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Doggy diarrhea is a messy inconvenience for everyone. It is, however, a lucky owner who gets through life without their dog ever having diarrhea. The problem is dogs will be dogs, which means eating unmentionable things, scavenging, and sniffing butt.
While some dogs’ diarrhea is down to a medical problem, for many the cause is simple. Indeed, being aware of what your dog's gut can and can't tolerate, along with good hygiene and regular deworming, goes a long way to keeping those poops pick-up-able.
Factor in Food
Bacteria in the gut aid digestion. Sudden changes of diet leave the bacteria unprepared, which results in an upset tummy. Food has to ability to heal or make matters worse, so always factor food into your preventative strategy.
Change Diets Slowly: When swapping a dog from Chow A to Chow B, do this over at least 3 or 4 days. Mix a little of the new food in with the old, and each time nibble away the amount of A and replace it with B. Some experts even recommend doing this over a 2 week period!
Be Alert to Ingredients: Some ingredients such as soy, corn meal, or even wheat, can be harder to digest. As a rule of thumb, choose foods with meat as the first three ingredients as a sign of digestibility and quality.
Be Aware of Rich Foods: Fatty foods or dairy products may be too rich for some dogs and are best avoided.
Individual Intolerances: Some dogs struggle to digest individual ingredients such as gluten or chicken. Look for patterns to see if a certain diet triggers diarrhea, and see if there's a common factor that could indicate a dietary intolerance. Then cut this ingredient out of their food in future.
Portion Control: Eating a large meal can provoke diarrhea in some dogs. These guys are best fed little and often, such as four smaller meals per day, rather than one or two large ones.
Parasites and Prevention
Rooting around and eating what they shouldn't places dogs at risk of picking up gastrointestinal parasites. In addition, most pups are born with roundworm eggs encysted in their body tissue, which hatch out over the course of the dog's life.
Deworming: Use a deworming product regularly that is effective against common worms, such as roundworms. Check with your vet what worms are killed by your regular spot-on treatment, so you can check for any gap in cover. Monthly broad spectrum worming is ideal throughout the pet’s life, with a minimum of three to four times per year (for the older, indoor dog.)
Risk Assessment: Not all dewormers kill all worms. For example, if your dog has a heavy flea infestation or regularly eats carrion, they are at increased risk of tapeworm infection. This requires use of praziquantel to kill the tapeworms, which is not a component of many wormers.
Fecal Screening: Check your dog's poop with twice yearly fecal screening by the vet. This ensures there are no internal visitors that have passed under the radar and that the product used caught all the different species of worms.
Good Habits to Get Into
Personal hygiene matters for people and also for dogs. Keeping the yard clean and getting regular vaccinations are also good habits to get into.
Prevent scavenging: Teach your dog a solid "Leave it!" command to curb their scavenging. That discarded burger or rancid mouse may well be hooching in salmonella or campylobacter, and cause a violent upset. To make matters worse, some of these bugs can be passed to people.
Clean up the yard: Promptly pooper-scoop on a daily basis. This reduces soil contamination with parasites and means less chance of picking up gut infections. Parasites such as hookworm and roundworms thrive in heavily contaminated conditions such as a dirty run or yard.
Vaccination: Protect your dog against life-threatening viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper, and others such as leptospirosis. Be conscientious about annual vaccinations and don't let things lapse.
Whilst not every cause of diarrhea is under your control, there is plenty you can do to prevent avoidable stomach upsets. Remember, some causes of diarrhea can be passed to people, so wash your hands after stroking your dog, and always before eating.
Simple things like avoiding overly rich food or changing diet slowly can make all the difference to your dog's digestion. But as always, go with your gut instinct. If your dog seems unwell or is losing weight, there is blood in the stool, or the problem persists, always see a vet.