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Acute Diarrhea in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Although most cases of acute diarrhea are short-lived and self-limiting, there are some cases that require diagnostic testing to confirm an underlying cause. Such tests include:

  • A complete history and physical examination

  • Fecal studies (flotation, smear, and zinc sulfate for Giardia) to test for intestinal parasitism. It is not uncommon to run multiple fecal exams, as some parasites are difficult to diagnose.

  • A complete blood count (CBC) to evaluate for infection, inflammation, anemia and dehydration.

  • A biochemical profile to help evaluate kidney and [[AWT3385|liver function, and electrolyte status]].

  • A urinalysis to evaluate kidney function and the hydration status of the animal.

  • Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) to evaluate the abdominal organs, and to check for the presence of fluid, gas or foreign bodies within the intestines.

    Depending upon the clinical signs and results of the above tests, your veterinarian may recommend additional tests to ensure optimal medical care. These ancillary tests are selected on a case-by-case basis:

  • Parvovirus test on the feces

  • Bacterial cultures of the feces

  • Fecal cytology to identify the type of inflammation present and to search for parasites, protozoa and bacteria

  • Serologic tests for infectious diseases

  • Laboratory tests for pancreatitis

  • Abdominal ultrasonography, especially if the previous diagnostics tests have been inconclusive

  • An upper gastrointestinal (GI) barium series to search for intestinal ulcers, masses, obstructions, intussusceptions and foreign bodies

  • Endoscopy or colonoscopy to evaluate a portion of the small intestine or colon with a viewing scope, especially if acute diarrhea progresses to chronic diarrhea

  • Specialized assays for toxins that can cause diarrhea

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