How To Manage Dog Diarrhea After Antibiotics

antibiotic damage

Our dogs are walking, barking ecosystems.  

Your dog has trillions of organisms in his body. Bacteria, fungi, archaea, and eukaryotes make up the canine microbiome … and they outnumber the cells in his body 10:1. They’re everywhere … in your dog’s gut, spread all over his skin, lungs and urinary tract and even in places like his nail beds.

The canine microbiome helps protect against disease, maintain healthy digestion and regulate hormones. So, a healthy microbiome = a healthy dog. But what happens when antibiotics wreak havoc with this delicate ecosystem? Here’s a gut-focused way to prevent and manage dog diarrhea after antibiotics.

Can Antibiotics Cause Diarrhea In Dogs?

The short answer is yes. Dysbiosis happens when the canine microbiome is out of balance and it’s a common side effect of antibiotics in dogs (1). There’s tons of evidence linking an imbalanced microbiome to a variety of diseases. Here are just a few of them …

  • Obesity: There’s evidence that improving the microbiome of overweight dogs can help weight loss (2).
  • Mental health: New research shows a link between aggression and dysbiosis (3)
  • Cancer: Dysbiosis has been linked to the development of several different cancers … such as intestinal lymphoma (4).
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI): A diseased pancreas doesn’t digest food effectively. One study has shown that dogs with EPI often have dysbiosis (5).
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): New evidence shows that the microbiome destroys sick immune cells that can cause diseases like IBD.
  • Infections: A dysfunctional microbiome leaves your dog vulnerable to infections.
  • Diarrhea: Processed foods, disease and antibiotics weaken the microbiome, allowing disease-causing organisms to flourish and cause dog diarrhea.

Unfortunately, veterinarians often prescribe antibiotics for just about any illness in your dog. And that leads to long term gut damage that weakens your dog’s ability to resist disease.

How Antibiotics Cause Microbiome Changes And Diarrhea

Antibiotics have the same effect on the microbiome as bulldozers in a rainforest. They destroy everything in their path.

A few organisms in the microbiome are resistant to some common antibiotics. Many are not. This means that antibiotics kill the beneficial organisms as well as the bad ones … and that leads to dysbiosis and exposes your dog to some of the diseases listed earlier.

And it isn’t just antibiotics that can harm these beneficial organisms. Your dog’s microbiome is also sensitive to many other drugs and foods. One example is a proton pump inhibitor drug called omeprazole. This drug helps suppress stomach acid, in both humans and dogs. While further studies are needed, this drug has already been linked to dysbiosis (6).

How To Manage Diarrhea From Antibiotics

Here’s what to do to help protect your dog from antibiotic damage and diarrhea … and restore his gut health after antibiotics.

What To Feed A Dog With Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea

A raw diet (which is also high protein low carb – HPLC) improves diversity in the gut microbiome. Some studies have even shown knock-on effects with obesity. Beagles and Labradors lost weight … while minimizing muscle loss … on a HPLC diet supplemented with fiber (7).

The most important thing to prevent dysbiosis is to avoid dry food (yes, that means kibble) … which is always high in carbohydrate. A raw, fresh food diet can promote a more balanced gut microbiome. Balanced and nutritious high protein, low carb, raw food is usually the best diet for your dog. Dogs don’t need starchy carbohydrates in their diet.

Give Soil-Based Probiotics
To rebuild the canine microbiome, give a probiotic that contains a wide variety of bacteria. If you buy a probiotic, the best type of probiotic includes soil-based organisms that are spore-forming, like Bacillus strains.

Spore-forming strains form a hard coating that protects them from heat, stomach acids … and most antibiotics (9, 10). You can also feed probiotic foods like kimchi and fermented veggies.

Give S Boulardii Probiotic Yeast
Saccharomyces boulardii is a probiotic yeast. It’s been shown to be highly effective in resolving dog diarrhea after antibiotics. S. boulardii treats acute and chronic diarrhea in humans … and research iin dogs shows the same results (11).

S. boulardii can’t be killed by antibiotics. So you can give it when your dog’s taking antibiotics, to help protect the beneficial gut bacteria and prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea. This makes it one of the most effective probiotics for dogs on antibiotics.

You can give S boulardii on its own or along with other probiotics. It’s a great supplement to keep in your fridge …for the dogs and people in your home.

Add Prebiotics
Don’t forget to feed the probiotics with prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that help feed the microbiome in the gut. Studies show that prebiotics help improve digestion in our dogs. Some great natural sources of prebiotics include bananas, dandelion greens, and asparagus. You can also buy prebiotic supplements or find a probiotic supplement that contains prebiotics as well.

Why You Should Avoid Antibiotics For Dogs

Veterinarians are under increasing pressure to prescribe antibiotics. Unfortunately, drug companies feed a lot of misleading information to vets. Combined with pressure from peers, this leads a lot of vets to over-use antibiotics. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Task Force For Antimicrobial Stewardship in Companion Animals said it “seems likely” that the amount of unnecessary use of antibiotics in companion animal settings is close to 50% .

Massive antibiotic misuse has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant organisms. These organisms continue to flourish even when treated with our strongest medicines. There are even concerns that otherwise healthy dogs carry and spread these bugs.

There’s a chance that some day your dog will come across a disease that his immune system can’t fight off. It’s important to use antibiotics sparingly, and only when they’re really necessary. Always make an informed decision when it comes to antibiotic use in your dog. Where the situation is not life-threatening, consider other options.

Be sure to make it clear to your veterinarian that you would prefer to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use. There are many natural alternatives that won’t cause the same damage to your dog’s health.

Why does my dog have diarrhea after taking antibiotics?

Your dog’s digestive health relies on the balance of good bacteria in his gut. Antibiotics kill bacteria, so when you give antibiotics, they destroy all gut bacteria, good and bad … often creating long-lasting damage to your dog’s gut and immune health.

How long does diarrhea last in dogs after antibiotics?

Every dog is different in how they respond, but research shows that antibiotics can cause long-term gut damage … some research has found the effects last up to 2 years. Research at NYU Langone Medical Center found “Early evidence … hints that, sometimes, our friendly flora never fully recover.”

How can I restore my dog’s gut after antibiotics?

To help your dog recover from antibiotic damage, feed a raw, whole food diet, and give probiotics with soil-based organisms and S. boulardii, a probiotic yeast that has been shown to heal the gut after antibiotics.

Occasionally antibiotics may be unavoidable. If that happens, make sure you follow these steps to protect your dog’s microbiome. Your dog’s microbiome is a vital asset in the fight against disease. To keep your dog healthy and happy, you need to pay attention to gut health and do everything you can to keep it in check.

  1. Coelho, L.P., Kultima, J.R., Costea, P.I. et al. Similarity of the dog and human gut microbiomes in gene content and response to diet. Microbiome 6, 72 (2018)
  2. Kieler IN, Shamzir Kamal S et al. Gut microbiota composition may relate to weight loss rate in obese pet dogs. Vet Med Sci. 2017;3(4):252-262. Published 2017 Nov 3.
  3. Kirchoff NS, Udell MAR, Sharpton TJ. 2019. The gut microbiome correlates with conspecific aggression in a small population of rescued dogs (Canis familiaris). PeerJ 7:e6103
  4. A Gavazza et al. Faecal microbiota in dogs with multicentric lymphoma. Vet Comp Oncology. March 2018.
  5. Anitha Isaiah et al. The fecal microbiome of dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Anaerobe, Volume 45, 2017
  6. Kostrzewska M et al. The effect of omeprazole treatment on the gut microflora and neutrophil function. Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2017 Oct;41(5):575-584.
  7. Li Q, Lauber CL et al. Effects of the Dietary Protein and Carbohydrate Ratio on Gut Microbiomes in Dogs of Different Body Conditions. mBio. 2017;8(1):e01703-16. Published 2017 Jan 24.
  8. Becattini S, Taur Y, Pamer EG. Antibiotic-Induced Changes in the Intestinal Microbiota and Disease. Trends Mol Med. 2016 Jun;22(6):458-478. 
  9. Thiemann S, Smit N, Strowig T. Antibiotics and the Intestinal Microbiome : Individual Responses, Resilience of the Ecosystem, and the Susceptibility to Infections. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2016;398:123-146. 
  10. Pamer EG. Resurrecting the intestinal microbiota to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Science. 2016;352(6285):535-538.
  11. Blaabjerg S, Artzi DM, Aabenhus R. Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Outpatients-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Antibiotics (Basel). 2017;6(4):21. Published 2017 Oct 12.
  12. Surawicz CM, Elmer GW, Speelman P, McFarland LV, Chinn J, van Belle G. Prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by Saccharomyces boulardii: a prospective study. Gastroenterology. 1989 Apr;96(4):981-8.
  13. Chaitman J, Gaschen F. Fecal Microbiota Transplantation in Dogs. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2021 Jan;51(1):219-233. 

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