My Dog Has Diarrhea But Acts Fine: What Should I Do?

My Dog Has Diarrhea But Acts Fine. Photo of a dog with diarrhea but looking fine.

It’s unsettling to discover that your dog is dealing with a case of diarrhea. What does it mean if your dog has diarrhea but acts fine? Here’s what you’ll want to know!

Dogs can get diarrhea for any number of reasons, including stress, eating something that doesn’t agree with them, dealing with undiagnosed food intolerance or allergy, reacting to vaccination or medication, fighting off a parasite or illness, suffering from an undiagnosed chronic illness, or dealing with an intestinal blockage.

If they are acting normal, eating, drinking, and sleeping as usual, then you can safely wait for several days to see if it clears up on its own. Any diarrhea that lasts longer than 3 days should get a check-up from the vet, though, just to see what’s going on!

Should I be worried if my dog has diarrhea but is acting fine?

There’s nothing fun about dealing with doggy diarrhea, but you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you don’t know what to do about it, either! A dog with diarrhea and otherwise acting fine is much like a human with diarrhea that otherwise feels fine. It is most likely a mild reaction to something that has thrown their body “off,” and they’ll recover.

Is it normal for a dog with diarrhea to act fine?

Yes! Dogs have very sensitive stomachs compared to humans, so it doesn’t take much to throw their entire body off and put them through a round of diarrhea. If you’ve never had a dog with diarrhea at some point or another, consider yourself very lucky!

Why does my dog have diarrhea with no other symptoms? 

So, what’s going on with your dog? Why are they struggling with diarrhea even though they seem otherwise normal? How can your dog feel okay with that kind of thing going on in their body? Here are the most common reasons, as introduced above:

  • Stress
  • Eating something that doesn’t agree with them
  • Undiagnosed food intolerance or allergy
  • Vaccination or medication reaction
  • Fighting off a parasite or illness
  • An undiagnosed chronic illness
  • An intestinal blockage

Stress

When dogs get stressed out by anything, their stomach will get turned off. This is much the same with humans. When the stress resolves, your dog’s stomach should return to normal again.

Eating something that doesn’t agree with them

Dogs have a very sensitive stomach, and many things don’t agree with them. Even something as simple as a change in their food brand can throw off their stomach. They don’t digest human food well, and many “normal” foods for us are far too rich for sensitive dog stomachs.

Undiagnosed food intolerance or allergy

Both food intolerances and allergies are popular in dogs, many of which include ingredients in the most common dog food brands. If you suspect it’s one of those things, you can talk to our doctor about a test for both, and they’ll help you determine your dog’s triggers. Your vet will also recommend food and treat types to help you avoid those in the future.

Vaccination or medication reaction

From their yearly shots to an antibiotic to help with an ear infection to a dewormer shot, your dog will have diarrhea specifically due to these things. It’s a sign that they are working! Your vet will often warn you about this ahead of time, but don’t be afraid to call them and check if you are feeling unsure. 

Fighting off a parasite or illness

Dogs can easily have parasites in their digestive tract. These can cause diarrhea, though you’ll notice that they may have a few other mild symptoms. Your vet can diagnose what parasite it is and then treat it with antibiotics and immunizations, depending.

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Preventing parasite infections is one of the reasons that having proper immunizations is important. Some, like the parvovirus, are so contagious that immunization is the only way to offer your dog protection against it!

An undiagnosed chronic illness

No one wants to learn that their dog is sick with some sort of illness, but the only worse thing than knowing is not knowing. Pancreatitis, cancer, liver or kidney issues or even stomach problems tend to start with diarrhea. These will often have other symptoms as well, though, so always pay close attention to anything out of the ordinary.

If you have reason to suspect that your dog may have something serious going on, a trip to the vet is an excellent idea. Just make sure that you are aware of any changes in their diet, health, physique, and attitude — these can all help your vet understand what might be going on under the surface.

An intestinal blockage

Dogs can get intestinal blockages relatively easily, be they from eating June bugs, drywall, or just too much food in too short of a time. An intestinal blockage is an emergency, but you’ll notice other symptoms like stomach swelling, lack of appetite, vomiting, and the inability to go to the bathroom after diarrhea.

If you suspect that it is a blockage, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. It can be a matter of life or death since it backs up everything in their body. Blockages need to be fixed with surgery in most cases, and the longer it goes, the worse the outcome is.

How long should diarrhea last in dogs?

Okay, so now that you know all about the potential causes of diarrhea in your dog, what should you do about it? When should you start to worry? Experts agree that diarrhea should get a vet visit if it goes longer than 3 days. This is especially the case if it doesn’t appear to be improving.

You’ll know that your dog is getting over their diarrhea if their poop becomes more “normal” again in both consistency and color. The perfect poop — yes, really — is going to be an even chocolate brown in color and will be moist but not loose. 

When is dog diarrhea an emergency?

Sometimes diarrhea in dogs can be an emergency. You’ll know that this is the case if your dog starts showing symptoms of a problem otherwise. For example, lethargy, no appetite, and/or interest in drinking, vomiting, or signs of distress. 

If you notice any of these additional symptoms in combination with diarrhea, do not wait the 3 days! Take them in as soon as possible, even if it means an emergency appointment. It could be the difference between life or death, which isn’t a dramatic statement.

What can I give my dog to stop diarrhea?

If you’re looking to help your dog recover from diarrhea, you can consider a few options to help you do just that. Your main choices include:

  • Fasting
  • Smaller portions
  • A bland diet
  • Prescriptions

Fasting

If your dog’s stomach is upset, it’s a good idea not to add to the problem. Fast your dog for 12-24 hours, but make sure to give them plenty of fresh, cool water. This can sometimes help their stomach focus on what it’s trying to do and restore them to their diarrhea-free self in no time.

Smaller portions

If you don’t want to fast your dog, then at least consider the idea of feeding your dog smaller portions. They will help lighten up the workload of your dog’s stomach so that it’ll get itself back to normal easier.

A bland diet

There are several bland foods that you can add to your dog’s diet. These are easy for your dog to digest, and they will also offer up bulk to help solidify your dog’s poops and push the “bad” food out of their gut easier and faster. Most dogs also enjoy the “treat” of a bland diet, which is wonderful when incentivizing your dog to each something helpful!

Your best, safe options for a bland diet include mashed pumpkin, boiled rice, plain white bread, and canned dog food. All of these should be plain and, in the case of the canned food, designed for dogs rather than humans!

Prescriptions

If your dog suffers from chronic diarrhea (more on that below), you can also look at asking your vet about prescriptions and/or supplements to help them get their bathroom habits as regular — literally — as possible. Options often include probiotics and fiber, sine both will promote gut health. 

These can be done through actual supplements or by adjusting their diet to a different kind of food that prioritizes these aspects.

What’s the difference between acute and chronic diarrhea?

As you might already know, it’s the timing. But the timing itself will also help you and your vet both understand what’s going on in your dog’s body.

Acute diarrhea is most likely going to be caused by the conditions or problems listed above. It is short-term and will resolve independently, though you can still consider bringing your dog in for a check just to be safe.

Chronic diarrhea is when your dog consistently has diarrhea regularly. If you notice it happening regularly, you’ll want to go to the vet to see what’s going on. It can mean one of those scarier options that we talked about above. It also can mean something like an autoimmune disorder or even malnutrition. Once diagnosed, your vet can help you plan a treatment guide to help your dog enjoy more comfort daily and long-term.

Conclusion

Dogs can have diarrhea for typical reasons or health-related ones. Usual reasons include stress, eating something that doesn’t agree with their stomach, and reacting to a vaccine.

Health-related reasons include suffering from food intolerance or allergy, fighting an infection or illness, dealing with a chronic health condition, or even an intestinal blockage.

Your dog’s diarrhea could be mild and pass quickly, or severe and long-term. Understand what it all means and how to help your dog through it for everyone’s health and comfort!

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