Medically, diarrhea can be described as osmotic, secretory, exudative, acute, chronic, periodic, resulting from intestinal motility disorders etc. First and foremost the average dog owner should be able to recognize some “alarm” symptoms like blood or mucus present in the dog’s feces. It may be useful to have a basic understanding of which bowel diarrhea comes from. If it comes from the large intestine, you can notice symptoms such as: rumbling, straining to defecate, strikes of fresh blood or mucus in stool, while diarrhea initiated in the small intestine may have a characteristic tarry color caused by the presence in the feces of digested blood (it’s called „melena). Self-diagnosis of the source of melena can be quite difficult because its symptoms may also appear in bleeding from the lower gastrointestinal tract if it is slow enough to be affected by enzymes.
There may be many reasons for diarrhea to come, starting from simple food poisoning – that way the body tries to get rid of the absorbed pathogen. It is good and we shouldn’t interrupt this process (at least at the beginning ) by all means. Then we have viral, bacterial or parasitic infections and next many diseases of the digestive, endocrine, immune and nervous system which are able to induce diarrhea. Food allergies and food intolerance are often underestimated reasons for it too.
If your dog rewards himself with a “treat” from the very bottom of the rubbish dump and diarrhea will develop, it might be enough to put him on some kind of bland diet for a day or two( if your dog is on the raw food, change it to cooked one for a while because raw meat is more difficult to digest) and pay attention to avoid dehydration. In most cases mild diarrhea is self-healing.
But when it is accompanied by symptoms like fever, vomiting or some amount of blood in feces, there’s no time to wait and medical care should be provided. You should also consult your vet in cases of some intermittent bouts of diarrhea – there must be some reasons for it and and early diagnosis can prevent the disease to develop.
Chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract with recurrent episodes of diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, reflux, blood in the stool can “suddenly” turn into life-threatening conditions such as acute pancreatitis, perforation of the peptic ulcer or hepatic encephalopathy.
Your vet usually will treat your dog diarrhea with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, antiemetic or anti-reflux drugs or will give him fluid intravenously. It is a so-called ”empirical treatment’- it means your dog will be given antibiotics for suspected bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract although the doc doesn’t know which kind of bacteria should be blamed. If you read more of my blog you will know that it is not so easy to establish. Dogs can carry many types of bacteria which can be quite harmless for them as long as the holistic balance of the body is not disturbed for instance by stressful factors of any kind – psychic or physical. So it is not enough to make a simple fecal test in order to find some pathogens, as they can be normal gut flora inhabitants and do not contribute to diarrhea. And what about viruses -they also can be the culprit in this case. As well as parasites. Usually, the reason is a mix of these three things plus individual condition of the dog. Making the right diagnosis is often difficult and not cheap.
Sometimes you would need to multiply feces tests in search for parasites or perform very sophisticated PCR tests(polymerase chain reaction) which allow not only to detect bacteria but also to recognize its strains by its genetic properties – and it is crucial information because we know that some strains of bacteria can be harmless and some dangerous as they are able to produce some deadly endotoxins.
Some of these bacteria if treated with antibiotics can rapidly disintegrate, releasing significant amounts of poison. Some, on the contrary, will try to survive by building spores, secreting profusely endotoxins in this process. Last but not least, nowadays science isolates the growing number of multi-drug resistant bacterial strains- it means that antibiotics won’t work in such case.
So antibiotics, our first and most important medical tool in the fight against diarrhea is almost lost. Try to avoid giving antibiotics to dogs if it is not an absolute must.
In case of chronic diarrhea, a lot of different tests can be also applied in search of a diagnosis, ending with gastroscopy, laparoscopy, bronchoscopy and some other “scopy”. Sometimes some tissue specimens must be taken in a biopsy procedure. These are very invasive tests, and a bit dangerous because an animal must be anesthetized. And you would think that having done all that medical research you will finally get the right diagnosis. Alas!!
Sometimes the disease is so complicated that it has rather a „syndrome” word in its name, meaning the science still doesn’t know what exactly it is. Sometimes, despite the diagnosis, there is no effective treatment. And sometimes there will be no diagnosis at all – even in postmortem examinations!
What should we do then? Is medicine helpless? Of course not, but it’s better to know what can be expected from it.. A bit of medical knowledge can help you develop a holistic approach towards your pet, and in turn will allow you to understand why it has fallen ill in the first place. You will be able to do something about it and keep the vet bills down by the way.
Begin from doing some research about dog food. Don’t be lazy, don’t rush, take a look at the dark side of feeding with dry food. At least read the label on the just bought bag of kibble.
Read the list of garbage put into it, called “a meat meal”. Even expensive dry food is still harmful if fed all the time. Go ahead – try eating for months human “space food” only ( the one designed for astronauts), that have been dehydrated by various technologies. I wish you luck…
Don’t be a naive person- sometimes you spend your money on really expensive therapeutic pet foods – so-called prescribed vet diet. You think you’re doing your best for your dog but it is not the truth. Just read the label carefully! If you know for example what chronic pancreatitis means, you wouldn’t be so willing to buy dry food having more than 1% of crude fiber in it, even if it is called “gastrointestinal health”. Or having 23 % or more of fat. Or a lot of grains. Just read the label with some holistic understanding.
Back to our diarrhea – I will try to describe some medicines used in treatment of mild cases like: activated charcoal, loperamide, some kind of nitrofuran antibiotic like Nifuroxazide, or diosmectite based formulations like Smecta or Diarsanyl.
And herbs, used not in place of standard medicine but in addition to it. It is called complementary or integrative medicine.
Some herbs can be “all in one medicine “ like for example Potentilla erecta (or its other name “ *Potentilla tormetilla “- cinquefoil ) – anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-hemorrhage and anti-diarrheal herb, safe for you and your dog as well (unless you are individually allergic to it).
So let us begin.
*Always search for a Latin name of herbs in order to avoid mistakes.