The Doggie Diarrhea Days Of Summer

by Teresa Garden, DVM

Our pets tend to spend more time outside enjoying summer’s pleasant weather as do their human counter-parts. This allows them the opportunity to commit the crime of “dietary indiscretion”. Dietary indiscretion is a broad term encompassing such felonious behavior as consuming dead things (think road kill), decomposing things (trash, garbage, mulch, compost), and live things (birds, bugs, bunnies). Drinking contaminated water sources such as ponds, creeks, rivers, streams, lakes, mud puddles, and birdbaths is included in the definition of the crime. My own dog Baby’s favorite criminal pursuit is sneaking a snack of goose poop as we stroll merrily around Boathouse Lake in Carondelet Park. She doesn’t fool me one bit… I’m well aware of her evil tendencies as she innocently prances around the paths of the park.

Once the crime has been committed, we pet owners are literally left to clean up the mess. The “mess” is usually an acute onset of diarrhea, often but not always, containing blood and mucous. This explosion often awakens us out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night. It has been documented to occur during Sunday dinner with the relatives. There are a few very disturbing reports of this horror occurring during long family vacation car trips. After your gag reflex has worn itself out and your tears have dried, it is best to formulate a treatment plan.

First and foremost is to fast your pet for 24-36 hours. My mother believes this is a cruel and heinous practice and is thoroughly convinced all pets will die of starvation if a single meal is missed. After practicing veterinary medicine for 28 years, I have found this not to be true. However, I have noticed that people who share my mother’s concerns are often accomplices in the crime itself (sneaking bacon, brats, barbeque, a Happy Meal under the table to Pookie). The purpose of the fast is not to punish. Fasting allows the GI tract to empty itself naturally through proper digestion or through purging (vomiting/diarrhea). The body needs to rid itself of pathogens before it can heal. Fasting will allow the GI tract to rest. Often there is a considerable amount of inflammation in the lining of the stomach, intestines, and colon with acute diarrhea. Fasting is a natural way to decrease that inflammation.

After a 24-36 hour fast we then advise feeding a bland diet. This could consist of home-cooked lean hamburger meat or chicken breast mixed 50/50 with cooked rice. Low-fat meats are preferred because they are easier to digest. If home-cooking is not an option, your veterinarian can offer prescription diets to treat diarrhea such as Hill’s ID or Royal Canin GI LowFat. These diets are highly digestible and pretty tasty. Feed a bland diet for a few days then gradually transition back to your pet’s regular diet.

For acute diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours please consult your veterinarian. We will usually advise checking a stool sample for parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and giardia and then prescribe proper treatment based upon results. Supportive treatment to resolve the diarrhea can be started. Metronidazole (Flagyl) is a medicine often employed. This antibiotic can rid the body of bacterial pathogens and the parasite Giardia and will act to decrease inflammation throughout the GI tract. At Animal Health & Healing we will also reach for probiotics to treat diarrhea. Our favorite probiotic for acute diarrhea is Prostora. Made specifically for the dog, it is chewable, tasty, and builds and maintains a healthy digestive system. Prostora contains a clinically proven strain of probiotic that will nutritionally manage acute diarrhea by shortening its course and lessening the severity of symptoms. Other natural remedies which can be helpful are slippery elm, colostrum, and glutamine. Homeopathic remedies can work wonders for acute diarrhea. I will prescribe Arsenicum if the pet is restless, painful, having black, foul-smelling diarrhea-especially worse in the middle of the night. Homeopathic Mercury may be useful for bloody mucoid diarrhea. Podophyllum is used in cases of yellow gushing stools with foul odor. Nux vomica may help if the pet is having diarrhea and vomiting and is irritable and isolating himself.

Many of the pathogens causing acute diarrhea can be transmitted to people and other pets. Therefore, special attention should be given to cleaning measures. It is advised to pick up and discard feces immediately. Do not allow them to sit in the yard. Worm eggs will invade the soil and cause reinfection. Giardia can contaminate both soil and water. Both can then be sources for infection for people and pets. In order to prevent reinfection via grooming we advise dog owners to clean the anal area and surrounding hair of any fecal matter. And of course, wash your own hands thoroughly after performing these thankless tasks.

Acute diarrhea in our canine friends can be caused by a plethora of palatable pathogens. The commonsense approaches discussed here will often suffice in treating many cases of acute diarrhea caused by dietary indiscretions. After normalcy has returned, you and your pet can continue to enjoy all the blessings of summertime.

Dr. Teresa Garden is chief veterinarian/owner of Animal Health & Healing, a full-service holistic and conventional veterinary practice in the Maplewood/Richmond Heights area. AnimalHealthandHealing.com; phone: 314-781-1738.