Diarrhea Medication: What Can I Give My Dog for Diarrhea · The Wildest

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What Can I Give My Dog for Diarrhea?

It’s not fun for anyone.

by Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, DVM
June 10, 2024
Woman comforting her lab dog at home.
Indiapicture / Alamy Stock Photo

Here’s a stinky reality of being a dog parent: Did you know that your dog’s poop can provide valuable insights into their overall health? Abnormal stools can happen quite often. In fact, diarrhea is one of the most common visit types for veterinary visits across the country.

So, with a problem so common, you might be wondering when your pup needs to visit a veterinarian, or if it is safe to address the issue at home. This article can help guide dog parents in deciding how to treat diarrhea at home, with what, and when it’s time to pay your vet a visit.

The importance of addressing diarrhea in dogs:

Diarrhea is one of the most common reasons dogs visit the veterinarian. Aside from this being disruptive to your and your dog’s daily routine (think urgent middle of the night walks!), consecutive days of untreated diarrhea can lead to discomfort from abdominal cramping, dehydration, inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract leading to blood in the stool, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

So, while one or two episodes of soft stools may not require any action on your part, if your pup is experiencing diarrhea for more than a couple of days, it’s probably worth intervening.

Common medications used to address diarrhea

When thinking of medications to use for diarrhea, it’s important to consider the causes of diarrhea in dogs. The most common causes of diarrhea in dogs is dietary indiscretion (eating something they shouldn’t have, new food or treats, getting into the garbage, etc.) or stress. These are usually self-limiting and do not require treatment with medication. Often, we are unable to identify the underlying cause, and treatment is mainly supportive, such as counteracting dehydration with fluids and treating secondary pain or nausea.

Probiotics are a mainstay of treatment of diarrhea, as this helps to balance the gut microbiome and promote more healthy GI bacteria. Many times, probiotics along with a home-cooked, bland diet is all you need to treat short and minor bouts of diarrhea. Examples of a bland diet may include boiled chicken breast (no skin, bones, or dark meat!) and some white rice.

If your dog is sensitive to chicken, you can consider lean ground turkey or beef. Pumpkin or plain potato is a high-fiber and starchy option that can help bind your pup’s stools and help them firm up. Remember, this diet is not balanced and should not be fed for more than a couple of days. But when this alone doesn’t cut it, some over-the counter options may help. 

Over-the-counter-medications for dogs diarrhea

In general, you should consult your veterinarian on any medications you will be giving your pet to ensure the safety and the dosage. For diarrhea that is consistent with no believed bacterial origin, some vets may recommend the use of an oral anti-diarrheal medication called loperamide (commercially known as Immodium) for three to five days. This drug should be used with caution in Collie and Australian Shepherd breeds; they have a known sensitivity to this type of drug.

Dose depends on your dog’s weight, so contacting your veterinarian would be helpful here. Bismuth subsalicylate (commercially known as Pepto Bismol) is also occasionally used in dogs. This can be toxic to cats and should be avoided. In general, the above medications should be used under veterinary supervision and should not be used in young or geriatric dogs, or in dogs with known heart, kidney or liver disease.

Prescription medication for diarrhea in dogs

When diarrhea persists for more than a couple of days, or if you notice any additional signs of illness, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy or decreased energy or blood or mucus in the stool, it may be time to consider a vet visit for supportive care and possibly prescription medication.

Often, supportive care is aimed at treating the symptoms, such as fluids to counteract dehydration, anti-nausea medication to help reduce vomiting and improve appetite, and occasionally antacids or other GI protectant medications. If there is a suspected bacterial infection, certain antibiotics may be used. These pets can be treated on an outpatient basis, or in more serious cases, pets may need to be hospitalized if severe infection or dehydration are present. 

Administration and dosage

Any medications that are prescribed by your veterinarian should be given at the same time each day, with dose and frequency followed exactly as your veterinarian recommends. Many medications need to be given with food, and dogs with diarrhea should not be given too many treats or snacks which may further worsen clinical signs.

Stick with bland foods, such as bread, rice, or small pieces of chicken breast, in which you can hide medication. It is recommended to avoid higher-fat items, like cheese, nut butter, or darker cuts of meat.

Monitoring and potential side effects

With any medication, it is possible that a dog may not tolerate it well or possibly have a reaction to it. Monitoring your dog closely when starting any new medications for signs of vomiting, loss of appetite, or decreased energy is always a good idea. 

When does a dog need medication for diarrhea?

If your dog is exhibiting any of the following signs, treatment may be required for your dog’s diarrhea:

  • Diarrhea lasting for more than two days

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of energy

  • Blood or mucus in the stool

If you notice any of the above symptoms or anything that concerns you, consulting a veterinarian would be recommended.

FAQs (People also ask):

What human meds can dogs take for diarrhea?

In general, it is best to give any medication to your dog under the supervision of a veterinarian. Many medications used to treat diarrhea in people are also used in dogs, but doses and frequency can vary greatly. Some medications should be avoided in dogs with other underlying conditions.

What does it mean if your dog is pooping liquid?

Liquid stool in dogs could be a sign of gastrointestinal upset. This commonly occurs when a dog eats something they shouldn’t have, or secondary to stress. Or this symptom could be due to another illness.

What medications can cause diarrhea in dogs?

Many commonly used medications can cause diarrhea in dogs. Frequently, oral heartworm or flea and tick preventive medications can cause diarrhea or vomiting in dogs. Giving this medication with a meal may help avoid this side effect.

Dr. Gabrielle Fadl

Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, DVM

After graduating from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Fadl returned to the New York area to pursue a one-year rotating internship and has been working in general practice since. Dr. Fadl loves working in the pet space to foster the powerful human-animal bond. She hopes to continually learn and grow to practice the best quality medicine. Her motto is “Keep calm and try to take it as it comes.”

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