Best Diets for a Dog With Diarrhea + Tips 

Dog feeling poorly

Many pet owners wonder 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 experience will help you decide how to best care for your four-legged family member.

Types and Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

It's no laughing matter when a dog has runny poop. In some cases, the upset stomach has a simple explanation, such as "garbage gut" or dietary indiscretion, where a dog ate something they shouldn't. Other times, the picture is more complicated because diarrhea in dogs is often a symptom rather than a diagnosis.

Some of the illnesses and conditions that can lead to diarrhea include:

Pet parents should have a veterinarian examine their dog to determine the exact cause of their pet's diarrhea in order to find the best diet to address the underlying cause.

What to Feed a Dog With Acute Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea comes on suddenly and lasts for less than a few days. In general, acute diarrhea can result from garbage gut, a sudden change of diet, or picking up a bacterial or viral infection. Diet plays a key part in successful treatment. Feed the wrong food, and you could prolong the gastrointestinal upset.

Reset the Digestive System

For cases of acute diarrhea, where your dog is otherwise feeling well -- and is not behaving lethargically, vomiting, or displaying any other concerning symptoms -- it can be beneficial to rest their digestive system. By withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, you allow the gut to repair and recover. Whether to feed a dog during this time is controversial, but many veterinarians believe that food stimulates the gut to contract and extends the time a dog with diarrhea is ill.

Avoid Dehydration

Always ensure plenty of fresh, clean drinking water is available. Your dog will need to drink a lot to replace the fluid lost through diarrhea. If they aren't drinking water, your dog could be at risk for dehydration. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to becoming dehydrated. Seek veterinary advice and consider bringing them in for an exam if you are concerned.

Bland Diet for Dogs With Diarrhea

After 12 to 24 hours, reintroduce food via a bland diet (rather than your dog's regular diet).

  • The rule of thumb for DIY dog food is to offer bland, low-fat meats, along with easily digestible carbohydrates such as rice, boiled potatoes, or pasta.
  • Avoid flavoring with milk, butter, cream, or oil, as these can trigger diarrhea, even in healthy dogs.
  • Some dog owners will feed eggs, particularly scrambled eggs, to dogs with diarrhea, which should be avoided as sometimes this can exacerbate the problem.
Bland diet ingredients

Best Bland Diet Ingredients

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

  • Boiled white potato or mashed potato (no milk or butter)
  • Baked or boiled sweet potato, without skin
  • Boiled white rice, pasta, or millet
  • Boiled skinless, boneless chicken
  • Boiled rabbit or white fish
  • Lean, boiled pork loin
  • Ground turkey, baked as a loaf
  • Lean ground beef, drained of fat
  • Plain canned pumpkin (just plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix!)
  • Rice water

Once your dog is feeling better, some other foods that can help with their soft stools are:

  • Bananas
  • Applesauce
  • Plain yogurt or cottage cheese

Importance of Fiber

Dog owners might think canned pumpkin is a strange item to feed their dogs, but it's actually an excellent source of fiber. Adding fiber to the diet encourages the absorption of more water within a dog's stool and decreases the intestines' pH level.

Fiber can also aid in the growth of "good" bacteria that promote the proper function of the execratory system. The fiber in canned pumpkin can also help minimize the growth of "bad" bacteria that leads to irritated intestines and diarrhea.

Typical Bland Diet Recipes

A bland diet for dogs should be a mixture of 2 parts digestible starch to 1 part lean protein. Try this easy, low-fat recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Two boiled boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 cups of cooked white rice

Directions:

  • Finely chop or shred the chicken breast. Mix thoroughly with the rice. Use within a few days of preparation. Freeze extra portions as needed.

Another popular diet recommended by Dr. Karen Becker involves making a mixture of 50 percent cooked ground turkey and 50 percent canned pumpkin. You can also substitute fresh cooked pumpkin, cooked sweet potato, or mashed potatoes.

Long-Term Care

It's important to note that these simple, bland diets aren't ideal for long-term care. Their limited ingredients are designed to be gentle on the intestinal tract but don't contain all the vitamins or minerals your dog needs. If you would like to cook your dog's food after they've recovered from diarrhea, be sure to find a balanced, veterinarian-recommended home-cooked recipe.

Man feeding his dog

Feeding Amounts

How much should you feed your dog when they have diarrhea? It's important to reduce the portion size initially to avoid overwhelming the intestinal system.

  • Begin by feeding your dog 1 to 2 tablespoons of bland food every couple of hours.
  • Slowly increase the amount you offer them until you reach their appropriate daily volume. Gradually feed less frequently until you're only feeding them a few times a day.
  • Using this guideline, you can estimate how much your dog should get each day: they should eat approximately 1/2 cup of food for every 10 pounds of body weight.
  • As soon as your dog's bowel movements start to firm up, you can gradually switch them back to their regular diet.

Limit Treats and Extras

Monitor your dog for any recurrence of diarrhea, and avoid giving them treats or chews during this recovery period. Table scraps are never a good idea and are particularly bad for your dog when they have an upset intestinal tract.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Your veterinarian may recommend that you give your dog over-the-counter medications or supplements for stomach distress such as Kaopectate, Pepto Bismol, or psyllium. Never give your dog any medications without speaking to your veterinarian first and follow their dosing instructions carefully.

What to Feed a Dog With Chronic Diarrhea

Diarrhea is considered chronic when it has either persisted for more than 7 days or the symptoms come and go for a period of weeks or months. Chronic diarrhea most commonly arises when the stomach upset is a symptom of a serious internal problem, such as liver or kidney disease, dietary allergies, or problems with the intestinal lining.

Talk to Your Veterinarian

For cases of chronic diarrhea, the treatment options may be more complex. It's important to take your dog to your veterinarian to investigate the underlying cause of diarrhea in case it's due to a serious medical condition.

veterinarian examining dog in office

Dietary Treatment of Chronic Diarrhea

A combination of medication, dietary supplements, and an appropriate diet such as a prescription dog food can usually help alleviate the diarrhea. Some effective commercial foods available for dogs with diarrhea include the following:

Prevention of Diarrhea

Dog diarrhea is a common occurrence. Try to talk with your vet before your dog has an episode to make sure you're prepared with recommendations on treating diarrhea at home using home remedies or over-the-counter medications. While most dogs will have diarrhea at some point in their lives, you can help avoid severe cases by implementing these preventive measures.

  • 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 your dog's stool routinely checked for worms.
  • Feed a well-balanced diet.
  • Exercise your dog regularly and keep them at a healthy weight.

When to Contact the Vet

If your dog is otherwise acting fine and is not showing any concerning symptoms, it's probably not necessary to race to the vet at the first sign of runny stools. However, if diarrhea lasts for more than a day or two, a call to the vet is a good idea.

If your pet displays other symptoms of illness, you should contact the veterinary office or bring them in right away. This could indicate a serious problem. Seek professional care if your dog exhibits any of the following signs in addition to diarrhea:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Lethargy, depression, or weakness
  • Signs of pain or discomfort
  • Pale gums, or gums that are yellow-tinged
  • Stools that are black or tarry
  • Blood in the stool
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Rough or dull coat

The following are situations that warrant contacting the vet immediately:

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

Treating Your Dog With Diarrhea

When your dog has diarrhea, it can cause you to worry. Know that diarrhea is a common concern nearly all dog owners must handle at some point. By providing your dog with supportive nutritional care and seeking help when needed, you can ensure your beloved companion recovers quickly.

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