What to Feed a Dog with Diarrhea

Pooch 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.

What Is Diarrhea?

Most people think diarrhea is simply runny or watery stool. While this can be a form of diarrhea, the condition itself is strictly defined as rapid movement of materials through the intestines. This includes:

  • Increased frequency of elimination
  • Loose stools
  • Increased volume of stools
  • Straining to eliminate

When waste materials are prematurely evacuated from the colon, there isn't enough time for the organ to extract the excess liquid from them as it normally would, and this results in runny stools.

Types and Causes

There are two principle types of diarrhea for canines. If the condition appears suddenly, it is called acute. If the condition lasts for an extended period of time, such as several weeks, it is called chronic.

Acute diarrhea may be a reaction to something the dog ate. Dogs are omnivores, meaning they eat anything. They also have scavenger tendencies which means they will eat things that may not be good for them. The canine intestinal tract is designed to handle items that are not good for the dog, and get rid of them quickly. The result is diarrhea.

Other causes for both acute and chronic diarrhea include:

  • Change in food or diet, especially in older dogs
  • Worms, such as roundworms or whipworms
  • Food allergies
  • Bacterial infection
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Chronic diseases, such as kidney disease, liver disease or thyroid disease
  • Poison

When to Contact the Vet

Since diarrhea can be a natural elimination response in canines, it is not usually necessary to take your 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 the 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.

What to Feed a Dog with Diarrhea

For acute diarrhea, you will want to refrain from feeding the dog for the first 24 hours. This lessens the stress on the digestive system, and allows time for conditions to return to normal. Feeding a dog with diarrhea will trigger the colon to keep releasing prematurely. Keep plenty of clean water available. After the first 24 hours, if the diarrhea seems to have subsided, feed your dog a bland diet, such as:

Additionally, you should only feed your dog a small amount with the first few feedings, typically one-half to one-quarter of his usual serving broken up through several feedings throughout the day. If the diarrhea does not reoccur, 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 the 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, your vet will help you devise a feeding regimen for your pet. The vet may recommend a special prescription dog food. He may also recommend supplements to help replace the nutrients your dog is losing as well as any medication that may be required.


Talk to your vet before your dog has a bout for recommendations on treating diarrhea at home. While most dogs will have a bout of 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.

Knowing what to feed a dog with diarrhea can be just as important as knowing when to withhold food to avoid aggravating the condition. Diarrhea is not a disease, it is a symptom of an intestinal upset. For most dogs, it is a short-term condition and can be treated successfully with a bland diet and gentle treatment. If the condition persists, your vet can determine and treat the cause.

What to Feed a Dog with Diarrhea