Graphic by Helga1981.
On an almost daily basis at Long Beach Animal Hospital, we are presented with a dog or a cat that has diarrhea or a change in bowel-movement habits. As we all know, this is something that is not uncommon in us humanoids!
In some dogs and cats that spend significant time outdoors, diarrhea might be occurring without your knowledge. It’s important to at least observe them once daily for this problem or check the yard for any telltale signs.
While the history of a dog with diarrhea is being taken, we might ask the following questions, so making these observations at home are helpful for narrowing down the causes:
- consistency of stool, e.g., soft, very mushy, covered with mucous, watery
- presence of bright-red or dark blood
- color of the stool, from very light to black
- length of time that the diarrhea has been present
- number of times per day it is occurring
- recent medication or change in food
- other symptoms such as vomiting or anorexia (poor appetite)
The following are common causes of diarrhea and sometimes vomiting in dogs and cats that can be narrowed down by the above information:
- dietary indiscretion, e.g., eating junk, garbage or rotten food
- internal parasites (worms), e.g., common roundworms, hookworms and whipworms or protozoal parasites like coccidia and giardia
- bacteria, e.g., e. coli and salmonella
- broad-spectrum antibiotics routinely used for skin and respiratory infections
- intestinal cancer
- stress from car rides, fireworks or multiple pets in a household
- liver disease
- hormone diseases, e.g., Addison’s disease
- food allergy or intolerance
- nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs used for arthritis
- inflammatory-bowel disease (IBD)
- feline viruses such as FeLV and FIV
- elevated thyroid level
- pancreatic-enzyme deficiency
In the course of this six-part series on how you can help us make a diagnosis with an accurate history, I briefly mentioned many different diseases. You can learn about some of them in much more detail from the Diseases section of our extensive website on animal diseases.