There are a lot of things I am asked on a fairly regular basis. Some questions are especially common in and away from work – people call and ask at the clinic, and people who find out I’m a vet ask me in everyday life. Sometimes it’s a common question because it’s a common problem, sometimes it’s a common question because it’s a common occurrence that nobody understands. . . Either way, I’m keeping track! And I’ll be sharing some of the questions, and my answers, here.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE DO NOT EVER USE THIS BLOG AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR CALLING OR SEEING YOUR OWN VETERINARIAN.WE DON’T MIND GETTING A DOZEN CALLS A DAY ABOUT DIARRHEA. SERIOUSLY.
Which segues nicely into the first frequently asked question: My dog has diarrhea, should I be worried? What should I do?
Now, the answer to these questions vary greatly from case to case to case.
SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED? Well, ask yourself the following questions:
-Has he vomited? Has his behaviour/attitude/energy level changed? Has he lost interest in food?
Answer yes to any of those, you might want to be worried. Yes to all of the above and you really should have your dog checked out. That’s what I’ll tell you when you call me, at least.
If your dog is bright, alert, happy go lucky as usual, had just one episode of the squirts and is back to business as usual, be less worried. If there’s no vomiting and he still wants his food, be less worried. I’m not saying ignore the diarrhea, just don’t panic!
There are 50 million and one reasons why I dog might have diarrhea. Common things happen commonly, and just a bit of upset tummy is pretty common. Ask yourself, honestly, if the dog could have gotten into anything other than his regular diet – cat food? Puppy food? Garbage? Did you just start a new bag of food? Did you run out of food suddenly and the store was all out of his usual so you picked up something different? Any change in regular diet could lead to diarrhea. And if you or your family are in the habit of sharing table scraps, the wrong table scrap could tip the scale in poop firmness.
If you think that some dietary indiscretion could be at play, especially if this has happened before, then you can probably hold off on rushing to see the vet. Especially if you have a young and otherwise healthy dog. What I do with Ollie when he has some explosive fun? I skip his next meal. If it was a single occurrence, he’ll get his next meal as per usual. Every time but once this resulted in back to normal poops. This is what works for Ollie. Some of my clients have dogs more prone to colitis or gastroenteritis than Ollie is, and their game plan when there’s a flare up of the runs is this: no food for 24 hours, then a small bland meal – either of a gastrointestinal diet previously prescribed, or plain boiled rice and chicken. If this doesn’t get the job done, they come see me and we add in some additional therapeutics.
It seems people make an appointment to see the vet if the diarrhea persists more than a day or two, whether they tried an ‘at home remedy’ or employed the standard ‘wait and see’ approach. When shouldn’t you use a wait and see approach? Well, your typical high risk classes: the very young, the very old, and the ones in between who have pre-existing medical conditions. Anything that makes dehydration a big deal for your dog, makes diarrhea potentially a big deal. The very young and the very old get dehydrated easily. Some conditions and some medications make dehydration more likely, or more dangerous. So, basically, if your dog is not a perfectly healthy adult, you should probably at least give your vet a call the first time there’s diarrhea, and come up with a game plan specific to that case.
And of course, when in doubt, call your vet. We really don’t mind. It’s our job. We’d rather you call us about it now and have it be nothing to worry about, versus come in next week with a huge problem we could have nipped in the bud much sooner if we’d been given the chance. Besides, the longer you wait on a problem, the more expensive that problem can become.