Dog Diarrhea and Parasites: Critical Signs for a Vet Visit

Dog Diarrhea and Parasites: Critical Signs for a Vet Visit

dog visiting a veterinarian

Dealing with a dog that has diarrhea can be worrying, especially when you notice it is persistent or severe.

If your dog has diarrhea along with other symptoms like vomiting, weight loss, or visible parasites in their stool, it’s crucial to see a vet immediately.

Parasites are a common cause of diarrhea in dogs and can lead to more serious health issues if not treated properly.


Parasites such as worms can cause inflammation and irritation in your dog’s digestive system. This not only leads to diarrhea but can also result in other symptoms like blood in the stool or general weakness.

Catching these symptoms early allows for more effective treatment and quicker recovery for your dog.

In some cases, diarrhea might be related to medication or other health conditions. Always consult your vet if you are unsure about the cause.

They can provide the best advice on treatment, diet changes, and other care your dog might need during this time.

Key Takeaways

  • Diarrhea and other symptoms like vomiting or weight loss are signs to see a vet.
  • Parasites can cause serious health issues if not treated.
  • Always consult your vet if you are unsure about your dog’s symptoms.

Understanding Dog Diarrhea

Dog diarrhea can be caused by multiple factors, including diet changes and parasites.

Recognizing the symptoms and assessing dehydration and weight loss are crucial.

Additionally, fecal examinations by a vet can diagnose specific issues.

Common Causes and Symptoms

Diarrhea in dogs often happens from dietary indiscretion or sudden diet changes.

Dogs may eat spoiled food, trash, or other harmful substances. This results in issues known as “garbage toxicosis.”

Dogs can also get diarrhea from intestinal parasites like coccidia, giardia, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.

Common symptoms include loose or watery stool, increased stool frequency, and mucus in the stool.

Sometimes, there may be blood in the stool, which can appear red or black.

Other symptoms to watch out for are vomiting, lethargy, and a decrease in appetite.

Assessing Dehydration and Weight Loss

Dehydration is a serious concern when a dog has diarrhea.

Checking for dehydration involves observing the dog’s skin and gums.

Pinch a small section of your dog’s skin on the back. If it doesn’t snap back quickly, your dog might be dehydrated.

Weight loss is another sign of severe diarrhea, especially in puppies.

Continuous diarrhea can lead to noticeable weight reduction and reduced muscle mass.

Providing small, frequent amounts of water can help prevent dehydration.

For larger dogs, start with ⅛ cup to ¼ cup every 30 to 60 minutes (Preventive Vet).

The Importance of Fecal Examination

A fecal examination by a veterinarian is essential in diagnosing the cause of dog diarrhea.

The vet will analyze the stool for parasites, which are often visible in a dog’s feces, vomit, or on their fur.

By identifying the type of parasite, the vet can prescribe the correct treatment.

Sometimes, other issues such as diet or allergies can be determined from stool appearance.

Regular fecal exams can help maintain your dog’s health and prevent future bouts of diarrhea.

This practice is especially important for young dogs and those with weakened immune systems.

Identifying Parasites in Dogs

Dog diarrhea is often linked to various types of parasites that can affect your pet’s digestive system. Knowing how to identify these parasites is crucial for keeping your dog healthy.

Most Common Intestinal Parasites

Roundworms look like spaghetti and can be several inches long. They are often visible in dog poop.

Hookworms are tiny, thin worms with hook-like mouth parts. These worms attach to the mucosal lining of the intestines and can lead to significant blood loss.

Whipworms resemble tiny pieces of thread large at one end and can cause severe irritation and inflammation in the colon.

Tapeworms can be identified by the small segments that break off and are often seen around a dog’s anus or in its feces.

Giardia and Coccidia are microscopic parasites that also cause diarrhea. Giardia forms cysts in the intestines, which are then passed in the stool and can even be less noticeable.

Transmission Methods and Life Cycle

Parasites have different methods of transmission.

Roundworms spread through ingesting eggs from contaminated soil or feces. Puppies can also get them from their mother’s milk.

Hookworms penetrate through a dog’s skin or are ingested. They are mostly found in environments with poor sanitation.

Whipworms are transmitted when a dog ingests eggs from contaminated food, water, or soil.

Tapeworms often require an intermediate host, like a flea, to complete their life cycle. Dogs get infected by swallowing an infected flea.

Giardia is transmitted through cysts found in contaminated water or food and can flourish in moist environments.

Significance of Environmental Factors

The environment plays a significant role in the spread of intestinal parasites.

Contaminated soil, water, and feces are common transmission sources.

Warm, moist areas can make it easier for parasites like Giardia and Hookworms to thrive.

Dogs that frequent parks, woods, or any outdoor spaces are at a higher risk.

Ensuring your dog’s environment is clean and avoiding areas with high contamination can reduce the risk of infection.

Proper sanitation and preventive measures are key in managing and preventing these parasitic infections in dogs.

Treatment and Management

Quick actions, dietary changes, and medications are crucial for treating and managing diarrhea in dogs.

Long-term strategies help prevent future incidents and maintain your dog’s health.

Immediate Actions and Diet Considerations

When your dog has diarrhea, start by withholding food for 12-24 hours to let their digestive system rest.

However, ensure they stay hydrated by giving them small amounts of water frequently.

For toy and small breeds, offer about 2 to 3 mls every 30 to 60 minutes. For medium and large breeds, give ⅛ cup to ¼ cup every 30 to 60 minutes.

After the fasting period, introduce a bland diet. Cooked rice and boiled chicken are good choices.

Gradually reintroduce their regular food over the next few days. Avoid rich, fatty, or spicy foods, as these can worsen diarrhea.

Medications and Parasite Control

Medications often play a key role in treating dog diarrhea.

Your vet may prescribe metronidazole or other antibiotics to kill bacteria causing the diarrhea.

If parasites like Giardia are involved, a deworming medication such as fenbendazole might be needed.

Electrolyte solutions can also help if dehydration is a concern.

You can offer natural yogurt to help restore gut flora. A teaspoon for small dogs and a dessert spoon for larger dogs should be enough. Always consult your vet before giving any medication.

Long-term Health and Prevention

Maintaining your dog’s long-term health requires regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet.

Ensure they drink clean water and avoid areas contaminated with feces.

Deworming medication should be administered as prescribed by your vet to prevent parasite infections.

Probiotics can be added to their diet to support gut health.

Keep vaccinations up to date and follow a strict flea control regimen.

These steps help minimize the risk of infections and keep your dog’s digestive system healthy.

When to Consult a Veterinarian

Knowing when to consult a veterinarian for your dog’s diarrhea can be crucial.

Keep an eye out for both the duration of the symptoms and any other signs that may point to a more serious issue.

Recognizing Acute vs. Chronic Conditions

Diarrhea can be classified as acute or chronic.

Acute diarrhea appears suddenly and may be caused by dietary changes, infections, or parasites.

If your dog’s diarrhea lasts longer than 24 hours or is accompanied by signs like vomiting or lethargy, you should seek veterinary care right away.

Severe, rapid symptoms can lead to dehydration, which is a major concern.

Chronic diarrhea lasts for weeks or keeps coming back.

Causes might include food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, or parasites like giardia.

Chronic symptoms indicate that ongoing issues are at play, which requires a vet’s diagnosis and treatment plan.

Diagnostic Tests and Veterinary Procedures

When you bring your dog to the vet for diarrhea, several diagnostic tests might be performed.

A stool sample is usually collected to check for parasites, bacteria, or other abnormalities.

Blood tests can help in identifying infections or underlying diseases.

Other tests your vet might recommend include x-rays or ultrasounds to examine the intestines and other organs.

These imaging tests can reveal blockages, tumors, or other structural problems causing the diarrhea.

Effective diagnosis often leads to targeted treatment.

This might involve antibiotics, anti-parasitic medications, or specialized diets tailored to your dog’s specific condition.

Regular follow-ups with your vet ensure that the treatment is working and adjust as needed.

This comprehensive approach not only treats the immediate problem but helps maintain your dog’s health in the long term.

For more detailed information, visit Preventive Vet’s article on dog diarrhea.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dog diarrhea can be concerning, especially if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms. Here are common questions and answers to help you manage your pet’s health effectively.

At what point should a dog with diarrhea be brought to the veterinarian?

You should bring your dog to the vet if diarrhea lasts more than 24-48 hours, or if there are signs of illness like vomiting, fever, lethargy, or bloody stools. Persistent diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which needs medical attention.

If my dog has intermittent diarrhea but seems healthy otherwise, what steps should I take?

Monitor your dog’s diet and environment for any potential allergens or stressors that may trigger diarrhea.

Try adjusting their diet slowly, ensuring they are eating high-quality, digestible food. If the issue continues, consult your vet to rule out any underlying conditions.

How long should I monitor my aging dog’s diarrhea before consulting a vet?

For senior dogs, it’s crucial to consult a vet sooner rather than later. If diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours, reaches out to your vet.

Older dogs can become dehydrated quickly and may have less resilience against infections or diseases that cause diarrhea.

What are the signs that indicate diarrhea in dogs is an urgent matter?

Signs that diarrhea is an emergency include blood in the stools, severe abdominal pain, dehydration (check for dry gums or reduced urination), or if your dog seems very lethargic or weak.

Get immediate veterinary care if these symptoms appear.

What home treatments are recommended for a dog experiencing diarrhea?

For mild cases, you can start by providing your dog with plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration.

Offer small, frequent amounts of water rather than a large amount at once. You can also try feeding them a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice for a few days.

How should I proceed if my dog’s diarrhea persists for several days despite a normal demeanor?

If your dog’s diarrhea persists despite their normal behavior, schedule a vet visit to investigate further. There might be an underlying issue that needs addressing, such as parasites or a dietary intolerance.

Keep track of any other symptoms and changes in behavior to share with the vet for a thorough diagnosis.

Dr. Jeff Kordell, DVM is a practicing veterinarian in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois Veterinary School. Dr. Kordell owns Animal Medical Center at Fort Sheridan and has had his own private practice for over 30 years. He is the co-founder of K&S Veterinary Labs LLC the maker of DiarRice.