Most dogs have perfectly log shaped, light brown and soft to the touch poop. It is very common for your furry friend to have bouts of looser stool – sometimes pure liquid! Don’t hit the panic button just yet. Our dog’s feces can be an indicator of their health, but it is important to look at the context and the overall well-being of your dog. Below we will look at the most common reasons your dog has loose poop, what it means, and what you can do!
Why has my dog’s poop become runny so suddenly?
There are a bunch of reasons your dog’s poop is a lot softer than normal. The most likely reason is stress resulting in a change in routine. This switch in their routine can be different food, change in their daily schedule, meeting new dogs or humans, etc. Dogs are very routine-oriented animals, and unfortunately, we cannot explain why or when things are going to change to calm their anxiety. It is important to gradually make changes instead of doing it quickly and all at once.
Other reasons include indiscriminate eating (trash, sticks, plants, etc.), allergies, human foods, medication (especially antibiotics), infections (parasites, viral, and/or bacterial), toxins, and concurrent illnesses. These various causes will affect your furry friend in variable ways depending on the dog’s breed, age, and health status.
What can I do about it currently?
A good initial approach to loose stool is withholding any food or treats from your dog for approximately 12 hours, as long as your dog is not pregnant/lactating or a young puppy (they need lots of nutrition to keep their bodies healthy). If your dog is still having looser poop then we can move on to dietary solutions. Rice and pumpkin (without any seasoning) are good digestive binders that are palatable for your animal. You can add this to their current diet or add boiled, unseasoned chicken along with the binders. Always provide fresh water, never withhold it. Please do not use chicken if your dog has allergies to it. There are diets available that have easier digestible proteins for sensitive stomachs, ask your vet!
If you are changing your dog’s diet, do it very slowly over 7-10 days allowing their digestive system to get used to the new food. Here is a good strategy to introduce new diets. A new addition to their day/life can be slowly introduced as well, such as going for a walk at a different time of day, or introductions to new people in a familiar environment (the park or your backyard).
If there is any indication or history in your pet leading you to believe that your dog has a more sinister reason for its loose stool, a trip to your primary veterinarian may be warranted. The biggest worry is that your dog’s loose poop progresses to watery diarrhea and becomes dehydrated. Dehydration on any mammal’s system can wreak havoc. Therefore, the underlying cause needs to be addressed.
How can I prevent my dog from having loose poop in the future?
Keeping your dog as stress free as possible with good environmental enrichment should help with a lot of the issues causing your dog to have looser poop. If you find they are indiscriminate eaters and put everything in their mouth, closed garbage cans they can’t get in to is a fantastic idea. Being weary of human food and toxic materials (human medications, some plants, fungus, etc.) around your dog can go a long way. This will also prevent them from potentially swallowing something indigestible that could get lodged anywhere along their digestive tract which can have very bad consequences depending on what it is.
Having your dog up to date on their monthly preventatives and yearly vaccinations will help with intestinal parasites and viral diseases that can cause destructive effects on their digestive system. Thoroughly cooked food will lessen the harmful bacterial load in their gut, not allowing opportunistic bacteria to overwhelm their system (i.e. Salmonella).
When does loose poop/diarrhea merit a trip to the vet?
A vast majority of the time, abnormal looking poop won’t be an emergency. If it lasts a few days and doesn’t seem to be getting better, then you can book an appointment with your primary veterinarian and try some of the solutions mentioned above in the meantime. If you have reason to believe your dog got into something toxic, they are having profuse watery diarrhea all day, have other signs of sickness (vomiting, fever, lethargy), or frank blood is seen, then it is recommended to go to the emergency room.
In the end, you know your dog better than anyone. You are with them most of the day, look at their poop! Get a feel for how it feels! Some dogs naturally have watery poop. However, if it is not normal to you, then keep an eye on it and proceed accordingly if it does not resolve.