Normal dog poop should be formed and easily scooped or picked up. Diarrhea, on the other hand, is not well-formed, has excess liquid, and is not easily picked up without it smearing. It is messy, stinky, and an indication of an illness in your dog so what can you give your dog to help it?
Most home remedies and human medications are not safe for dogs, so it's important that you know what you can, and cannot, give your dog to help firm up its stool. Your veterinarian will only recommend and prescribe treatments that they know to be safe for a dog but you may need something before you can get your dog in to see the vet. Thankfully, you have some options.
At-Home Treatments for Diarrhea in Dogs
If your dog had diarrhea once or twice and is acting normal otherwise, you may want to try an at-home treatment before bringing your dog in to see the vet. If your dog is lethargic, not eating, vomiting, or showing other symptoms in addition to diarrhea though, it should see the vet. Some safe at-home treatment options for diarrhea in dogs are as follows.
Over the Counter Medications
There are several medications that you can purchase over the counter that are usually safe to give to dogs, but it is still recommended that you ask your veterinarian before administering it to your specific dog. Some of these are branded and marketed specifically for dogs while others are the same things you would purchase for yourself from a human pharmacy.
- Kaolin-pectin is also commonly known as Kaopectalin® and is considered a safe medication to give dogs that have diarrhea. It is used to improve the consistency of the feces by adding bulk so it only addresses symptoms, not the underlying cause of the diarrhea. It is administered by mouth and your vet may recommend a dosage of 1–2 mL/kg up to four times a day. It is important to note that Kaopectalin® and Kaopectate® contain different drugs and they are not the same thing. This medication can reduce the effectiveness of other oral medications so it should not be given to any dogs that are concurrently taking other medications. It can also cause constipation.
- Bismuth subsalicylate is commonly known as Kaopectate®, Pepto-Bismol®, or Maalox Total Relief®. When given to dogs, it can help stop diarrhea and may have some antibacterial properties. It is important to know that it can turn your dog's feces black and have rare side effects including ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract. Your vet should recommend a dosage as there is a wide range of dosages that may be appropriate for your pet.
- Loperamide is commonly known as Imodium A-D® and is used in humans to slow the stool passing through the intestinal tract and therefore stop diarrhea. It can cause serious side effects in some dogs and should especially be avoided in Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Old English Sheepdogs due to a genetic mutation in these breeds that puts them at high risk for serious side effects. You should always ask your vet before administering loperamide, regardless of your dog's breed.
A bland diet that is easily digestible such as white rice and plain steamed chicken is often recommended temporarily for dogs with diarrhea. However, it is not a balanced diet and should not be used for more than a few days without guidance from your veterinarian.
It is also important to ensure dogs with diarrhea remain well-hydrated so they should be offered water frequently. Some diluted low-sodium chicken broth can also help to keep them hydrated if they are not interested in drinking water.
Plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix, can help add extra fiber to bulk stool up. This may be recommended in cases of chronically soft stool once other illnesses have been ruled out. It is not recommended for dogs that have sudden diarrhea, especially if they have not been evaluated by a veterinarian yet.
Bacterial and yeast-based probiotics can be very helpful in dogs with diarrhea. These products help reestablish good gut bacteria. Their effects are magnified when taken with prebiotics that act as fertilizer for the good bacteria to grow in the gut. Some probiotic and prebiotic products like Pro-Pectalin® and Proviable KP® also contain kaolin and pectin to soothe inflammation in the GI tract that causes diarrhea.
Vet-Prescribed Treatments for Diarrhea in Dogs
If your dog needs to see a veterinarian to have its diarrhea treated, prescription medications and special foods may be recommended. Depending on the underlying cause of the diarrhea, other medications and treatments may also be necessary.
- Metronidazole is also known as Flagyl® and is one of the most commonly prescribed treatments for diarrhea. It is an antibiotic and is often used to treat infections and inflammation that result in diarrhea. It should not be given to dogs that have seizures, liver, or kidney problems without adjusting the dose appropriately.
- Tylosin is known as Tylan® and is another type of antibiotic that is occasionally used to treat diarrhea in dogs. It usually comes in a powdered form and is used for specific conditions that your veterinarian can diagnose.
- Prednisone is a steroid that may be used to decrease the inflammation in the gut that is contributing to diarrhea. This medication is used for chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and is never used when infection is present. Steroids need to be administered and monitored carefully as they have many side effects and cannot be stopped abruptly without causing additional side effects.
- Dewormers treat specific types of intestinal parasites and may be prescribed for your dog. While some dewormers can be purchased over the counter, others are only available with a prescription from your vet. It is best to have your vet prescribe the appropriate dewormer based on a fecal analysis and diagnosis of a specific parasite.
Also known as prescription foods, therapeutic diets are only available with a prescription from your veterinarian. These foods are specifically designed to aid in the treatment or management of various diseases. A therapeutic diet may be recommended for a dog with diarrhea, especially if it is a chronic condition.