Diarrhea in pets has a way of getting an owner’s attention. From the standpoint of the mess involved and the disruption to the household’s normal routine it certainly is a crisis, but in many cases diarrhea is not a real emergency and is amenable to home treatment. There are times, however, when pets should see a veterinarian without delay.
If any of the following apply, don’t try to treat your dog or cat without first consulting your vet:
- the diarrhea is profuse, frequent, and very watery
- the diarrhea contains more than just a streak of blood or it is dark and tarry
- the pet is vomiting, lethargic, depressed, and/or is in pain
- the pet is very young, very old, or has a preexisting condition that could make it unable to handle even mild dehydration
- anti-diarrhea medication containing kaolin and pectin (e.g., Kaopectate)
- a syringe (no needle) or other way to measure and give liquid medication
- probiotic supplement (optional)
Steps to Follow
- If your dog or cat has diarrhea but no vomiting, there is no need to withhold food. If the pet has vomited, withhold food (but not water) for 12 hours then begin to offer small amounts of a bland diet like boiled white meat chicken (no bones or skin) and white rice for a day or two before gradually returning to the normal diet. If this is impractical, feeding the pet’s normal food is acceptable.
- Encourage the pet to drink water. Keep the bowl in a readily accessible location. It is okay to mix up a second bowl containing a 50:50 dilution of Pedialyte, Gatorade, or a very dilute chicken or beef broth in addition to (but not instead of) the bowl of plain water.
- Administer an anti-diarrhea medication containing kaolin and pectin to absorb excess fluid within the intestinal tract and reduce intestinal movement. An appropriate dose is ½ to 1 milliliter per pound (which is equivalent to ½-1 teaspoon per 5 pounds body weight) every 4-6 hours.
- For a week or so, give the pet a probiotic supplement per label instructions to help normalize the bacterial populations in the intestinal tract.
If the diarrhea fails to resolve after a few days or if the pet’s overall condition declines rather than improves, it is time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Dr. Jennifer Coates