Pet Diarrhea: Tips to Firm Up That Poop!

Mar 31, 2024 Dan



We have all had to deal with it. Diarrhea is a common canine issue, one that varies in frequency, duration, and intensity from dog to dog.

There can be many triggers for diarrhea in dogs and cats, but the most common is dietary indiscretion.  Someone got into something they shouldn’t have.  Dogs are more likely to be more of a “garbage” eater than cats, which is one of the reasons diarrheas occurs more often in canines.  Cats tend to be more selective about what they ingest.  So, when it comes to digestive disturbances, cats tend to throw up, while dogs more often have lower GI issues and loose stools.

So, knowing we’re all going to have to face it, how can you help your pup, and when is it time to head to the vet?

Causes of Dog Diarrhea

There are several causes of dog diarrhea. And some are more serious than others. It’s important to determine what’s causing your dog’s diarrhea when you first notice it. That’s the best approach to figuring out how to navigate it.


  1. Diet

The number one cause of diarrhea in dogs is diet. You will often see it if your dog eats something she isn’t used to eating, or if you quickly change foods. It doesn’t need to mean they’ve eaten something bad – even just something your dog isn’t used to can cause a little liquidity in the colon.

A food intolerance may also lead to runny poops. If your dog eats something new, and you notice this, your dog could have an intolerance/allergy to some proteins or additives in the diet. It’s always best when you are trying something new to make a list of all the ingredients in the new food your dog has never had, including some of the ingredients you can not even pronounce!!!


  1. Dumpster Diving

We’ll use this to refer to your dog eating anything she shouldn’t. This could be because she likes to counter-surf, pick through the garbage, or pick up things on walks. And it doesn’t necessarily mean food. Many dogs eat things that are not, in fact, food: sticks, stuffies, socks… these kinds of things can irritate the gut, causing diarrhea. They can be very dangerous as they can cause life-threatening obstructions. This list of non-food items can also include toxic substances such as household cleaners or medications!

In this case, it can be important to evaluate what your dog may have eaten. If it’s something dangerous (or you’re not sure), a visit to the vet is essential. This is especially true if the diarrhea is accompanied by any changes in behaviour, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, or seizures.


  1. Stress

Stress is so often overlooked as a cause of many different pet ailments, including diarrhea. But it can have major impacts on your dog’s body. Both long-term and short-term stress can lead to diarrhea, so it’s important to consider any stressors in your dog’s life if it seems to come out of nowhere.


A recent move

A new member of the family

A loss of a family member or animal companion

Separation anxiety

Noise phobia (fireworks, storms)

Car travel

Going back to work

Construction happening when you are at work and the dog is alone.

New neighbours

If you recognize that stress might be the cause of the diarrhea, consider the stressor and how you can reduce or eliminate it from your dog’s life/environment.


  1. Intestinal Parasites

Parasites can be particularly problematic for puppies and older dogs, or dogs with an impaired immune system, and can ultimately cause diarrhea. Saying that, a dog on a species-appropriate diet with a healthy gut flora should be able to naturally defend themselves from parasites.

The most common parasites include:







It is imperative your dog is properly diagnosed to be sure that the correct choice of medication is given and not just given something with the “thought” that it is a parasite. Nor is it helpful to have a “broad spectrum” medication given when there is no confirmed diagnosis of the parasite. Routinely worming or worming “just in case” it’s a parasite can lead to a lifetime of gut disease and chronic GI upset.


  1. Viral or Bacterial Infections

A viral or bacterial infection can cause diarrhea. In fact, it’s often the first sign you’ll see that something is off in the body. And that makes sense, since 90% of your dog’s immune system lives in the gut. So, if bacteria or a virus takes hold, it’s often going to affect the gut.


Viral diseases such as parvovirus (especially in puppies), distemper, coronavirus and other rotaviruses can cause foul-smelling diarrhea. Watch for other signs (lethargy, vomiting, lack of appetite, fever and, in distemper, coughing) and head to the vet if you think this might be the cause. Bacterial infections can come from a variety of places, including food poisoning from spoiled food, or from eating things outside.


  1. A Pre-existing Medical Condition

Several conditions can cause dog diarrhea, both intermittently and on an ongoing basis. Irritable bowel disease is a common one. It happens when inflammatory cells chronically invade your dog’s intestine. The cause is often unknown, but many holistic health professionals attribute it to many of the same triggers for other autoimmune diseases. For example, chronic systemic inflammation can be caused by many factors, such as leaky gut or not having the number of antioxidants needed in the body to fight inflammation and oxidative stress. Colitis is another cause. Diarrhea is also a common symptom of dogs with kidney or liver disease. Therefore, if your pup has diarrhea often, you should have a full blood panel done to rule out underlying issues.

  1. Rabbit Raisins and Animal Droppings

We see it quite often and usually during the spring and early summer.  Our pups have access to those yummy little raisin droppings in our yards or on our walks/hikes.  They are a delicacy to our fur friends, but boy can they pack a punch to their GI tract.   Rabbit poop is the #1 reason why dogs end up with a short-term bout of loose stools.  Other animal droppings can cause it as well, but the bunny droppings are everywhere and readily available.

(NOTE: You know your dog better than anyone else, and only you know the subtle signs that something is wrong. Respect your instincts and if you think you need veterinary guidance, pick up the phone.)


Home Management of Pet Diarrhea

Once you think you’ve narrowed down the cause, and determined that it may be a minor issue, there are a few things to try to get things back on “solid” ground.


  1. Fasting and Food

Since diarrhea is caused by some type of irritation in the gastrointestinal tract, giving it a time to settle can often be enough to get rid of it. You can withhold your animal’s regular food for 12 hours (up to 24 but no more), but ALWAYS give access to water. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration.


I am not the biggest fan of fully fasting, especially if it is IBD or stressed-induced because it can cause a lot more stress. Consider some very mild food that’s easy on the gut: bone broth, raw goat milk, pureed cooked ground turkey (no skin and little fat), or pumpkin and never longer than 24 hrs.


NOTE: Do Not Fast Puppies or Cats! Also, older dogs need nutrients, so don’t go without for long for them.  


Many believe that a bland diet of ground beef/chicken with rice is the best solution for GI upset.  I’m not a big fan of ground beef.  Ground beef can be high in fat and cooked fat can cause further issues if not completely strained away.  Consider ground turkey or turkey breast. 

Rice is a very starchy carbohydrate that has a high glycemic index and can exacerbate some cases of upset.  Also, rice has very little nutritional value to our carnivore friends.  Consider pure pumpkin puree.  Pure pumpkin coats and soothes the GI tract.  Soluble fiber also delays gastric emptying, slowing GI transit times.

Bone Broth is gentle and aids in the healing of a distressed GI tract.

Raw Goat Milk is another popular option that can be soothing to your pet.


Beneficial Supplements

Here are some things that can be a game changer in helping your pet get back to normal poops.


Slippery Elm – Slippery elm is a gentle demulcent plant that soothes the mucous membranes by coating it with mucilage. You can add it mixed into your dog’s regular food or blend it into a little bit of raw goat milk or gentle bone broth.

Marshmallow Root – This is another useful herb for soothing inflammation and irritation in the gastrointestinal tract.

You might want to consider using Adored Beast Gut Soothe.  It is a homeopathic powder containing a powerful mixture of anti-inflammatory herbs. 

Our #1 go to for short-term diarrhea (and constipation) is 911 Emergency Paste

We have been merchandising this solution since we opened in 2010.  It really works.  Easy to dose and administer.  Has a long shelf life and is a must have for any pet owner.  Having this solution on hand can save pet owners vet visits and some serious $’s when dealing with episodic diarrhea and constipation.

Final Thoughts

As soon as you notice dog diarrhea, take note of colour, consistency, and frequency. Consider what the cause could be, and if you’re unsure or nervous, call your trusted veterinarian.  Often, your pet has eaten something that has caused some short-term inflammation that is creating some messy poops. If an appointment is recommended but not booked for 24 hours or longer, still start the above tips. It’s amazing what can happen while you are waiting for, your appointment.




This information is intended to provide information only. Each animal health situation is unique. This information is not intended for use in diagnosis or treatment of specific health problems or diseases and should never be considered as a substitute for veterinary advice.