Stomach issues — specifically diarrhea — can be a common concern for pet parents. In fact, research shows that 28.6% of dogs visiting the vet have diarrhea as their chief complaint!
The good news is that these tummy troubles often work themselves out. But sometimes, frequent bouts of diarrhea may be a sign of a bigger issue that your vet can help get to the bottom of.
Let’s talk about some of the most common causes of diarrhea to help you understand what’s normal and what isn’t, plus how to identify ingredients in your dog’s food that can help support healthy digestive tracts!
Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs
There are many reasons a dog may experience diarrhea:
Dietary Indiscretion or Intoxication
Dogs getting into things they shouldn’t is an all-too-common struggle for dog owners — as anyone who has chased their pup away from the garbage can attest to! However, this type of dietary indiscretion could be one cause of diarrhea — particularly in the garbage, where there’s no telling what kind of food scraps or household items your pup could be eating.
That said, it’s also important to mention that even some foods that may seem harmless, like grass or berries, can cause diarrhea in dogs when eaten in large quantities.
Like humans, some dogs just have more sensitive stomachs than others. This can lead to a lot of trial and error as you try to identify which foods trigger the most upset so you can determine the best food for your unique pup.
But, on the bright side, if your dog’s body is trying to eliminate toxins or food that doesn’t sit right with them, diarrhea could indicate that they are on the road to recovery!
A few common food allergies that can result in diarrhea in dogs are gluten and dairy products. Dairy, in particular, is quite common as some dogs are lactose intolerant. While digestive upset is one sign of food allergies, allergies can also manifest with symptoms like itchy skin, ears, and paws.
If you suspect that your dog may have food allergies, it’s important to talk to your vet about your concerns. They’ll be able to help you identify the next steps and can recommend dog food brands that could help reduce diarrhea episodes.
Sudden Diet Changes
Switching dog food brands or types without gradual transition can also cause diarrhea. This is because your dog’s digestive system needs time to adapt. Without a baked-in adjustment period when switching your pet’s food, the good bacteria in their gut may be overwhelmed. This allows bad bacteria to grow, resulting in digestive upset like diarrhea.
If you’re not sure how to safely transition your pet to a new food, you can always ask your vet. You can also check out our sample feeding guide to transitioning your pet to a new food over the course of a week:
Day 1-2: Mix the new and old food at a ratio of 75% old food to 25% new food.
Day 3-4: Try a 50% mix of old and new food.
Day 5-6: Try a majority mix of new food; 75% new to 25% old.
Day 7-8: Completely transition your dog to their new food.
Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections can also be responsible for digestive issues like diarrhea. While infections can sometimes be hard to pinpoint, a few common culprits include parvoviruses, distemper, coronaviruses, salmonella, and infections caused by roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.
You can prevent several of these by staying on top of your dog’s vaccines. However, even if your pup has had all their shots, it’s important to see your veterinarian for any chronic diarrhea to rule out possible infections that vaccines may not treat.
Other Medical Conditions
Lastly, there are other diseases or conditions that may be the primary or secondary cause of diarrhea:
Primary cause of diarrhea:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Malabsorption disorders
- Maldigestive disorders
- Food intolerance
Secondary cause of diarrhea:
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Ingredients To Look for To Prevent Diarrhea
As touched on above, the food your dog eats plays a major role in their bowel movements. While each dog’s needs will vary somewhat based on their life stage, breed, and health history, there are certain ingredients you can incorporate into your dog’s diet to promote digestive health.
Easily Digestible Proteins
A safe bet for easy digestion is an extremely mild protein source. Choose a dog food that includes easily digestible proteins, such as chicken or turkey. Meats like pork, rabbit, and lamb are more likely to cause allergic reactions or an upset stomach in some dogs due to the higher fat content present.
If your dog’s stomach is upset, boiled chicken breast or boiled white rice in the short term can be a good option.
Probiotics and Prebiotics for Gut Health
Probiotics and prebiotics are important when it comes to maintaining a dog’s balanced gut flora, which aids digestion. Probiotics are live bacteria used to help adjust intestinal bacteria and prebiotic fiber is essentially food for that bacteria.
Beyond just digestion, probiotics and prebiotics can also support your dog’s immune system, as they’re good for a healthy biome. Many dog foods include probiotics as a supplement, but prebiotics may be harder to spot as they can be found in ingredients like beets and sweet potatoes.
Natural Fiber for the Digestive System
Another way to support your dog’s healthy digestion is to ensure they’re eating enough fiber. Fiber is what keeps everything moving in your dog’s digestive tract!
Beyond reducing diarrhea and constipation symptoms, fiber may also help reduce the risk of colon cancer in dogs as it speeds up elimination, reducing exposure to carcinogens a dog has eaten.
Organic canned pumpkin is a great natural ingredient with a high fiber content that you can offer your pet during times of acute diarrhea.
Wholesome Grains (or Healthy Grain Free Ingredients)
Wholesome grains like brown rice, oats, and barley — in moderation — are good sources of fiber. Low-quality grains like wheat, corn, soy, and grain by-products (bran, wheat germ, and cornmeal) don’t offer the same nutritional value.
However, there are also grain free ingredients that can also support fiber intake, such as lentils and flaxseed. Beyond helping with diarrhea, whole grains and fiber-rich grain free ingredients may also help reduce gas.
Ingredients To Avoid in Your Dog’s Diet
While there are plenty of great ingredients that can support your dog’s digestion, there are a few to steer clear of if your pup is experiencing diarrhea:
Many additives like synthetic preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors can negatively impact your dog’s digestion, causing diarrhea. Though some sweeteners and colors are considered “safe” for dogs, you may decide to avoid them altogether if your pup shows signs of sensitivities. Some artificial additives to watch out for include erythritol, stevia, saccharin, sucralose, and monk fruit.
As noted above, certain food allergies may trigger diarrhea in dogs. Some common allergens include dairy, eggs, beef, wheat, soy, lamb, and fish. If you suspect your pup may have a food allergy, your vet may recommend an elimination diet to try to identify the specific ingredient causing upset.
High Fat Content
As noted with beef, pork, and lamb, ingredients with a high fat content may be hard to digest for some dogs, leading to loose stool. Other oils (in excess), like fish, sunflower, and canola oils can also lead to diarrhea.
If you’re supplementing a healthy oil, such as fish oil or other fatty acids, be sure to check with your vet to determine an appropriate serving size for your dog.
Tips for Handling Diarrhea in Dogs
Even dogs with the best diets can still experience diarrhea. Here are a few of our best tips for handling and preventing these recurring digestive issues.
Gradually Transition Food
Even if your pup has the strongest stomach in the world, transitioning to a new food too quickly can result in diarrhea and stomach upset.
Typically, seven to eight days of transition is sufficient for most dogs to get used to a new food. However, some pet parents may opt for an even more gradual approach over three weeks that includes smaller, more frequent meals and water mixed into the food to help with digestion.
Get Regular Vet Checkups
When in doubt, go to the vet! Periodic vet visits can ensure any underlying issues are addressed. Other symptoms to look out for that indicate a vet visit is needed include dehydration and lethargy combined with diarrhea, more than 24 hours of diarrhea, and the presence of blood in your dog’s diarrhea.
Monitor Food and Water Intake
As mentioned above, dehydration during a diarrhea episode is a risk, so keeping track of your pup’s water consumption is important. If your dog isn’t interested in drinking their water, try offering them pieces of ice to lick or use a canine-friendly electrolyte replacement fluid.
Avoid Table Scraps
One fool-proof strategy to implement to support your dog’s digestion is to avoid table scraps. Many foods humans eat aren’t easy for dogs to digest — especially if they’re full of fat, sugar, and sodium. These ingredients in excess can lead to obesity but may also lead to more serious health conditions like pancreatitis.
The Honest Kitchen’s Food Recommendations and Solutions for Loose Stool
If your dog’s poop is often loose or they have a sensitive stomach, you can support their digestion with healthy recipes from The Honest Kitchen.
Our line of nutritious, human grade dog food is packed with high-quality ingredients that taste great and support holistic health. We even have a few recipes developed with digestive health in mind!
Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement
The Honest Kitchen’s Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement helps support stool consistency and healthy bowel movements. The supplement includes natural ingredients that soothe the gut, like slippery elm, fennel, plantain, and papaya leaf.
Pumpkin Pour Over Dog Food Toppers
The next recipe we recommend from The Honest Kitchen is the Pumpkin Pour Over Dog Food Toppers. These are a nutrient-rich grab-and-go alternative to canned toppers and have essential ingredients to aid digestion and give a boost of flavor. Two key ingredients in the toppers include high-fiber pumpkin and pureed apples. You can get your Pour Overs in three flavors (chicken, turkey, and salmon), so there’s something for even the pickiest eaters!
Instant Goat’s Milk With Probiotics Bowl Boosters
Next is another supplement of probiotics, The Honest Kitchen’s Instant Goat’s Milk With Probiotics. You can mix this booster with wet food, dry dog food, or with water for 1.25 billion active probiotics and digestive enzymes. Even more, goat’s milk is great for the digestion and immune support of all ages, from puppies to senior dogs.
Goat’s Milk N’ Cookies Dog Treats
The final recommendation from The Honest Kitchen is our Blueberry and Vanilla Goat’s Milk N’ Cookies Treats. While the name sounds like a decadent dessert, the crunchy snacks are packed with probiotics, whole grains, juicy blueberries full of antioxidants, and real goat’s milk. You can get the cookies in two flavors: peanut butter with honey flavor and pumpkin with cinnamon.
Give Your Dog the Nutrients They Need With The Honest Kitchen
Upset stomachs can be rough on our pets, but getting to the root of the issue can also be stressful for pet owners. Luckily, choosing a high-quality food with whole ingredients is a great place to start supporting your dog’s digestion and overall wellness!
The Honest Kitchen’s recipes are full of nutrient-rich, gut-healthy ingredients. Whether your pet prefers dry food or dehydrated options, chicken or beef or anything in between, The Honest Kitchen has you covered.