Imodium for Dogs

French Bulldog in Grass - Photo of Frenchie Dog in Grass

Frank Gaglione / Getty Images

Imodium is sometimes used in dogs to help with runny stools but as with any medication, it's prudent for dog owners to understand exactly what they are giving their dog. Knowing how Imodium works and whether or not there are potential side effects can help prevent any surprises later on.

What Is Imodium?

Imodium is a brand name for a medication called loperamide hydrochloride. Loperamide is a type of drug called a synthetic opioid but unlike other opioids, this one doesn't help with pain relief so it isn't a concern for addiction. Opioids, including loperamide, often have a side effect of constipation though, so this drug is commonly used to help with runny stools and diarrhea in dogs as well as people.

Mode of Action of Imodium

Imodium works by decreasing the intestinal motility speed and changing water and electrolyte absorption in the intestines of a dog. This mode of action is actually a side effect of the drug but is the only reason it may recommended to be used. It is considered to be an antidiarrheal for this reason.

Within the intestinal tract, there are receptors in the cells and Imodium binds to the opiate receptor. Imodium also increases anal sphincter tone along with neurotransmitters called acetylcholine and compounds called prostaglandins. All of these things combined help to slow the speed at which things move through the intestines to firm up dog stool.

Diseases Imodium Can Treat

Imodium may be recommended to treat loose stools, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal hypermotility. There isn't one specific disease that Imodium is used to treat but it instead helps resolve common stool symptoms that are seen in many diseases as well as temporary gastrointestinal upset.

Some issues and diseases that may warrant Imodium use in your dog include IBD, dietary indescrition, and other problems that affect stool character. If loose stools, watery stools, or diarrhea is seen in your dog, your veterinarian may recommend a short course of Imodium to help firm the stools up but it is not a long term medication.

Side Effects of Imodium Use

Imodium use in dogs has most commonly resulted in bloat, constipation, and sedation if side effects are going to be seen.

  • Bloat: This potentially fatal condition occurs when a dog's stomach fills with air and circulation gets cut off. An inflated stomach can also twist and result in gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV).
  • Constipation: For a dog with diarrhea, constipation may sound like relief to the owner having to clean it up but constipation is not healthy or comfortable.
  • Sedation: Imodium may not provide any pain relief but is may occasionally sedate a dog. Lethargy, sleepiness, and slow reactions are indications of this side effect.

Less commonly seen but more concerning, paralytic ileus, toxic megacolon, pancreatitis, and central nervous system issues may also be side effects of Imodium use.

  • Paralytic Ileus: Ileus occurs when the normal peristalisis or motility in the intestines stops. Paralytic ileus occurs when one of the muscles in the intestinal tract becomes paralyzed, resulting in a blockage in the intestines since food cannot pass through.
  • Toxic Megacolon: Megacolon occurs when the colon enlarges. Toxic megacolon is when the colon enlarges suddenly in a very serious way and can end up rupturing.
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas can occur after loperamide use. This can be a serious and painful condition in a dog.
  • CNS Issues: The central nervous system (CNS) plays an important role in everyday bodily functions. Various CNS effects may occur with this system after Imodium use including confusion, agitation, and even seizures.

Considerations Before Using Imodium in Dogs

You should always consult with your veterinarian prior to administering any medication to your dog. If it has already been recommended for your dog, then you should be aware of the aforementioned side effects along with potential drug interactions and overdosage toxicity concerns.

Imodium should not be administered if your dog has ingested a toxin and it has not been eliminated from its body yet or if your dog has a hypersensitivity to opioid medications. It should also not be used in dogs that are taking amiodarone, carvedilol, erythromycin, ketoconazole, itraconazole, quinidine, tamoxifen, or verapamil as drug interactions may occur.

Warning

Collies and related breeds may be overly sensitive to Imodium so special caution should be taken when using it in those breeds.