Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea? Common Causes

Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea? Common Causes


Has your usually sprightly pup suddenly become a fountain of… well, let's just say not the most pleasant kind? Although diarrhea in dogs is common, it's not always a cause for concern. 

However, you can get your fluffy friend back to their best self after you figure out what's causing the runny mess. 

What Exactly is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is simply a loose, watery stool. It can range from a mild inconvenience to a sign of a more serious underlying condition. 

Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea? (Exact Answer)

There are many reasons why your dog might have diarrhea, ranging from simple dietary indiscretion to more complex medical conditions. 

Here are the most common causes:

  1. Change in diet or treats
  2. Ingestion of foreign objects
  3. Stress or anxiety
  4. Eating bad food/garbage
  5. Ingesting toxins/poisons
  6. Pancreatitis
  7. Liver or kidney disease
  8. Colitis
  9. Inflammatory bowel disease
  10. Intestinal cancer
  11. Adverse effects of medications
  12. Bacterial infections
  13. Viral infections
  14. Parasites

Let’s discuss all these common causes in detail.

Common Causes of Dog Having Diarrhea (In-Depth)

1. Change in Diet or Treats

Just like us, dogs have a delicate gut microbiome – a community of good bacteria that aids digestion. A sudden switch in food, especially from a bland diet too rich treats, can disrupt this balance, leading to diarrhea.

2. Ingestion of Foreign Objects

Dogs are natural explorers, and their noses often lead them to trouble. They might gobble up anything from socks and toys to random bits of debris on their walks. These foreign objects can irritate the digestive tract, causing inflammation and, you guessed it, diarrhea.

3. Stress/Anxiety

Believe it or not, dogs experience stress and anxiety too. Events like moving houses, separation anxiety, or loud noises can trigger these emotions, and one of the ways their bodies react is through digestive upset, including diarrhea.

4. Eating Bad Food/Garbage

Dogs are natural scavengers, and sometimes their curiosity gets the better of them. They might raid the trash can, snatch up fallen bits of human food, or even ingest spoiled food left outdoors. These can harbor harmful bacteria or toxins that wreak havoc on their digestive systems, resulting in diarrhea.

5. Ingesting Toxins/Poisons

Unfortunately, some curious canines ingest downright dangerous substances. Household cleaners, certain plants, and even some human medications can be toxic to dogs, causing severe diarrhea (along with other concerning symptoms).

It's crucial to keep your dog away from potential toxins and to seek immediate veterinary attention if you suspect they might have ingested something harmful.

6. Pancreatitis

The pancreas plays a vital role in digestion by producing enzymes that break down food. Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, can disrupt this process, leading to diarrhea and other digestive issues.

7. Liver or Kidney Disease

While less common, diarrhea can sometimes be a sign of underlying liver or kidney disease. These organs play a crucial role in filtering waste products from the body. When they're not functioning properly, it can lead to digestive problems, including diarrhea.

If your dog's diarrhea persists for several days or is accompanied by other concerning signs, it's vital to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health conditions.

8. Colitis

This refers to inflammation of the colon, the large intestine in your dog's digestive system.

Symptoms of colitis in dogs can include:

  • Scooting on the ground due to anal discomfort
  • Straining during defecation
  • Frequent, small-volume stools with mucus or blood
  • Tenesmus

9. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) 

IBD is an umbrella term for chronic inflammation of the intestines. Unlike colitis, which specifically affects the colon, IBD can involve any part of the digestive tract. The exact cause of IBD in dogs is unknown, but it's believed to be a combination of factors like genetics, immune system dysfunction, and abnormal gut bacteria.

Symptoms of IBD in dogs can be similar to colitis but might also include:

  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss

10. Intestinal Cancer 

While less frequent than other causes of diarrhea, intestinal cancer can also be a culprit. There are different types of intestinal cancers in dogs, and the symptoms can vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. Some potential signs include:

  • Chronic diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

11. Adverse effects of medications

Certain medications, particularly antibiotics, can disrupt the normal gut flora (balance of good and bad bacteria) in dogs, leading to diarrhea as a side effect. Other medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), might irritate the digestive tract and cause diarrhea in some dogs.

12. Parasites

Intestinal parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia can wreak havoc on your dog's digestive tract. These tiny invaders feed on nutrients meant for your dog, causing irritation and inflammation, leading to diarrhea.

13. Bacterial Infections

Sometimes, an imbalance in the gut bacteria or the introduction of harmful bacteria can cause diarrhea. Bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli can irritate the intestines, leading to loose stool, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

14. Viral Infections

Viruses like canine parvovirus, distemper, and canine coronavirus can also cause diarrhea, often accompanied by other symptoms like fever, lethargy, and vomiting. These viruses attack the intestinal lining, disrupting its ability to absorb fluids, leading to diarrhea.


How Long Is Too Long for Dog Diarrhea?

Mild diarrhea typically resolves within 1-2 days. If your dog's diarrhea persists for more than 3 days, worsens, or is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, or blood in the stool, consult a veterinarian immediately.

What Can I Feed My Dog With Diarrhea?

A bland diet like boiled chicken and white rice can help settle your dog's stomach. Offer small, frequent meals and ensure they have plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated.

Final Words: Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea?

Diarrhea in dogs can be a messy inconvenience, but by understanding the potential causes and taking the right steps, you can help your furry friend feel better fast.

With a little care and vigilance, you can ensure your dog's digestive system stays happy and healthy, allowing them to get back to the things they love – chasing squirrels, playing fetch, and showering you with unconditional love.

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