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Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats: Symptoms & Treatments

It’s not a pleasant topic to think about, but unfortunately, diarrhea is a very common digestive issue among both dogs and cats. Despite how common it is, you should always be aware of the complications and causes of diarrhea, and seek advice from your veterinarian if it does not resolve quickly.


A healthy animal’s stool should be firm and formed. In the case of diarrhea, problems in the digestive system lead to excess water in the feces, resulting in a loose stool. This is what most people think of as diarrhea, but the full list of possible symptoms includes:

  • Loose, watery stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Abnormal smelling feces
  • Weight loss
  • Matted hair around the tail

Causes of diarrhea

Frustratingly, there are many things, both internal and external that can cause diarrhea in dogs and cats, which can sometimes make identifying the cause difficult. Often, dietary indiscretion will lead to an upset stomach, but other causes of diarrhea include:

  • Allergies
  • Change in diet
  • Stress
  • Infections
  • Parasites
  • Polyps or tumors
  • Trauma to the digestive tract

Treating diarrhea

Identifying the cause of the problem should be one of the first things on your list, as eliminating this can help relieve the symptoms. This is particularly relevant when it comes to any kind of food allergy or intolerance. You should also take into account if your pet is suffering from any other symptoms, and if this might indicate a need for a trip to the vet.

If your pet is otherwise healthy, it is usually safe to treat their diarrhea at home in the short term. Vets often recommend allowing your pet’s stomach to rest by fasting them for 12 hours, but note that they should always have access to plenty of fresh water even when fasting. Pets with diarrhea may also benefit from a bland but digestible diet, which is designed not to cause any stress or irritation to the digestive system. This includes foods such as boiled chicken breast, white rice, cottage cheese or boiled pumpkin.

It is important not to give your pet any diarrhea medications that are designed for humans, as these can be toxic to animals. Consult your veterinarian for a medication that is right for your dog or cat. To help your pet’s digestive system return to normal, you may wish to introduce a probiotic supplement, which will help to restore the balance of good bacteria within the intestinal tract.

When to see a vet

While diarrhea is a common complaint that affects nearly every animal at some point in their lives, there are times when it is serious enough to warrant a visit to the vet. In the case of dogs or cats that are in bad health, old pets, puppies or kittens, having diarrhea can quickly weaken their constitution. Not only are they not absorbing all the nutrients from their food, but the excess water expelled with diarrhea can lead to dehydration.

Diarrhea can also be a sign of a more serious condition. If the diarrhea is also accompanied by vomiting, blood in the feces, fever or lethargy, you should take your pet to see a vet as soon as possible.

Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats: Symptoms & Treatments

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