If you have a dog, you’ve almost certainly had to deal with dog diarrhea at some point.
Dogs have incredibly resilient digestive systems. They can happily eat raw meat that’s well past its sell-by date … stuff that definitely doesn’t pass the sniff test for humans.
Out on walks they’re quick to grab contraband like rotten dead squirrels, leftover ham sandwiches or fried chicken (my dogs think summer Mondays in our nearby Chicago park are picnic days, there’s so much food left over from the weekends).
Dogs will ignore the nice bowl of clean, filtered water you leave for them and rush out to the yard to drink out of filthy mud puddles or your goldfish pond.
And most of the time they’re completely fine and don’t suffer any ill effects from raiding the garbage or drinking pond scum.
But once in a while every dog will probably get a bout of diarrhea … which hopefully he won’t leave somewhere you’ll step in it at 6 am as you yawn your way to the coffee pot.
And when he does get an upset tummy, you’ll want to get rid of it fast. It’s a smelly, messy business and it’s no fun for either of you.
So we gathered recommendations from some top holistic vets and herbalists on their favorite ways to deal with the dreaded diarrhea.
Expert Advice For Diarrhea
Here’s what Greg Tilford, co-author of Herbs for Pets – The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life has to say:
“Be patient and keep in mind that diarrhea, as awful as it may appear, is actually part of a natural healing process and it is helpful to flush whatever the cause is out of the body. If your animal is suffering from a sudden onset of diarrhea, try to make lifestyle arrangements that will allow you to live with the situation for a day or two, until it passes. Encourage your animal to drink plenty of water, restrict salt intake and let nature takes its course.”
But, if your dog needs a little extra help, there are herbs that act as astringents to help reduce the extra fluid that’s in his digestive tract.
Try the gentler ones first – chamomile or raspberry leaf. If these fail, try slippery elm or plantain.
(Need help preparing chamomile? Click here to read more about chamomile for dogs)
You can also add an equal amount of marshmallow root to any of these astringent herbs, to soothe the digestive tract as well as moderate the irritating effect of the tannins in the astringent herbs.
When you use these herbs, assume the recommended dose is for a 150 lb human, and adjust for your dog’s weight.
Marty Goldstein DVM, author of The Nature of Animal Healing, also advises patience. He says “the essential step with all diarrhea … is to put the pet on a liquid fast.”
Dr Goldstein explains that the digestive system has what’s called a gastrocolic reflex, which empties the colon as the stomach fills.
“To stop the colon from emptying and break the diarrhea cycle, there’s a simple strategy: don’t eat! Or at least, eat as little as possible.”
Dr Marty also recommends two homeopathic blends: BHI’s Diarrhea and Dr Goodpet’s Diar-Relief. Both are available online at Amazon and other vendors.
And he’s had great success with this recipe, which has even cured diarrhea in a ferret! This is a good recipe to give your dog after a 12 to 24 hour liquid fast.
The Potato Diet
Take 50% peeled white potatoes and 50% peeled sweet potatoes and a slice of turnip. Boil them together until cooked through, then mix with boiled chicken or lamb for flavor. Allow to cool before feeding to your dog.
A meal or two of this mixture can stop diarrhea in its tracks!
Randy Kidd DVM PhD, author of Dr Kidd’s Guide To Herbal Dog Care, says there’s nothing better than slippery elm for transient diarrhea.
“It’s a soothing nutritive demulcent that coats sensitive or inflamed mucous membranes … the perfect remedy for an upset tummy.”
Give 1 tsp of powdered herb per 20 lbs of bodyweight, four or five times a day. Mix the powder with water and give it as a liquid with a dropper.
The above remedy is also good for a dog whose digestive upset is due to stress such as a trip or a change in daily routine.
If you see diarrhea with reddish or blackish blood, it could be a sign of something more serious such as distemper or parvo, so Dr Kidd recommends taking your dog to the vet if you see bloody diarrhea.
Richard Pitcairn DVM PhD, co-author of Dr Pitcairn’s Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, explains that the purpose of diarrhea is for the gastrointestinal tract to defend against irritants by moving its contents along more quickly than usual. The cause of diarrhea could be worms, bacteria, viruses, spoiled or toxic food, food sensitivities, bone fragments or indigestible material like hair, cloth or plastic.
Dr Pitcairn recommends not giving your dog any solid food for 24 to 48 hours, to give the digestive tract a rest. Make sure your dog has plenty of clean water available and encourage him to drink.
With excessive diarrhea, avoid dehydration and loss of sodium and potassium by giving your dog a broth made from vegetables, rice and some meat or a bone. Adding a small amount of soy sauce will provide flavor as well as amino acids and sodium. Use just the liquid broth and serve it at room temperature several times a day during the fasting period.
After coming out of the fast, reintroduce solid food gradually by giving the broth along with some of the vegetables used to make it. After 24 hours, introduce plain yogurt and then begin to return your dog to his regular diet, adding some white rice for a few days, as it will help slow down the diarrhea.
This treatment may be enough to get rid of the diarrhea. But in more severe cases Dr Pitcairn recommends ONE of the following remedies.
Available over the counter at drugstores. Depending on body size, give 1 tsp to 3 Tbsp every 4 hours for a couple of days.
Sold in drugstores in tablet or powdered form, it helps absorb toxic materials. Mix it with water and give it every 3 or 4 hours for 24 hours (except during sleep). Use ½ to 1 tsp powder or 1 to 3 tablets depending on your dog’s size.
Roasted Carob Powder
Available in health food stores and soothing for diarrhea. Mix with water and a little honey and give ½ to 2 tsp 3 times a day for 3 days.
Slippery Elm Powder
Mix 1 slightly rounded tsp to a cup of cold water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer, still stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and add 1 Tbsp of honey. Cool to room temperature and give ½ to 1 tsp to small dogs, 2 tsp to 2 Tbsp to medium dogs, and 3 to 4 Tbsp to large dogs about 4 times a day. Keep covered at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Homeopathic remedies that may help are below. Give one pellet every 4 hours for a total of three treatments, and don’t give any food for 10 minutes before or after. If your dog isn’t noticeably better after 24 hours, try another remedy.
For typical diarrhea with a forceful, gushing stool, especially if it smells unusually bad.
Mercurius corrosivus 6C
For frequent bloody stools with much straining, usually after eating toxic substances or from a viral infection.
Arsenicum album 6C
For diarrhea from eating spoiled meat. Usually there are frequent bowel movements (small in quantity) and your dog may be weak, thirsty and chilly.
For dogs that have overeaten or had food that is too rich or fatty. They may become subdued and timid, and may not be thirsty (which is unusual during diarrhea).
Deva Khalsa VMD, author of Dr Khalsa’s Natural Dog, says that just about all diarrhea involves an imbalance in your dog’s intestinal flora.
Her first approach is to give probiotics to rebalance your dog’s gut bacteria. Food that contains probiotics includes kefir or live yogurt, either of which can be added to your dog’s food. Or, buy a good quality probiotic supplement from a health food store, in liquid, powder or capsule form.
You can also add prebiotics, which are non-digestible foods that “feed” probiotics and will help balance the gut more quickly. Food sources of prebiotics that you can add to your dog’s diet include kale, dandelion greens and chard.
Dr Khalsa find that the Chinese herb Po Chai works very well for diarrhea. It’s available from several places online or in the Chinatown areas of large cities. It comes in sets of ten or twelve small vials filled with tiny pellets. For a large dog, give one vial three times a day; small dogs should get ½ vial three times of day. Keep giving this herb until the diarrhea has fully cleared up.
Dr Khalsa also recommends some of the homeopathic and herbal remedies discussed by other experts above.