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Acute Diarrhea in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Treatment In-depth

Diarrhea is a symptom that can be caused by many different diseases or conditions, and specific treatment requires a diagnosis. Symptomatic therapy may be tried in mild cases of short duration, or may be instituted while diagnostic testing is underway. These treatments may reduce the severity of signs and offer relief to your pet:

  • Withholding food and placing the intestinal tract in a state of physiologic rest is an important aspect of therapy for acute diarrhea. Completely restricting food intake for 12- 24 hours allows the intestinal tract lining to start to heal.

  • Food is then gradually reintroduced, starting with a bland, easily digestible, low-fat diet. Initially small amounts of this food are given as frequent meals. Examples of such a bland diet include boiled chicken or beef, mixed with low-fat cottage cheese, boiled rice or potato. Prescription diets that may be administered for acute diarrhea include Hill's Canine i/d, w/d, or d/d, Eukanuba Low Residue, and others. The bland diet is fed for several days, and then the original diet may be gradually reintroduced over a 2- to 3-day period.

  • Fluid therapy may be necessary in some patients with acute diarrhea to correct dehydration and acid-base derangements, to replace electrolytes that are deficient, and to provide for ongoing losses.

  • Antibiotic therapy for acute diarrhea is not required in most cases; however, it may be of benefit in animals that have hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, diarrhea containing fresh blood, or if a bacterial infection is suspected.

  • Empirical deworming is often recommended even if the stool sample is negative for intestinal parasites, because parasites do not always show up in the fecal examination.

  • Intestinal protectants and adsorbents (medications that coat, soothe and protect the lining of the intestines) may also be helpful.

  • If your dog does not respond to conventional therapy within 48 hours, if fresh blood is seen in the diarrhea, if the animal is vomiting or showing other signs of systemic illness, then a veterinary examination is warranted.

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