It’s important to know that diarrhea is not an illness but a symptom of any number of problems that are interrupting the function of the large intestine.It is also important to identify the cause as trying to just suppress this symptom will only bring about short lived, temporary relief which may cause long term health implications. Once identified, different causes will require different treatments.
Diarrhea can be mild and self limiting, or very debilitating and even fatal. It may or may not be accompanied by gas and abdominal discomfort. If your dog is still happy, with good energy level, and doesn’t refuse water an acute episode of diarrhea may be the body’s attempt at internal cleansing and purging. If however the diarrhea persists for more than a few days, contains blood, if there is associated vomiting, your dog is becoming increasingly lethargic, and refuses to drink, please seek the advice from your veterinarian as soon as possible. With each passing day of chronic diarrhea nutrients are lost in the stool, which lowers your dog’s general vitality. Your dog may need to go on an IV for loss of fluids immediately if this is the case.
Causes and Contributing factors to diarrhea
A dog with chronic diarrhea and gas, and accompanying skin problems may be suffering from a food allergy. Frequent offenders are preservatives (ethoxyquin, propylene glycol), artificial flavouring and coloring, dyes, salt, sugar, fungi, bacteria, germs all found in commercial dog foods (read more about What’s Really in Your Dogs Food article). Most common foods that may cause allergy include: beef, beef by-products, corn and corn oil, fish, turkey, pork, ham, cows milk (lactose intolerance), yeast, eggs, wheat or any food containing these. Please note that all commercial tinned food and biscuits, treats all contain sugar, salt, corn and wheat. Unless diet is strictly addressed, ongoing diarrhea may continue presenting.
Consider also the following contributing factors diarrhea may be due to:
• stress and anxiety
• over eating
• high fat diet
• vaccinations (due to meat extract that certain vaccines are grown in, thus long term leading to sensitivities and autoimmune disorders)
• undiagnosed IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
• leaky gut syndrome (intestinal dysbiosis/ hyper permeability)
• a foreign body ingestion
• gastritis, colitis (intestinal inflammation)
• the pancreas and/or liver failing to produce enzymes properly or sufficiently
• food poisoning
• excess vitamin C
• bacteria, virus (i.e. parvovirus, distemper)
• parasites i.e. worms
• drug related complication (most drugs are residual and are never completely eliminated as in the waste from food but are stored up in the body)
• side effect of certain drugs (i.e. antibiotics)
• liver disease
• stomach ulcer
• could also indicate that the liver and kidneys are overwhelmed with toxins that they are unable to process which leads to purging i.e. diarrhea.
Helpful suggestions to relieve diarrhea
The most beneficial initial step is to put your dog on a liquid fast. Withhold all solid food and only allow a liquid diet consisting of juices (i.e. apple juice is very healing in diarrhea), broths, and filtered water. If you suspect your dog’s diarrhea is due to an infection, you can add colloidal silver to his drinking water. The reason for not feeding further is that a dog’s digestive system has a gastrocolic reflex. This means that the colon will empty as the stomach fills. Thus, to stop the colon from emptying and break this cycle of diarrhea, its best to stop ingesting food (or only as little as possible). In most cases, dogs instinctively will refuse food when they are unwell. By fasting, the irritated digestive system is given a chance to rest and heal.
Slippery elm is highly nutritious, very soothing and healing to irritated mucous membranes. Slippery Elm bark powder can heal and reduce the frequency of diarrhea in dogs quickly and naturally. It relieves internal inflammations, protects against infection, stimulates new cell growth, and causes swollen irritated tissue to contract-it has an affinity for the digestive tract where it acts as an astringent, therefore particularly indicated for treating diarrhea. It normalizes intestinal function, is rich in protein, trace minerals, and is easy for your dog to digest,
Directions: Combine ¼ cup slippery elm powder with 2 tablespoons acidophilus powder (good bacteria for the gut that needs to be reestablished) and 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt (source of more minerals that have been lost due to the diarrhea). Add enough water to make a runny syrup which you can feed to your dog either by spoon, syringe or dropper. Give approximately 1 tablespoon per 5kg of your dog’s body weight, every 2-3 hours in an acute situation. You can sweeten the mixture with some raw organic (unprocessed) honey for taste. In occasional diarrhea you can add the mixture with plenty of water to your dog’s daily meals. Once his bowels have returned to normal, reduce the frequency and stop
Fiber supplements such as (apple) pectin, psyllium husks can help bind and relieve diarrhea. With psyllium husks 1-2 teaspoons with very little water (or apple juice) is effective. Grated green apple (no skin) left to brown for a few minutes, (sweetened with honey if necessary) is also good at controlling diarrhea.
Chamomile tea is soothing, healing and relaxing to both the digestive and nervous system. Chamomile would particularly be indicated if your dog’s diarrhea is due to stress and anxiety, and if there is accompanying abdominal discomfort and gas. Make a strong brew using two (organic) teabags, or a teaspoon loose leaf. Pour half cup of boiling water, cover and seep for 10 minutes. Once it has cooled and is just warm, you many add a little manuka honey to sweeten and taste. You may syringe (or use dropper) and slowly give to your dog this way. Yarrow is another herb which is excellent for controlling diarrhea.
For management of chronic or recurrent diarrhea, in addition to concurrently using supportive supplements that address the cause, the following recipe may be helpful:
Gently boil together 50% white potato, 50% sweet potato, and a slice of turnip. For flavour, mix in with boiled chicken or lamb. This recipe can be given for longer periods to help ease diarrhea.
Once your dog is showing signs of recovery, reintroduce solid food gradually and in smaller amounts. The Recovery Broth for Dogs recipe would be beneficial and gently healing at this stage.
Always ensure your dog has access to sufficient water and monitor his recovery closely. In most cases, dogs recover quite well after a period of fasting and bounce back with even more vitality. If however, your dogs diarrhea continues and you are unable to identify a cause please check with your holistic veterinarian to rule out any more serious health implications.