Occasional, “normal” diarrhea often resolves itself in a day or two, but you may be able to help your dog feel better faster with one or more home remedies. If you’ve determined that your dog’s diarrhea isn’t an emergency, and it isn’t accompanied by any other symptoms, here are some tips for stopping it safely on your own.
5 Tips for Stopping Your Dog’s Diarrhea
Feed a Bland Diet
Fasting your dog for 6 to 12 hours can give the gut a chance to rest and heal. Provide plenty of fresh water, and reintroduce food very gradually. (Don’t withhold food for more than 24 hours, and never fast a puppy.) Diarrhea caused by material moving too quickly through the GI tract often responds well to a brief period of fasting. You can then help your dog’s gut recover by feeding something that’s bland and easy to digest, such as boiled chicken mixed with cooked white rice. A simple broth is especially soothing and can be made with just a few ingredients.
Add Some Fiber
A little inulin or psyllium husk powder added to your dog’s food can help in two ways. These fiber supplements help absorb excess water in the large intestine to form more solid stools, and they act as prebiotics, meaning that they support healthy digestion by nourishing the beneficial bacteria that live in the colon. Another prebiotic, MOS (mannan-oligosaccharide) stimulates the immune system, binds pathogens and mycotoxins, and feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Restore the Bacterial Community in your Dog’s Gut Microbiome
Just like humans, dogs depend on bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract to digest their food and extract its nutrients. But a diverse, well-balanced bacterial community in the gut benefits your dog in many other ways, especially by supporting the immune system. When some of these beneficial GI bacteria populations are missing, important digestive and immune functions may no longer work properly. More than 50% of all dogs will suffer from a medical condition related to a microbiome imbalance at some point in their lives. But replenishing those missing bacterial populations can often resolve diarrhea quickly by restoring a healthy balance to your dog’s microbiome.
Unless your veterinarian prescribes it, avoid using any kind of drug or medication. The antibiotics metronidazole and tylosin, for example, are important tools for treating severe chronic diarrhea, but they may not be appropriate for acute diarrhea. Giving your dog unnecessary or inappropriate antibiotics can actually cause or worsen diarrhea by disrupting the gut microbiome, since antibiotics kill off a lot of beneficial bacteria along with the disease-causing strains they target.
Also, never give human diarrhea remedies to a dog. These over-the-counter products contain ingredients that are dangerous and even potentially fatal for dogs. Certain breeds may be especially sensitive to these medications. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and other herding breeds, for example, have a genetic mutation that makes them more susceptible to the toxic qualities of certain drugs, including the common antidiarrheal agent loperamide (Imodium®).
Gut Health Testing
A Gut Health Test can tell you a lot about what’s going on in your dog’s digestive system and even how to correct certain problems. By identifying all the different kinds of bacteria in your dog’s gut, microbiome testing can determine whether those different bacterial populations are present in balanced amounts when compared to the gut bacteria of healthy dogs. Those correct proportions are the key to a thriving, well-balanced microbiome.
Bacteria belonging to the genus Escherichia (a group that includes E. coli), for example, are beneficial members of the community when they make up less than 5% of a dog’s gut microbiome. But an overgrowth of Escherichia can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues. Bacteriophages (viruses that infect and kill certain strains of bacteria) that specifically target pathogenic strains of E. coli (such as PreforPro) can help to bring the digestive tract into better balance. The journal Antibiotics recently reported that such bacteriophages provide an effective alternative to antibiotic use in medical practice.
The Fusobacterium genus is also present in most healthy dogs. When these bacteria are missing, digestion can suffer, but high levels of Fusobacterium are also associated with digestive issues, particularly diarrhea, so moderation is key. Bacteria in the Fusobacterium family do best in protein-rich environments, so if your dog’s Gut Health Test shows a deficiency in this kind of bacteria, increasing the protein content of their diet may help. If the test shows that Fusobacterium levels are high, the addition of a small amount of prebiotic fiber (like inulin or psyllium husk) to the diet can help bring these levels down by supporting bacteria in the gut that make molecules that help fight inflammation.
A Gut Health Test can even offer clues about the underlying reason for a dog’s diarrhea. Low levels of Coprococcus and Oscillospira bacteria in the gut, for example, are often observed in dogs with food allergies. Deficiencies in Faecalibacterium have been associated with IBD in dogs.