The straight poop on diarrhea
With the holidays, there is one certainty for us pet owners: Someone in your house with four legs is likely to get the Hershey squirts. I don’t know what is worse about pet diarrhea, cleaning it up or looking at your pet and knowing they don’t feel well. Honestly, my wife and I get angry about it because we know it is usually a result of one of our dogs being bad; we love our dogs to pieces but they can be very naughty.
Once you get over fighting about who is going to clean it up (we use a “you found it, you clean it” approach) you are going to have to resolve the issue. I think the worst way I have ever found it was on the way to the refrigerator in the middle of the night while barefoot.
I tell all of my clients they are going to develop their own personal formula for dealing with diarrhea in their pets. Since we spend so much time outside with our pets up here in the mountains and since, like children, dogs put everything into their mouths, diarrhea is inevitable.
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If your DIY formula does not work, then you will end up in my office where we will try to ascertain the cause of the diarrhea. The first step is to try to differentiate small intestinal versus large intestinal diarrhea. Warning: this entails gross questioning about your pet’s poop. Diarrhea from the large intestine is called colitis and you will usually see spots of bright red blood and mucus. Your pet will also need to go No. 2 much more frequently and produce little stool with each attempt. Small bowel diarrhea, on the other hand, is often accompanied with vomiting and the stools are much more consistent in texture and much larger volume. I told you this was gross.
There are lots of causes, ranging from parasites like giardia, hook/roundworms and coccidia to infectious diseases like Salmonella and campylobacter to serious diseases. For the purpose of this article, I am going to talk about how to treat acute diarrhea we veterinarians often call garbage can enteritis (GCE). I’ll save chronic diarrhea for after the New Year so you have something to look forward to.
The first DIY step at home, assuming your pet does not look like they are about to drop dead on the spot, is to initiate a 12- to 24-hour fast. Disclaimer: If your pet does look like they are about to drop dead on the spot, then seek immediate veterinary care. Resting the GI track can be the most important step, so yes, your poopy butt boy or girl is not going to eat for half a day. Small amounts of Gatorade, ice chips or water are OK. There is a commercially available product called Rebound that has electrolytes and sugar and is flavored for pets. And the answer to your question is green Gatorade; everyone asks.
During the fast, you can give one dose of Pepto-Bismol to dogs only. Do not give Pepto-Bismol to cats. I recommend a very conservative dose of 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds. Give it on a non-carpeted area, your dog will shake some of it out. Pepto has an aspirin-like drug in it, so do not give it to any dog with a suspected bleeding disorder. If your dog is taking a non-steroid drug like Rimadyl, Previcoxx or Meloxicam, the I would also advise against using Pepto.
After the fast and Pepto, start by feeding your pet cooked white rice, either plain or flavored with chicken broth or cooked ground turkey meat. You want to feed what we call a BRAT diet for a few days until the diarrhea resolves. BRAT means bananas, apples, rice, toast; the diet is low protein, low fat and low fiber and is easy to digest.
Feed your pet very small amounts at first. Use small meatball-sized portions and feed four to five meals the first day. Once the diarrhea resolves in one to two days, slowly re-introduce the regular diet mixed with the white rice diet. In a few days, your pet should be back eating his or her regular food.
If after a fast, Pepto and a day or two of a BRAT diet things have not changed, then go see your veterinarian. Again, if your pet is acting very ill, then do not wait that long. Food poisoning or some other serious condition could be causing the diarrhea and I do not advise waiting. With garbage can enteritis your pet feels like you did after cleaning up the mess … just a little depressed but not seriously ill.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical and likely check for Giardia and parasites as a first step. Often medications and special diets are prescribed. Other diagnostic tests may be run as well.
I often have repeat visitors for GCE, so I will prescribe an off-label treatment for these guys and gals. It consists of using an antibiotic/GI anti-inflammatory medicine on an as-needed basis for just a day or two. Since it is off-label, we need to talk about it in my office, in person. Off-label usage of drugs in veterinary medicine is acceptable as long as we are all on the same page, and FYI, I use this medicine on my own dogs.
Have a good holiday and check out our Facebook page or website for things to avoid giving your pets during the holidays. The No. 1 holiday toxin to dogs and cats according to the ASPCA is chocolate. It makes me glad I am not a dog or cat!
Stephen Sheldon, DVM, practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 970-524-3647 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The clinic website is http://www.gypsumah.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/gypsumah.
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