Causes of Loose Stool in Dogs

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Dogs are not immune to the occasional stomach upset. Diarrhea in dogs can be caused by a multitude of conditions, from a little dietary indiscretion to life threatening viruses. When a dog suffers from diarrhea, understand that it is a symptom of another problem, not the problem itself. In order to properly treat diarrhea, you first must diagnose and then treat the underlying problem.

Dietary Indescretion

The first thing to look for when trying to determine the cause of diarrhea is any evidence that the dog has consumed something new. This topic can include edible items such as new dog foods, table scraps, or the contents of your garbage, or non edible items like sticks, plastic, rocks, etc. If you have changed your dog’s food recently, fed him from the table, or found evidence of a late night visit to the garbage can, you can rest assured that the diarrhea will clear up pretty quickly. One quick note of concern, however, if you find that your dog has ingested a large quantity of chocolate, take him to the vet for treatment as chocolate can be toxic to dogs.

If you find that your four legged friend has eaten something not quite so digestible, take him to the vet, as it may be possible that the foreign object is causing a blockage, or is too heavy to pass and is lodged in the stomach.


Diarrhea can also be caused by parasites. Even if you dog receives regular veterinary care, he may have picked up a parasite from the environment that is causing his discomfort. These parasites can range from single celled organisms to large intestinal worms. Parasite infections can only be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian, so take him in, and be kind, take a sample with you for testing.

Viral Infections

Viruses are also a concern. Dogs who are vaccinated regularly have built up their immune system and will generally not become infected, but those that are not vaccinated, or those dogs who are particularly sensitive to a virus may find themselves infected. Viral diarrhea is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, fatigue, and fever. Viruses that cause diarrhea can be severe and even life threatening in some cases. It is important to seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect a viral infection.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections such as salmonella also cause diarrhea in dogs, but are most common in dogs that are in a kennel type environment. When dogs live in environments where other dogs reside, the potential for prolific bacteria breeding is high. These bacteria will easily find their way into a dog’s food, water, or paws, where they are ingested and begin wreaking havoc on the dog’s digestive system. These infections are common and are generally easy to treat (with antibiotics), however, good hygiene is the key to prevention for this one.


Antibiotics and other medications can sometimes the culprit behind a case of diarrhea as well. Many medications used to treat conditions can cause digestive upset in dogs. Ask your veterinarian if the medication he has prescribed your dog will cause diarrhea and hoe to prevent it.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Dogs, just like people, can suffer from irritable bowl syndrome. The cause is usually undetermined and treatment can be tricky. Generally, dogs with irritable bowl syndrome will be prescribed a high fiber diet and possibly fiber supplements. Stress levels should be kept low as these situations will normally trigger an episode of diarrhea. Sometimes antispasmodic and anti-diarrheal medications will be prescribed by a veterinarian to control the symptoms of IBS.


Cancer is not something you like to think about, but chronic diarrhea in dogs can be a symptom of a gastrointestinal cancer. When cancer is the culprit, diarrhea is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting and weight loss. If you suspect that your dog’s diarrhea is more than just a case of gastroingtestinal upset, take him to the vet for a full work up.


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