What Your Pup’s Poo is Trying to Tell You
Your dog’s gut is a complex microbiome that houses many different types of bacteria and other microorganisms. The gut microbiome is associated with their metabolism, immune response, and overall health. Hence, it is important to keep your pup’s tummy a well-suited environment for good microorganisms to flourish. Their gut health can be influenced by many factors, including the food they eat, their age, genetics, and the environment they live in.
Gut dysbiosis, or the imbalance of the gut microbiome, can lead to gastrointestinal dysfunction, and this can worsen to include other digestive problems. A common symptom suggestive of poor gut health among dogs is diarrhea, and ultimately it is a major cause for concern.
How Do I Know if My Dog Has Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is characterized by unusually loose, watery stool and frequent bowel movements. You might wonder, what should a normal poo look like and how often should dogs poop? The perfect poop is assessed based on its 4 C’s – color, coating, consistency, and content. Ideally, it should appear brown, well-formed, sausage or log-shaped that is firm but not too hard, with a moist outer surface and without presence of other contents such as blood, mucus, and worms. Most dogs do their business between 1 to 5 times in a day.
Your dog may be experiencing diarrhea if you notice that they are pooping more often than usual and producing semi-formed or even watery puddles of poo. The presence of worms, blood, or mucus are alarming and should warrant a trip to the vet. It can be quite tempting to easily ask Google whether medications like Tums, Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, and metronidazole can work for dogs, and while most of these can actually be used to medicate our canine companions, proper diagnosis, dosing and prescription of meds should only be done by a licensed veterinary practitioner.
Common Causes of Diarrhea and Ways to Prevent Them
One of the most common causes for diarrhea in dogs is stress. Have you recently changed their diet and given them something they don’t regularly eat? Have you brought them to an entirely new environment or welcomed home a new pet or person with whom they might need time to adjust to? Digestive problems can easily arise in dogs that are exposed to stressful conditions.
This type of diarrhea may resolve if the stressor is removed, or when they finally get used to it. To prevent stress diarrhea from occurring, introduce elements slowly to them. For example, to introduce them to a new diet, start by feeding them 75% old and 25% new food on the first few days before you gradually transition to 50% old and 50% new food, followed by 25% old and 75% new food, until they have well-adjusted to their new diet enough that the new food does not bother their gut physiology.
Worms in the stool may appear like tiny, white grains of rice or longer, flat, white tape-like segments interspersed among the poo. Your vet may probably get some fecal samples from your dog and examine them under the microscope to determine whether it is a tapeworm, hookworm, or roundworm infection. Dogs with heavy worm burden may also appear thin, weak, and anemic.
Other common causes of diarrhea are infectious in nature. Pups with loose, bloody, and stinky stool, usually accompanied by vomiting, weakness, and lack of appetite, may have parvoviral infection that can easily affect entire litters.
This can be prevented by regular vaccination starting at an early age. Other bacterial and protozoal gut infections may be prevented by constantly giving your dogs only clean food and water, not letting them eat or lick random things on the floor when they are outside, and giving them prebiotic or probiotic supplements.
Chronic diarrhea that remains unresolved in dogs may suggest the presence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a syndrome that involves chronic irritation of the dog’s digestive system, leading to the body’s poor absorption of nutrients from food and compromised immune and overall health.
IBD is not yet a well-understood condition, and triggers may be associated with allergies. Thus, your vet may run some tests and suggest you to make major changes in your dog’s lifestyle, such as switching to a high-fiber, hypoallergenic diet and supplementation of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12.