowel diarrhea. A sudden onset of small intestinal diarrhea may be caused by viruses including canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine coronavirus, feline panleukopenia virus or feline coronavirus, in young, poorly vaccinated pets. Small intestinal diarrhea can be caused by bacteria such as salmonella, clostridia or campylobacter although these same bacteria can be found in the stool of normal dogs and cats.
Worms and giardia can cause small intestinal diarrhea, mostly in young animals. Foreign bodies including bones, sticks and other objects can pass through the stomach and get stuck in the intestine causing both diarrhea and vomiting. These same foreign materials may pass through the intestinal tract without getting stuck but may damage the lining of the intestinal tract causing diarrhea. Dietary indiscretion or a sudden change in diet can cause diarrhea with or without vomiting. Food allergies in dogs and cats can cause diarrhea, vomiting or itchy skin. Toxins including lead and insecticides can cause diarrhea usually with vomiting. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs commonly in both dogs and cats. In IBD the walls of the intestine contain abnormal numbers of inflammatory cells which can be eosinophils, lymphocytes or plasma cells. The cause of IBD is not known but is suspected to be an allergic reaction to components of food, bacteria or parasites. IBD can be congenital in some breeds of dogs, for example Basenji dogs may develop a severe inflammatory bowel disease. Tumors of the intestine are another cause of diarrhea usually occurring in older pets. The tumor may be a single mass when the tumor is from the glands of the intestine (adenocarcinoma) and may be removed by surgery or the tumor may occur diffusely along the intestine. Lymphosarcoma occurs in both dogs and cats and can either be a single or multiple masses in the intestine or the abnormal lymphocytes may be spread through out the intestine. Lymphosarcoma is often responsive to anti-cancer drugs in cats but rarely responds to anti-cancer drugs in dogs.
In certain parts of the country small intestinal disease can be caused by fungal infections including histoplasmosis. Your veterinarian can discuss with you whether histoplasmosis is seen in your part of the country. Diseases outside the intestinal tract that may cause diarrhea include kidney failure, liver failure, pancreatic disease and hyperthyroidism in the cat. Severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) can lead to damage of the pancreas and an inability to make enough enzymes to digest fat. This is called pancreatic insufficiency and causes diarrhea with a large volume of greasy stool. Pancreatic insufficiency can occur in young animals due to a congenital deficiency of pancreatic enzymes.
The cause of small intestinal diarrhea may be determined from blood tests, examination of the stool, x-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen or by endoscopy. Endoscopy is the technique of passing a flexible scope through the stomach into the upper intestine. Small biopsies of the lining of the intestine can be taken for microscopic evaluation. Endoscopy requires general anesthesia. A diagnosis of intestinal lymphosarcoma may be missed on endoscopy as the biopsies taken using endoscopy do not include the full thickness of the wall of the intestine and the cancerous cells may be deep in the wall of the intestine. A diagnosis in that case requires surgery in order to take a larger biopsy of the entire thickness of the intestine.
Dogs and cats with chronic small intestinal diarrhea will lose weight as they are unable to properly absorb nutrients and may develop edema of the legs or fluid accumulation in the belly or chest. A small protein, albumin may be lost in diarrhea. Albumin acts like a sponge to keep water in the blood vessels. When albumin is lost in the stool, blood albumin gets low and water leaks out of blood vessels to accumulate in other locations. Chronic diarrhea may cause the fur to look dull and brittle due to nutrient deficiencies. Acute small intestinal diarrhea can be managed by withholding food, but not water for 24 - 48 hours. If diarrhea stops, small amounts of a bland low-fat food are fed 3 to 6 times daily for a few days, with a gradual increase in the amount fed and a gradual transition to the pet's normal diet. Foods designed as intestinal diets usually contain rice as rice is more digestible than other grains. You are discouraged from administering over-the-counter diarrhea medications without first consulting a veterinarian. If the pet is active, not dehydrated and has been previously healthy, acute diarrhea can often be managed at home. Diarrhea that continues for more than a few days or is accompanied by depression or other signs is an indication to take your pet to a veterinarian.
Diarrhea of large intestinal origin can be caused by whipworms, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, colonic ulcers or colonic cancer. Stress can cause large bowel diarrhea in excitable dogs. The diagnosis of large intestinal diarrhea is also made by blood tests and examination of the stool. A rectal examination using a gloved finger may provide some information about the cause of large bowel problems including rectal polyps and rectal cancer. Endoscopy to examine the large intestine is performed using a rigid or flexible scope passed up the rectum. Because the rectum is often very irritated, colon exams are usually performed under general anesthesia.
The treatment of large bowel diarrhea may be based on a specific diagnosis. Non specific treatment of large bowel diarrhea often includes a high fiber diet and sullfasalazine, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.
If your dog has diarrhea, try to collect a sample. You might need to take it to the vet later. Take a look at the stool's consistency and color. Is it watery? Pudding-like? Formed but soft? Is there blood present? Mucus? Is it black and/or tarry? Do you see pieces of toys, clothing, or other inedible material in it? Make a note of this, because your vet will ask.
If lethargy, vomiting, or other signs of illness accompany the vomiting, make a note of this too. If you can't take the stool sample to the vet right away, store it in the fridge in a sealed bag or container. Many people prefer to double-bag it because it is poop, after all.
One or two episodes of diarrhea are not necessarily reasons to become alarmed. Some cases of diarrhea are self-limiting (meaning they resolve on their own). If your dog is still eating and drinking, that's a good sign. Never give over-the-counter or prescription medications without your vet's advice. If you're that concerned, it's best to just to take your dog to the vet.
Continued diarrhea can lead to dehydration or weight loss and could be a symptom of an underlying illness. It's important not to ignore symptoms when your dog is sick. Dogs often hide their illnesses for as long as possible, acting as if they feel normal when there's really something more serious going on.