This month we wanted to focus upon a relatively common situation among pets which could indicate a potential underlying health issue — diarrhea.

What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is best described as a disturbance in your pet’s gastrointestinal system — with material moving through your pet’s intestine at a faster rate resulting in decreased water, nutrients and electrolyte absorption. While diarrhea is not uncommon, its presence means you should take notice of your pet’s health and be prepared to take action.

Sad Pet
Where does Diarrhea come from?
Most often, diarrhea is the result of an intestinal infection from bacteria, viruses, coccidia, or intestinal worms. However, a change in diet, the consumption of “street food,” or the stress associated with a new environment or situation can produce sudden diarrhea. Diarrhea can also be caused by parasites (roundworms, hookworms, etc.) or the consumption of poisonous items (such as plants or chemicals) or a foreign body (such as a rock or sock). However, diarrhea can also indicate several substantial underlying health issues, including infections, allergies, organ issues, or other illnesses.

What should I do?
The first step when your pet has diarrhea is to acknowledge the issue and comfort your pet. It’s often best to clean and disinfect the area with Clorox or similar wipes to reduce the possibility of a future reinfection. If this is your pet’s first bout of diarrhea, you should closely monitor their health looking for any blood in their stool, vomiting, or a sense of weakness or malaise. If any of these symptoms exist, or your pet will not eat or drink, then please call an animal hospital immediately. Also, if you have a pet under one year of age, please call us as diarrhea can be an indicator of other diseases (such as parvovirus) — and dehydration often needs to be carefully monitored.

If your pet continues to experience bouts of diarrhea, then you’ll need to start paying even closer attention. Make note of the time, consistency, color, smell, and your pet’s reaction after the movement. You should also be prepared to capture a sample in a clean container.

Poop Color Wheel
A first step is to prepare a bland diet consisting of 1/3 boiled lean chicken or turkey mixed with 2/3 pasta or white rice to see if this settles their stomach and slows the movement through their digestive system. Try several smaller feedings throughout the day, always ensuring plenty of water is available. If this produces positive results, then begin transitioning your pet to their normal diet within three to four days.

If your pet does not show significant stabilization within 12 to 24 hours, then please bring your pet to a vet clinic.

What testing might be needed?
Depending upon the age of your pet and the severity of their diarrhea, we may conduct:

  • Microscopic fecal evaluation
  • Fecal culture
  • Blood test
  • X-ray or Ultrasound (to identify any abdominal or gastrointestinal abnormalities)
  • Endoscopy

The ultimate selection of tests will depend upon our experience and personal observation of your pet and any associated clinical indications. We may also prescribe antidiarrheal medicine, de-wormers or probiotics to help your pet recover more quickly.

Should I be concerned?
If your pet is very young or very old, you should pay close attention calling us sooner rather than later. These pets may not have the strength to tolerate the stress placed upon them by any bacteria, virus or resulting dehydration. If your pet does not want to eat, drink or continues to have diarrhea that does not improve (in term of frequency or consistency), then also contact us immediately. But if your pet shows signs of improvement, then the underlying cause of your pet’s diarrhea can often be resolved by your pet’s innate systems accompanied with a bland diet, plenty of water and lots of care and love.

Happy Pets
Should I consider any medications made for people?
While every pet owner has the best intentions, do not provide your pet with any antidiarrhea (or other) medicine made for humans. Recall, your pet’s systems (including the digestive system) differ significantly from yours. If you’re concerned, please contact us.

Contact us
If you’re concerned about your pet’s diarrhea or any other health condition, please contact us. We’re here for you and your pet.

Kirkwood Animal Hospital Veterinarians