Understanding Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide (2023)


Chronic diarrhea in dogs is a common concern for pet owners, often leading them to seek veterinary care. It's crucial to recognize that diarrhea itself is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying issue. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the types, causes, diagnosis, and management of chronic diarrhea in dogs.

Types of Diarrhea in Dogs

Acute Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea manifests suddenly and typically resolves either spontaneously or with treatment.

Chronic Diarrhea (Chronic Enteropathy)

Chronic diarrhea becomes a concern when dogs fail to respond to standard treatments or when initial improvements are followed by recurring episodes lasting more than two weeks.

Is Chronic Diarrhea an Emergency?

While chronic diarrhea is rarely an emergency, it can lead to severe complications such as dehydration and malnutrition. Urgent veterinary attention is required if a dog vomits frequently, cannot keep down food, or displays lethargy and weakness.

Causes of Chronic Diarrhea

Understanding the root causes is essential for effective treatment. The primary culprits include:

  1. Parasites: Internal parasites like hookworms and giardia can cause chronic diarrhea. Regular fecal tests and deworming are crucial preventive measures.

  2. Food Sensitivity or Allergy: Identifying and eliminating specific food triggers through diet therapy, including hypoallergenic options, can be instrumental.

  3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Chronic inflammation of the intestines, potentially due to autoimmune factors, requires specialized diagnosis and treatment.

  4. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: A condition where the body lacks enzymes to digest fats, proteins, or carbohydrates.

  5. Other Underlying Diseases: Various health issues, including organ diseases, can contribute to chronic diarrhea.

Diagnosing Chronic Diarrhea

Veterinarians employ a systematic approach to diagnose chronic diarrhea, ruling out underlying conditions through:

  1. Parasite Screening: Fecal float tests help identify common parasites.

  2. Dietary Investigations: Assessing the dog's response to different diets, including hypoallergenic options.

  3. Blood Work, Urinalysis, and X-rays: These tests provide a comprehensive overview of the dog's health.

  4. Chronic Enteropathy Testing: Specialized tests, including blood work sent to external laboratories, help diagnose conditions like IBD.

  5. Infectious Disease Screening: PCR panels can detect contagious organisms causing chronic diarrhea.

  6. Refractory Diarrhea: Cases resistant to treatment may require advanced imaging and intestinal biopsies.

Recovery and Management

To manage chronic diarrhea effectively, consider the following:

  1. Dietary Adjustments: Switching to a bland diet and incorporating probiotics, such as Purina Fortiflora, promotes a healthy gut.

  2. Close Monitoring: Pay attention to the frequency and consistency of bowel movements, reporting any changes to the veterinarian.

  3. Patient-Veterinarian Relationship: Establishing trust with your veterinarian is crucial for a successful recovery, understanding that the healing process may take time.

In conclusion, tackling chronic diarrhea in dogs requires a meticulous diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan. Regular veterinary check-ups and proactive measures contribute to the overall well-being of your furry companion.


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Author: Edmund Hettinger DC

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