Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Written by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020

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Diarrhea is never pleasant for anyone. And diarrhea in a dog is flat-out horrible.

When your canine companion has “to go” every five minutes or frequent and watery bowel movements start collecting on your floor and couch, no one is happy.

Diarrhea can also be accompanied by pain, cramping, and irritation. If your dog has an occasional bout of diarrhea, it’s unlikely to be cause for concern.

But if it continues or worsens, please take your dog to your veterinarian.

Diarrhea not only leads to dehydration, a condition that can quickly become serious on its own, but diarrhea may also be an indication of a more serious condition or illness.

The most likely cause of diarrhea in your dog is going to depend greatly on the dog’s age, breed, eating habits, and recent history.

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  • If the dog just consumed a turkey dinner from the owner’s plate and diarrhea comes and leaves suddenly dietary indiscretion, or eating too much of things they shouldn’t, is a very common and likely cause.
  • If the dog is a young puppy and he and his siblings are all having smelly diarrhea with blood and vomiting, they should be evaluated immediately for parvovirus, a disease that is serious, contagious, and deadly.

Dog Diarrhea Causes

causes of dog diarrhea

Acute Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea, or diarrhea that starts suddenly, is most often due to dietary indiscretion or dietary change. Dogs commonly present with diarrhea after overeating or ingesting trash, roadkill or other spoiled foods.

Eating plants, sticks, rocks, bones, fabric or other animal’s feces are also frequent complaints. Dogs may also experience intolerance or allergies to certain foods, including additives, milk products, corn, wheat gluten, etc.

Acute diarrhea typically lasts a short while and often resolves on its own or with supportive care. Acute diarrhea caused by parasites, infectious diseases or other factors may require additional diagnostics and treatments.

Related: 10 Things You Must Know Before You Buy Pet Insurance

If the dog has no history of diet change or eating something he shouldn’t, a trip to the vet should be in order if diarrhea:

  • Worsens
  • Lasts more than 24-48 hours
  • Contains blood

Chronic Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts longer than two to three weeks. Diarrhea can be constant or occur persistently and episodically.

Parasites, dietary intolerance or allergies, infectious diseases, and neoplasia (cancer) can all cause chronic diarrhea.

The easiest way to help your veterinarian determine what is causing your pet’s diarrhea and provide appropriate diagnostics and treatment is to provide a description of your animal’s bathroom behavior.

This description can help localize the problem or find the abnormal area or areas of the body that are causing diarrhea.

Diarrhea can be due to an abnormality in a dog’s small intestines, large intestines or organs outside of the digestive/intestinal tracts.

  • Small intestines are the tube-like structures the food enters after it leaves the stomach. They’re responsible for most of the body’s digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Large intestines, critical for water re-absorption and hydration, immediately follow the small intestines. They escort the food the remainder of the way to the anus, where any remains leave the body.

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Small Intestinal Diarrhea

Dogs suffering small intestinal diarrhea often pass larger amounts of stool and may have an increase in the number of bowel movements per day.

These animals also commonly vomit and lose weight. Excess gas is another common complaint, and some owners will report hearing rumblings in their dog’s belly.

If there is bleeding into the small intestines, that blood will be digested and may turn the stool dark black.

Food intolerance, pancreatic insufficiency (more prevalent in large breed dogs, especially German shepherds), and inflammatory bowel disease commonly present as small intestinal diarrhea.

Large Intestinal Diarrhea

Large intestinal diarrhea will typically result in dogs having to go to the bathroom with great frequency, more than five times per day.

Small amounts of stool are produced with each bowel movement, and straining is frequently observed as the dog attempts to pass the feces.

Mucus is frequently seen on stool caused by large intestinal diarrhea. Any bleeding into the large intestine will appear bright red in the feces.

Parasites such as whipworms or giardia, and stress colitis typically present as large intestinal diarrhea.

The most common causes of diarrhea vary, depending on whether the diarrhea is originating from a problem with the small or large intestines.

Different diagnostics and different treatments will be offered, depending on the clinical signs described. Make sure to let you veterinarian known the answers to the following questions:

  • How frequently is your pet is going to the bathroom? (<5 or >5 times a day)
  • How much stool is being passed with each bowel movement? (smaller or larger than normal)
  • What color is the feces? (dark black, obvious red blood, slimy with mucus)
  • Have you noticed any weight loss?
  • Is your pet also vomiting or showing other signs of illness?
  • How long has your pet had diarrhea?

Many diseases can present with either small or large intestinal diarrhea or both. Others can present as acute diarrhea, chronic diarrhea, or acute diarrhea that becomes chronic.

Simple cases of diarrhea may resolve without treatment, but many others may become serious and even life-threatening for your pet. Head to the veterinarian immediately if your dog:

  • May have eaten something toxic or poisonous
  • Ingested a foreign body (stones, toys)
  • Is a young puppy (vaccinated or not)
  • Has digested blood (dark black) or obvious blood in his feces
  • Has continuous or worsening diarrhea after 24-48 hours

Vomiting, lethargy, straining to defecate, decreased appetite, and weight loss is also signs of a more serious condition that may initially present as diarrhea.

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Diarrhea in Dogs

Cost of Treatment: $50 to $105 per month

What it is: Stool that is abnormally watery or soft counts as dog diarrhea, one of the most common digestive health issues suffered by canines.

Causes are numerous, ranging from an ingested foreign object to an allergic reaction or underlying health condition.


  • Blood in the stool
  • Excessive straining
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness, pain
  • Agitation

Treatment for Dog Diarrhea

Dogs suffering from mild diarrhea often benefit from drinking plenty of water but going without food for 12 to 24 hours.

Mild cases often clear up on their own after a day or so, although diarrhea that lasts more than one day or is accompanied by other symptoms generally requires a trip to the vet for an exam and treatment.

Treatment varies widely, depending on the cause behind the condition. Many dog insurance policies cover vet exams and visits for diarrhea, along with the cost of related treatment. If you’re looking for more info about dog insurance plans, we have you covered.

Return to the Dog Health Problems glossary.


Other articles you may find helpful: 

Is Exotic Pet Insurance Necessary? 

The Best Pet Insurance By State 

What Is Pet Insurance?

Fun Facts, Dog FAQ, And Unsolicited Dog Advice

5 Training Commands to Save Your Dog’s Life

The Ultimate Guide to Safe Foods for Dogs

Dog Health Problems

Dog Breeds


Cat Health Problems

Cat Breeds


We get it, your dog is like your child and when your puppy or dog has health problems it is scary. Luckily there is pet insurance companies that will help you pay for any veterinarian care they made need. Checkout the best puppy and dog pet insurance companies and learn about common puppy health issues and ailments in older pets


Common Health Problems:

Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs

Alopecia in Dogs

Antifreeze Toxicity in Dogs

Aortic Stenosis in Dogs

Arthritis In Dogs

Bladder Stones in Dogs

Boxer Cardiomyopathy

Cataracts In Dogs

Cherry Eye in Dogs

Chronic Active Hepatitis in Dogs

Collie Eye Anomaly In Dogs

Constipation in Dogs

Cruciate Ligament Tear in Dogs

Cryptorchidism in Dogs

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Degenerative Myelopathy | Spinal Cord Disease In Dogs

Dementia in Dogs | Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Demodicosis In Dogs

Dental Problems in Dogs

Diabetes In Dogs

Dog Comedones (Schnauzer Bumps)

Dog Diarrhea: What Can You Do To Help?

Dog Ear Infections

Dystocia in Dogs

Ectropion in Dogs

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Entropion In Dogs

Eye Problems in Dogs

Fleas in Dogs

Gallbladder Obstruction in Dogs

Gallstones in Dogs

Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Glaucoma in Dogs

Heart Murmurs In Dogs | How To Identify Them

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hot Spots On Dogs

Hyperparathyroidism In Dogs

Hypothyroidism In Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease In Dogs

Nasal Solar Dermatitis In Dogs

Patellar Luxation in Dogs

Progressive Retinal Atrophy In Dogs

Renal Failure in Dogs

Seizures in Dogs

Wobbler Syndrome In Dogs

The Dog Flu – Symptoms & Treatment for Canine Influenza

Dog Biting Nails