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What to do if your dog or cat has diarrhoea?

Most pet owners will probably experience their pet having diarrhoea at some stage. It is important to know what to expect and what you need to do when it happens, especially for those who have puppies and kittens. Treating dog or cat diarrhoea is often as simple as adjusting your pet’s diet. Sometimes, however, it can be a warning sign of a more serious ailment that requires greater intervention.

 

What is diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is characterised by frequent loose bowel movements with a watery consistency. It can be immediate and last less than 24 hours.  However, chronic cases possibly caused by infection or other diseases may last for weeks or recur intermittently month after month.

 

Cause of diarrhoea in dogs

 

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Causes

There are many reasons why your pet may suddenly develop diarrhoea, ranging from change in lifestyle to serious infection. Often the cause is due to diet changes and most likely, something vets call “dietary indiscretion” - when your pet eats something they shouldn’t. Another common cause linked to diet is pet food allergies, with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causing side effects such as intermittent diarrhoea.

Stress-induced diarrhoea is also a common cause of runny poo and occurs when the GI tract no longer pushes food through the intestines in a regular fashion. More serious, but less likely causes include viral and bacterial infections in the GI tract, parasites that may cause upset tummies and loose stools, and causes such as pancreatitis and feline hyperthyroidism, which is a common disorder in older cats.

 

Cause of diarrhoea in cats and dogs

 

Symptoms

If you are concerned your pet has diarrhoea, check the symptoms. Loose, runny stools and level of frequency and urgency are the classic signs. However sometimes other symptoms can include: fever, loss of appetite, dehydration, fatigue and weakness. If your dog or cat is an indoor pet, you’re obviously more likely to spot the signs early – they can be hard to miss. However, outdoor pets can be trickier to diagnose, so be sure to keep an eye on your pet’s bowel movements when possible.

Sometimes, it’s just too hard to keep up with an outdoor pet – especially a cat. In cases like that, you may notice telltale signs of staining of the fur around their rear or even soft faeces stuck under their tail. If diarrhoea is severe, even outdoor pets may start having accidents around the home.

If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of diarrhoea but their behaviour is relatively normal, it is recommended to withhold food for 12 hours, but make sure they continue to drink water. If symptoms persist for more than a day, or your animal’s diarrhoea is observed with dark coloured or bloody stools, vomiting or unexplained weight loss, it can be an indication of more serious problems and you should contact your vet immediately.

 

Dog has diarrhoea

 

Preventing diarrhoea in pets

Preventing diarrhoea can be a hard task especially for young puppies and kittens. Younger pets tend to be inquisitive about their environments and explore with their mouths, so chances are digesting grass, sticks, dirt and other things will happen. It is always a good idea to keep a close eye on young pets and keep small objects likely to be swallowed out of reach to stop this happening.

If you are changing the food you feed your pet, you should do it gradually over the course of seven days. Abrupt dietary changes can cause stomach upsets and lead to a bout of diarrhoea.

 

Talk to your vet about diet

If you do need to talk to your vet about treating your pet for diarrhoea, ask them about dietary options. Most of the time, the primary cause is diet and treating the cause is as simple as feeding them better food. Check out ROYAL CANIN®’s Gastro Intestinal diets to find out more.