We’ve all been there. You wake up at 3 a.m. to the whining dog and perhaps a putrid odor. As you stumble out of bed you plant your bare foot directly into a liquid that oozes between your toes, making you let loose a stream of expletives that you’re happy your mother can’t hear. You might also be really annoyed that your spouse is sleeping through the entire episode, snoring loud enough to wake the neighbors. As you hop one-footed to the shower, you wonder what has caused this latest round of early morning floor scrubbing.

Pets can have diarrhea for many reasons, which may include:

  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • garbage ingestion
  • pancreatitis
  • incorrect diet
  • stress
  • parasites
  • viral infection
  • bacterial infection
  • endocrine disease
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • drugs or toxins

Inflammatory bowel disease and incorrect diet generally become more chronic problems, resulting in repeated bouts of diarrhea, often with blood or mucous, and a very foul odor. Bacterial, viral, and parasitic problems, as well as garbage ingestion, may also result in stools with blood or mucous. These are considered “hot” diarrhea and should be treated with cooling diets and herbs. Generally I will use a diet of boiled ground turkey mixed with organic canned pumpkin in a 4:1 ratio for these pets. Fast the dog for 12 to 18 hours and start feeding small amounts frequently until stool returns to normal. White fish such as cod is also a great option and very easy to digest. Feed the bland diet until normal stools are observed. It is common for the pet to have no stools for a period of 48 to 72 hours if the diarrhea was severe. Monitor for dehydration. Keeping the dog well hydrated while healing the gut is easy to accomplish using bone broth. If vomiting accompanies the diarrhea, contact your veterinarian.

More chronic, long-standing diarrhea in older or weak dogs may result in a “cold” diarrhea. This stool does not have much odor and may have undigested bits of food present. This type of diarrhea may be seen in pets taking medications long-term (I have found my dogs on Sildenafil for pulmonary hypertension have this problem). These pets need to have their digestive energy strengthened through the use of herbs and warming diets, which might include chicken or venison. (Venison is a good choice, as I see many pets with chicken intolerance.) Pumpkin and ginger are warming and would be good additions to the meat. Food should be well-cooked; a slow cooker is great for this.

For more information and recipes for chronic or acute diarrhea in dogs, check out my book Yin & Yang Nutrition for Dogs: Maximizing Health With Whole Foods, Not Drugs.

Supplements I like to keep on hand for my dogs, particularly during times of stress (travel, group gatherings, grooming, etc) include Rx Vitamins Rx Clay and Dr. Harvey’s Runs Be Done.

Some pets will respond to a high fiber diet. Rather than using a prescription diet filled with cellulose (basically sawdust or plant fiber), I prefer to use high fiber vegetables. An easy way to add high quality veggies without having to buy, cook, and chop your own, is adding a scoop of Dr. Harvey’s Paradigm to the meals.

If your pet has diarrhea for more than 48 hours, is also vomiting, refuses to drink or eat, or is lethargic, contact your veterinarian. Don’t wait too long; monitor for dehydration (tacky or dark gums).