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Diarrhea in Cats & Dogs

Diarrhea in your pet is no one’s favorite topic, but it is very important and something that needs to be discussed.

When to Go to the Vet

The causes of simple diarrhea in cats and dogs are quite similar: change in diet, stress, or ingesting a foreign object. These are usually easily treatable and that’s what we will be talking about in this article. However, if diarrhea exhibits any of the complications below, your cat or dog will need to be seen by a vet.

  • Lasts more than 2 to 3 days
  • Blood
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy

Why Take Diarrhea Seriously?

Because diarrhea can indicate serious underlying medical conditions such as gastro-enteritis, pancreatitis, parvo, IBD, resistant infections, bloat, and even cancer, diarrhea in your pet should always be carefully monitored. Small foreign objects are usually expelled within 24 to 48 hours unless they are too large in which case they can cause a blockage which, again, must be treated by a vet.

If your pet has been healthy and normal up until he suffered from a bout of diarrhea you probably don’t need to rush him to the vet. It is not uncommon for cats and dogs to have occasional diarrhea especially if they spend large amounts of time outdoors where they are exposed to many tempting, albeit unauthorized, things to eat: branches and other parts of plants, bird and animal excrement, litter blown into your yard, garden chemicals, old pieces of bones, broken toys, foraging in the trash, etc. Any one of these can upset his system and bring on a bout of diarrhea. When in doubt, take him to your vet, but if you know the cause, and it might be something as simple as a too-abrupt diet change or overeating, you can do things at home to relieve his discomfort.

What To Do at Home When Your Pet Has Diarrhea

When you discover your pet has diarrhea you should fast him for 12 to 24 hours. Puppies and cats should not fast for over 12 hours while adult dogs can fast for a complete 24 hours with no harm. If your pet has diabetes, please consult your veterinarian. And remember, water should always be available, especially during a fast. Following his short fast, if his symptoms seem lessened, put your pet on a bland diet. Most vets recommend lightly steamed ground chicken and white rice. Holistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker suggests ground turkey and 100% pumpkin as an easier temporary diet for the digestive system. To that I add plain, whole-milk yogurt (about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon depending on the size of your dog) and Slippery Elm powder ( teaspoon per 10 pounds). The probiotics in the yogurt are soothing and replenishing for the friendly gut bacteria. The well-researched herb Slippery Elm adds bulk to the stool and reduces stomach and intestine irritation. After 24 to 48 hours on the bland diet, his system should be back to normal. If not, it is time for a vet visit. In general, with a little TLC, cats and dogs having an episode of simple diarrhea that lasts 2 or 3 days will be just fine afterward.

After a Visit to the Veterinarian

If your pet was unfortunate enough to have a more serious case of diarrhea and needed to have antibiotics or surgery, you will want to rebuild his healthy gut bacteria. One of the easiest ways to do that is to add fermented food to his diet. Fermented foods are rich in natural probiotics that support gut bacteria. I add unflavored, whole-milk organic yogurt to my dog’s daily diet for intestinal health. Cats tend to be picky about their food’s taste and texture but mixing a small amount of yogurt into his food after diarrhea would be helpful. Kefir is another fermented food choice that your dog or cat might find appealing but watch out for added sweeteners. Theoretically, kombucha is edible for dogs and cats and is loaded with probiotics. However, kombucha contains caffeine which can cause other problems so use it wisely. Some dogs enjoy a tablespoon of sauerkraut mixed with their meals, just make sure it has been naturally fermented or there are no health benefits. Most of the other widely available fermented foods are not palatable to our pets.

Sometimes It’s Just Normal Digestion

Last week one of my dogs stole a bag of Northwest Naturals freeze-dried liver treats and ate the whole thing. Yeah, she had very nasty diarrhea for 2 days. Not a problem with the treats, just too much of a good thing in her little stomach. Other than diarrhea she acted normally, and I wasn’t worried. Simple diarrhea is a sign that the intestines are working to detoxify and clean out the system; they are doing their job. As unpleasant as simple diarrhea is for the pet and his parents, it is Mother Nature’s quick, natural response to your pet’s health emergency.

By Carol Kendig

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