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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Using Diet to Treat Diarrhea in Dogs

July 26, 2013 / (4) comments

Diarrhea is part of the canine condition. Most dogs do not have what could be called a discriminating palate. Their willingness to sample almost anything that vaguely resembles food is responsible for a large proportion of acute diarrhea cases (I know there’s nothing “cute” about diarrhea; in this context “acute” means “of short duration”).

Thankfully, diarrhea that results from dietary indiscretion is relatively simple to treat. Some cases resolve on their own, but most owners are looking for ways to reduce the severity and duration of their dogs' symptoms. Minimizing diarrhea serves everyone’s best interests. Diarrhea is a quality of life issue for both dogs and the people who have to clean up the messes they make and/or get up in the middle of the night to let them out.

Two types of dietary therapy are helpful in the treatment of diarrhea. Which is best depends on the kind of diarrhea that a dog has. When the problem lies primarily within the small intestine, dogs develop what is called small bowel diarrhea (hence the name). Dogs with small bowel diarrhea typically produce large amounts of soft stool but do so just a few times a day. When abnormalities are centered in the colon, affected dogs will usually strain to produce small amounts of watery stool frequently throughout the day. This is large bowel diarrhea.

Small bowel diarrhea responds best to a bland, low fat, easily digested diet. White rice combined with either boiled white meat chicken (no bones or skin), cottage cheese, or tofu are all easy to prepare at home, and similar commercially available, prescription diets are also available. For large bowel diarrhea, a high fiber diet has been shown to be beneficial. Ideally, both soluble fiber (the type colonic bacteria use for food) and insoluble (indigestible) fiber should be included. It appears that fiber helps decrease straining and encourages the innermost surface of the colon to heal. Foods that are high in fiber are widely available (many are advertised to help with weight maintenance).

If you are unsure of what type of diarrhea your dog has (some dogs have symptoms associated with both), one way to hedge your bets is to prepare a bland diet as is described above and then add psyllium mucilloid (a source of soluble fiber) to it. Psyllium mucilloid (e.g., unflavored Metamucil) is available over the counter and can be given to dogs at a dose of one teaspoon per five pounds body weight.

Of course, treating diarrhea at home is only appropriate when a dog is otherwise feeling fine. If any of the following apply, it is safest to first consult with your veterinarian:

  • The diarrhea is profuse, frequent, and very watery.
  • The diarrhea contains more than just a streak of blood or is dark and tarry.
  • The pet is vomiting, lethargic, depressed, and/or in pain.
  • The pet is very young, very old, or has a preexisting condition that could make it unable to handle even mild dehydration.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Thinkstock

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Comments  4

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  • 07/26/2013 04:04pm

    A gastroenterologist I know had a dog with a chronic case. After a couple of visits to the vet he decided to try a "probiotic". His answer? A bit of cat stool. The chronic case cleared right up.

  • 07/26/2013 05:49pm

    I've heard many a story about dogs thinking the litter box is a place "snacks" are kept.

    However, I would assume that eating cat stool wouldn't be good for the dog, especially on an ongoing basis.

    Dr. Coates, could you address what problems might occur if a dog snacks on treats from the litter box (other than possible malnutrition because I assume it wouldn't be balanced....)?

  • 07/26/2013 05:50pm

    P.S. What is it about cat poop that dogs just love? I've always thought it was because it smelled like cat food to them and I've never known a dog to turn down cat food.

  • 07/28/2013 10:27am

    Good idea for a post. Look for it in a few weeks.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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