What To Do When Your Dog Has a Diarrhea Emergency

Four minutes
Dec 20, 2022

An upset stomach ruins everyone’s day, especially when it’s your dog. Dog diarrhea can be a particular challenge as it can be difficult to know when to take your dog to the veterinarian and when to treat it at home. A general rule of thumb is to go to the vet immediately if your dog doesn’t get better in 2 days or if there is blood in their stool

While it’s not a pleasant topic to discuss, diarrhea is one of the most common veterinary emergencies dog parents will experience. Some dogs often experience upset stomachs and other gastrointestinal issues, like constipation. But should you worry if it happens all the time? Read on to learn how you can help your pup.

What Can I Give My Dog for Diarrhea at Home?

Give your veterinarian a call for guidance for at-home dog diarrhea treatments. They’ll probably advise you to restrict your dog’s food for at least a day. After a 24-hour fast, you can slowly reintroduce foods that aren’t harsh on your pup’s stomach. The foods that can help relieve diarrhea are:⁴

  • White rice
  • Pureed pumpkin
  • Plain yogurt
  • Probiotics
  • Potatoes without the skin
  • Formulated dog food for sensitive stomachs

You can slowly reintroduce their regular food once it seems like they are recovering. This can look like a ¼ cup of their old food with white rice until you work up to only their regular food in their bowl. Take it slow and monitor your pup closely.

Diarrhea in Dogs: What Causes It?

In simple terms, diarrhea happens when your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract fails to absorb excess water from their food.3,4 Keep in mind that dogs don’t digest food as we do. We chew our food carefully while dogs tear their food, crush it, and gulp it down. As you can imagine, sometimes your pup eats too much, too fast and their GI tract becomes unhappy.

Another common cause of diarrhea is medications. For example, antibiotics used to treat common infections (like UTIs) can cause an upset stomach. Other common causes of diarrhea in dogs are:3,4

  • Eating garbage or spoiled food (sometimes called “garbage gut”)
  • Change in diet
  • Allergies or food sensitivities
  • Parasites
  • Poisonous plants or household items
  • Bacterial infections
  • Stress

Watch for the consistency and color of your dog’s stool. Make a note about how it looks or take a picture because your vet will likely ask you to describe what you see. It may seem gross, but the color and shape can tell your vet a lot about what is going on with your dog’s health.3,4

Can I Give My Dog Pepto-Bismol?

The answer to this is a bit nuanced. In general, no, it isn’t advisable to give your dog Pepto-Bismol because the salicylates in it can lead to gastric bleeding.⁵ However, some vets may be OK with it on a limited-use basis. Chat with your personal vet to see if you can give your dog Pepto-Bismol as your vet knows your dog’s medical history best. They may offer a prescription like Tylan (tylosin) instead, which is approved for dog use.³

A small brown dog getting examined by a vet

Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

The largest red flag for a dog’s bowel movements is bloody diarrhea. Experts recommend that pet parents check for the color of the blood in the stool.⁶ Is it bright or dark? If you see bright red blood, that is called hematochezia. This blood could mean something is happening in your dog’s lower digestive tract or colon; sometimes an impacted anal gland.⁴ Luckily, this might not be a major cause for concern except if it happens consistently.

Dark, tarry-colored blood in stool is called melena. Melena looks dark, sticky, and almost jelly-like. This kind of diarrhea can be tricky to catch because it almost looks brown. As a pet parent, you know how your dog’s poop looks.⁶ If you’re in doubt, pick up the poop with a paper towel to see if it stains red. If it does, schedule a vet appointment. You may need to bring a fecal sample with you to the vet, so consider bringing that as well.

When To Take Your Dog to the Vet

You know your dog best, so you’ll know when something isn’t right. Some dogs are prone to digestive disorders while others never seem to get sick! Regardless, it’s best not to ignore anything that appears out of order with your pooch.

These are some red flags that you likely won’t be able to handle at home: 3,4

  • Bloody or black stool
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of appetite
  • The above symptoms in combination with other diseases, like Cushing’s disease or cancer

If you notice any of these red flags plus diarrhea that lasts more than 2 days, go to the vet. Trust your gut! You won’t regret getting your dog the care they need.

Do Vet Bills Freak You Out More Than Poop? Let MetLife Help!

Diarrhea emergencies don’t have to be a massive stress on your wallet. You can treat diarrhea at home by putting your dog on a fast, restricting their food, and giving them prescription medications. However, there are times when your vet will have to step in to make sure your dog isn’t in serious trouble.

Getting a dog insurance policy may help cover surprise bills for specialty food, vet visits, and even prescriptions.² At MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award, we’re committed to helping you keep your pets happy and healthy, whether that means learning all there is to know about your pets or protecting them with an insurance policy,² Consider getting a free quote today to find out how small an investment today could save you thousands of dollars tomorrow.

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¹ Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

² Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³ “Diarrhea: Worry or Wait?,” Cornell Margaret and Richard Riney Canine Health Center

⁴ “Dog Diarrhea Survival Guide,” American Kennel Club

⁵ “Is Pepto-Bismol Safe for Dogs (Along with Other OTC Medications)?,” American Kennel Club

⁶ “Blood in Dog Poop: What to Do if You Find It,” American Kennel Club

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