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Diarrhea and Your Dog: What it Means and How to Treat It

 by jaime on 11 Jul 2014 |
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It's not always easy, being in charge of raising a dog. You are responsible for the well-being of another life form, but unlike a human child, this one will never learn to speak a language you can understand. This makes it difficult for dog owners to clearly identify those points in life when their best friend is in distress.
One of the clearest signs of distress in a dog is diarrhea. The presence of loose stools might mean nothing, but it can also be a sign of distress or disease in your dog. Sometimes being a dog owner means you have to do some tasks that aren't very glamorous, and paying attention to diarrhea is one of them.
What diarrhea means
Diarrhea in your dog can mean a lot of different things. It can be as simple as short term digestion issues related to food, or as complex as intestinal diseases or mental distress. More often than not, your dog will suffer a bout of diarrhea as a result of dietary alterations. While canines have survived for thousands of years eating raw meats and other foods, modern dogs are more accustomed to dry dog foods.
When your dog gets into the leftovers, is fed from the table, or rips into the garbage bag in search of food, those foods can upset their GI tract. A sudden change in the dry food you are feeding your dog can also cause it to suffer from diarrhea as its body adjusts to the change in food.
Other causes of diarrhea include viral and bacterial infections in the digestive tract, intestinal worms, and even adverse reactions to medications. It is not unheard of for medications that treat heartworm and intestinal worms to cause diarrhea in a dog. This side effect is often temporary, but if it persists you should consult your vet about switching medications.
A particularly tricky cause of diarrhea is giardia. This parasite in your dog's system can cause diarrhea to become intermittent. Your dog may suffer from diarrhea for two or three days, and then the condition will clear up. Eventually, the diarrhea returns and raises fresh concerns about your dog's health. Giardia is tough to catch because the intermittent cycle can take place over a few days or stretch out over a month. The best way to catch giardia is by keeping a close eye on how long this on-off cycle persists.
Treating diarrhea
If your dog is otherwise healthy and exhibiting normal behavior during a bout of diarrhea, the best course of action you can follow is a temporary diet alteration. Once you notice diarrhea, consider withholding food (but not water) for 12 hours. After the 12 hours have passed, offer your dog a bland, fat-free diet. One option is to cook up some ground turkey meat and serve it to your pooch with a baked sweet potato.
Feed your dog a 50-50 combo of the two in its dish three times each day. Keep the meals small and continue the bland diet for three days. This should help your dog's system adjust and get back to normal.
If, however, you don't notice a change with a bland diet following a three-day period, it is time to take your dog to the veterinarian's office for a check-up. It isn't difficult to help your dog overcome diarrhea, but it will take some vigilance and a little extra work.

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