What to Feed a Dog with Diarrhea

Dr Pippa Elliott
Dog feeling poorly

Are you wondering what to feed a dog with diarrhea? It's a common condition in canines that has many causes. Understanding the different types of diarrhea dogs can encounter will help you decide how to best help your four-legged family member.

Types and Causes of Diarrhea

A dog with diarrhea is no laughing matter. In some cases, the upset stomach has a simple explanation, such as 'garbage gut' where the dog eats something he shouldn't. Other times the picture is more complicated because diarrhea in dogs is often a symptom rather than a diagnosis.

Otherwise healthy dogs with mild diarrhea can be managed by resting their gut and feeding them bland food. However, those dogs that are vomiting, unwell in themselves, passing blood, or have diarrhea that has persisted for several days, should receive urgent veterinary attention.

It can be helpful for a pet parent to decide whether their dog has acute or chronic diarrhea as this influences the treatment.

Acute Diarrhea

This is diarrhea that comes on suddenly and has been present for less than one week. As a generalization, acute diarrhea is often the result of garbage gut, a sudden change of diet, or picking up a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection.

Chronic Diarrhea

This is a longer-term diarrhea in dogs that have either persisted for more than seven days or waxes and wanes (the symptoms come and go) for a period of weeks or months. Chronic diarrhea most commonly arises when the upset stomach is a symptom that the dog has an internal problem such as liver or kidney disease, dietary allergies, or problems with the bowel wall.

Whatever is causing diarrhea, diet plays a key part in successful treatment. Feed the wrong food and you accidentally feed diarrhea and prolong the upset, but when you understand what's appropriate to feed your dog it aids his recovery.

Diet for a Dog With Diarrhea

For acute diarrhea where the dog is otherwise well, you need to rest his digestive system. By withholding food for 24 hours it allows the gut to repair and recover. Whether or not to feed a dog during this time is controversial, but wider opinion is that food only stimulates the gut to contract and extends the time a dog with diarrhea is ill.

However, always ensure plenty of fresh, clean drinking water is available. The dog will need to drink plenty to replace fluid lost in diarrhea. If he isn't drinking, then dehydration is a risk, so seek vet advice as to whether he should be seen.

After 24 hours reintroduce a bland diet (rather than his regular diet) to the dog. The rule of thumb for DIY dog food is to offer bland, white or low-fat meats, along with easy to digest carbohydrate such as boiled potato, pasta, or rice. Avoid flavoring with milk, butter, cream, or oil, as even in healthy dogs these can trigger diarrhea in some cases.

The perfect dog food to treat diarrhea includes a mix of:

  • Boiled potato or mashed potato (no milk or butter)
  • Boiled white rice or pasta
  • Boiled chicken, white fish, or hamburger
  • Ground turkey, baked as a loaf
  • Pumpkin for added fiber
  • Ground turkey, baked as a loaf

Additionally, feed your dog small portions for the first few feedings, typically one-quarter of his usual serving broken up through several feedings throughout the day. If diarrhea does not reoccur and once the dogs poop is starting to form, you can slowly increase the amount you feed at a single sitting and then gradually switch your dog back to his regular diet.

Monitor your dog for any recurrence of diarrhea and avoid giving your dog treats or chews during this time. Table scraps are never a good idea and are particularly bad for a dog with an upset intestinal tract.

For cases of chronic diarrhea, the picture is a little more complicated. It's important to take your dog to the vet to investigate the underlying cause of diarrhea. A mixture of medication, dietary supplements, and an appropriate diet such as a prescription dog food will get him on track and back to a healthy weight.

Prevention

Dog diarrhea is a common condition, so talk to your vet before your dog has a bout, for recommendations on treating diarrhea at home. While most dogs will have diarrhea at some point, you can help prevent severe cases:

  • Never feed your dog table scraps or spicy food.
  • Keep up-to-date with all vaccinations.
  • Don't allow your pet to eat bones, sticks or rocks.
  • Have regular vet checks for worms.
  • Feed a well-balanced diet.
  • Exercise your dog regularly and keep him at a healthy weight.

In the first instance, for the dog that is otherwise well, rest his digestive system for 24 hours. Then reintroduce bland food such as boiled potatoes, feeding little and often. If the dog takes a turn for the worse, such as vomiting, going off food, or producing blood then take the dog to the vet.

When to Contact the Vet

veterinarian examining dog

Since diarrhea can be a natural elimination response in canines, it is not usually necessary to take the dog to the vet at the first sign of runny stools. This is especially true if the dog is showing no other concerning symptoms. If diarrhea lasts for more than a day or two, a call to the vet is a good idea.

If your pet is displaying other symptoms, you will want to call the vet right away. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy, depression or overall signs of not feeling well
  • Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Pale gums, or gums that are yellowish tinged
  • Stools that are black or tarry textured
  • Blood in the stool
  • Depressed appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Rough or dull coat

There are also certain situations that warrant contacting the vet.

  • The dog might have eaten something poisonous.
  • The dog isn't fully vaccinated.
  • The dog is a puppy.

Treating Your Dog With Diarrhea

When your dog has diarrhea, it can be a worry. However, many times when he is otherwise well, the caring for the dog at home by feeding a bland diet of boiled potatoes or similar foods, is sufficient. Keep monitoring the dog's stools and if he gives cause for concern, then see the vet immediately.

What to Feed a Dog with Diarrhea