As a dog owner, you probably monitor your dog’s poop and you’re happy when everything looks normal …
… but what if your dog has frequent diarrhea and it keeps on coming back?
The causes of dog diarrhea are varied, and often mysterious … and that can mean misery for both of you. Your dog doesn’t feel good, and you have to do the clean-up. Not just the unpleasant task of picking up sloppy poop, but washing off a furry butt isn’t fun either.
Veterinarians often prescribe antibiotics like Metronidazole (Flagyl). But the problem is that this type of drug suppresses the symptoms for a bit … and then a few days later, there’s the diarrhea again.
Stopping diarrhea with drugs isn’t really healthy for your dog. Diarrhea (meaning “flow through” from the Greek dia meaning through and rhein meaning to flow) is the body’s way of getting rid of pathogens, and suppressing this natural “flow through” won’t cure your dog of his diarrhea in the long term.
So what can you do to get rid of the problem once and for all?
At the 2015 Natural Canine Health Symposium (NCHS), holistic veterinarian Dr Peter Dobias told us about how he cures chronic diarrhea in dogs.
He can’t remember a case of diarrhea he hasn’t been able to solve … and that’s because he takes an unusual approach to healing this disease.
Dr Dobias says there are some commonly recognized causes of chronic diarrhea, but in his experience, these only amount to about 25% of cases.
So what causes the other 75%?
Keep reading to find out how to get to the bottom of your dog’s diarrhea and what you can do to resolve it.
First of all, what’s “normal” when you’re talking about poop?
Normal frequency of bowel movement is once to twice per day. But what does it look like?
Dr Dobias uses some colorful descriptions for different poop types:
- Cookie crumble: this crumbly poop is normal for dogs on a raw diet who eat plenty of bone. Don’t confuse it with constipation.
- Play dough: this consistency of poop is also normal.
- Cow pie: this is usually due to faster digestion and isn’t really diarrhea.
- Ice cream: this is true diarrhea, especially when your dog has to poop very urgently and can’t control his bowel movements well.
- Water: again, this is also diarrhea.
Types of Diarrhea
It’s helpful to know whether your dog’s diarrhea is small intestinal diarrhea or large intestinal diarrhea. One of them is more serious.
In large intestinal diarrhea, your dog’s bowel movements will be more frequent, and he will have to “go” very urgently. He may not be able to hold it and may have accidents indoors. You may also see fresh blood specks on the surface of the poop.
In small intestinal diarrhea, the bowel movements are less frequent and less urgent. You’re less likely to see blood as the blood would be digested on its journey through the intestinal tract.
Although the symptoms of small intestinal diarrhea seem less severe, it can be more serious than large intestinal diarrhea.
Blood In The Stool - When Should You Worry?
There are two ways you may see blood in your dog’s diarrhea.
One looks like a strawberry milk shake, when the blood is mixed and partially digested in the bowel movement. This is a more serious situation stemming from the small intestine.
The other is when you see specks of blood on the surface. People get scared when they see this, but it comes from the colon and is usually less serious than the strawberry milkshake variety.
Use this guide to find out when to take your dog to the vet.
Acute Or Chronic
There’s also a difference between acute and chronic diarrhea.
Acute diarrhea is short lasting and not repetitive. It’s often caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, “dietary indiscretion” or something toxic.
Stop Acute Diarrhea
For acute diarrhea, first fast your dog for 24 hours, then give him cooked squash and chicken for three days. After that he should be back to normal and you can put him back on his regular diet.
Chronic diarrhea may go away briefly but it comes back over and over again.
Common Causes Of Dog Diarrhea
Here’s a little more detail about some typical causes of chronic diarrhea. Again, these are responsible for about 25% of cases Dr Dobias sees. These issues can cause inflammation of the bowel and prevent it from working properly.
The most often-blamed cause for diarrhea? Bacteria … but they are usually secondary to a weakened gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bacteria will settle in the GI of a dog who’s weak.
Parasites can be a cause of diarrhea but are also often secondary to weakness in the digestive tract. Healthier dogs tend to resist parasites.
Giardia is a common parasite that can settle in the digestive tract of a dog with a weaker immune system.
Freeze your dog’s raw meat for a few days to avoid roundworms and tapeworms. Tapeworms can also come from fleas so be sure to use natural flea control for your dog.
Fecal parasite tests can be quite unreliable and may not always detect parasites, so it may take several tests before you identify parasites in your dog.
Feeding a species-inappropriate diet is a very common cause of chronic diarrhea. If you go back to nature, you won’t see dogs grazing in a field of grains … but many dogs are on kibble diets that include ingredients like corn that can irritate the digestive system.
Dairy is another example of something dogs wouldn’t eat in nature. If it’s something a wild canine wouldn’t eat, don’t give it to your dog!
80% of your dog’s immune system lives in his gut. Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system, whether to foods or something in your dog’s environment.
Toxins can be in your dog’s food, treats or water, or in the environment. They may be chemicals in your home or yard (or your neighbor’s yard), as well as metals like mercury or lead.
Dr Dobias frequently does hair testing in his patients to test for heavy metals. He’s found that many dogs on rice-based diets have high levels of arsenic, because arsenic is in the water in major rice-growing countries.
Eliminate toxins from your dog’s environment by using natural cleaners, avoiding toxic garden products and feeding organic meat and treats.
Over-vaccination, especially with multiple vaccinations at once, can overwhelm the immune system and contribute to chronic diarrhea. There’s no situation in nature where the body would get four or five diseases all at once – and vaccination also bypasses the body’s normal barriers (the digestive system or the nodes) and can cause a huge shock to your dog’s body.
There can be several reasons for digestive insuffiency.
- Breed tendency: Some dogs seem to have a natural tendency to inefficient digestive systems. This often seems to be in working breeds like Border Collies or German Shepherds – perhaps due to stress or because breeders focus on working ability rather than digestive health.
- Pancreatic stress: The pancreas can also get stressed by inappropriate diet. This causes inflammation, which leads to the creation of antibodies that destroy the pancreatic cells.
Test For Pancreatic Stress
If you feel your dog’s body at the stomach point which is behind the last rib, then move your hands up to the spine, you may find your dog is very sensitive and twitchy in that part of his back. This can mean there’s insufficient energy flow to the pancreas and stomach. You can also ask your vet for a Trypsin (TLI) test which measures the level of enzymatic function of the pancreas.
- Liver weakness: Liver dysfunction or weakness is also very common as a result of toxicity, over-vaccination and dogs living in an environment that’s not what nature intended.
- Energy flow to these organs is also hugely important, as you’ll see a little later.
Dogs with digestive insuffiency often have large bowel movements, even if they’re on a raw diet. This means they’re not digesting their food well. This doesn’t apply to kibble fed dogs, who have large bowel movements due to the fillers in the food.
Adding apple cider vinegar to the food can help relieve digestive insuffiency, as can digestive enzymes like papain and bromelain. However, rule out other causes first before giving enzyme supplements as you want your dog’s body to produce its own digestive enzymes if it can.
If none of the above diarrhea causes apply, you and your vet should consider adrenal function. Some breeds are predisposed to Addison’s disease, which is when the adrenal gland is functioning at a low level.
When the adrenals aren’t working right, the whole body suffers, so Addison’s can mimic a lot of conditions. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to test for Addison’s.
Often, with Addison’s, blood work will show high potassium and low sodium. Other dogs are adrenal deficient but potassium and sodium are normal. In these cases adding glandular supplements can resolve the problem.
Now For The Other 75%
Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. Dr Dobias has discovered a link between the type of activity your dog does and chronic diarrhea.
He learned about this when his own dog Skai developed diarrhea in certain situations. A young, very active (human) friend would come to play with Skai. Dr Dobias noticed that Skai’s diarrhea was worse after these play sessions. Skai’s diarrhea was also worse when Dr Dobias played with him using the Chuck-It ball thrower.
Dr Dobias realized that the diarrhea was related to Skai’s spinal energy flow. When Skai played really hard, his lumbar area would get congested and that affected his digestive system.
Energy Flow In The Back
A dog’s energy flow runs from his head to his tail and then to the extremities, and if it’s interrupted it can affect organ function in the body. Skai had sensitivity and heat in the mid lumbar area (around the L5 vertebra), which is the area of the colon. He also had discomfort around the L7 vertebra which is the beginning of the cecal region (where the small and large intestines meet).
Excessive activity can cause back injuries that lead to tightening of the lumbar muscles. This means less energy flows to his internal organs. The lumbar area is closely related to colon and the small intestine.
Dogs love to play but domestic dogs have different activities than a wild dog. They tend to be much more repetitive. You wouldn’t see a wolf run after a ball over and over again for half an hour … he’d run after a rabbit for a minute or two and if he didn’t catch it he’d stop.
Like a tennis player with tennis elbow, when a dog does a lot of repetitive activity like chasing a ball or Frisbee, it can create an imbalance.
The Right Exercise
Inactivity can also be a serious problem that leads to weakness and instability of the muscles, which then get injured easily.
So the right amount of activity is really important to your dog’s health.
And so is the type of activity. Make sure your dog does a wide variety of activities to keep his body balanced.
Examining Your Dog
If your dog does a lot of repetitive activities like fetching, jumping and sprinting, it’s a good idea to examine him and watch for some of the symptoms below.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a very good idea to stop some of the activities that can cause these problems.
Yes, it’s really hard, because your dog loves these activities and you hate to disappoint him. But at least stop doing them for a while to find out whether they’re causing your dog’s diarrhea.
The good news is that this type of back injury is treatable, and treating it can cure your dog’s diarrhea. Here are Dr Dobias’s recommendations.
Adjust And Treat The Lumbar Region
Ideally, use a combination of some or all of these treatments:
- Chiropractic adjustments or physical therapy, once or twice a month.
- Massage, two to four times a month.
- Intramuscular stimulation or acupuncture, once or twice a month.
The best homeopathic option is to consult a classical homeopathic vet who will prescribe constitutional remedies that fit your dog’s whole symptom picture.
But Dr Dobias has found one remedy that’s especially helpful in addressing his patients’ muscle fatigue in the lumbar region.
That remedy is Phosphoric acid, in a 200C potency. Give your dog one dose and then repeat it in two weeks. This remedy has a strong affinity for spastic muscles and reduces the tendency to diarrhea.
To dose homeopathic remedies: just pop 2 or 3 pellets straight out of the container into his cheek; or stir the pellets into a little spring or filtered water and use a dropper to put some in his mouth. As long as the remedy or water solution makes contact with your dog’s mucous membranes, he’s been dosed.
Always think about going back to nature when choosing food. What would a wild dog eat?
- Avoid mono diets and feed lots of variety.
- Don’t feed dairy and grains.
- Avoid beef, bison and buffalo (Dr Dobias finds that these meats aggravate many dogs’ diarrhea (they also contain arachidonic acid which can be inflammatory).
- Feed rabbit, chicken, turkey, lamb (dogs in nature would mostly eat smaller animals).
- Choose treats carefully – avoid wheat and other grains, rice, dairy.
- When choosing pre-made food, research the country of origin, the company’s philosophy and quality control standards.
You can also do elimination diets where you remove one food ingredient for two weeks. Seeing how this affects your dog will help you learn his food intolerances so you know what to avoid.
Our soils are depleted of nutrients and the food supply is not as nutritious as it should be. Here are some of Dr Dobias’ suggestions for things you should add to your dog’s food.
- Whole food vitamins: find a multivitamin supplement made from whole foods, not synthetic sources.
- Minerals: look for natural food sources like spirulina, organ meats, eggs, coconut, sprouted seeds, fermented foods, bone broth.
- Amino acids: give your dog a wide variety of proteins to provide a full range of amino acids.
- Probiotics: probiotics help balance gut bacteria for a healthier digestive system. Again, non-dairy is best. You can also give fermented vegetables for a great source of natural probiotics. Kefir is another good option but use coconut or water kefir to avoid dairy.
- Omega-3 oils: use oils that are low in contaminants like mercury: krill and microalgae are good choices. (When using krill, check the Marine Stewardship Council’s website to make sure your supplier is using a sustainable source of krill oil as there is risk of overfishing).
Exercise your dog in ways he would do in nature. Dogs naturally run and trot but they wouldn’t do repetitive activities. Do endurance exercise like hiking with your dog, and less high intensity chasing (even if he loves it).
Be on the lookout for potential injuries. If your dog’s slowing down, it might not just be due to age … he could have an injury you haven’t recognized. Address injuries right away.
If your dog has chronic diarrhea, follow the steps below to identify what’s really causing the problem.
- Test for bacteria and parasites.
- Adjust your dog’s diet and treats.
- Add essential supplements to optimize your dog’s digestion, immune system and metabolism.
- Check for toxins and track their origin.
- Practice mindful exercise with your dog.
- Treat back injuries.
And always follow the basic rule: Any time you’re unsure about anything, go back to nature and let it guide you!