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Chronic Diarrhea
(Dogs and Cats)
(Canine and Feline)

Cats and dogs, like humans, may suffer from occasional diarrhea at any point in their lives. This is because diarrhea is a natural body reaction to flush out toxins, irritants or foreign objects from the body through increased bowel contractions. With these increased contractions, the colon cannot properly absorb the normal amount of water; so diarrhea typically contains a greater amount of water. Diarrhea is usually identified as any abnormal stool (including color or frequency) that is softer than normal.



Common causes of diarrhea include:

» Worms in the stomach or intestines;

» Bacterial infections;

» Some antibiotics;

» Intestinal viruses;

» Stress;


» A weakened immune system from sickness, malnutrition or stress;

» An unclean environment;

» Sensitivities and/or allergies towards certain foods;

» The introduction of a new food item into the diet;

» Consumption of rotted, spoiled, contaminated or toxic food; and

» Consumption of indigestible materials (including bone fragments and even diapers!).



Bacteria, parasites, viruses and other organisms which can cause intestinal infections (and subsequent diarrhea) often enter the digestive tract of the dog or cat through the mouth. This can be done through contaminated food or water, by feces from an already infected canine or feline or through direct contact.  Proper diagnosis and treatment depends on finding and identifying the foreign organism causing the diarrhea.

Parasite infection is easily confused with other illnesses, so proper diagnosis depends on the veterinarian’s knowledge of seasonal cycles of parasite infection as well as an examination of feces for evidence of parasite larvae or eggs.  Many times, blood tests can detect the presence of parasites.  

However, while occasional or intermittent diarrhea is a natural bodily function, chronic diarrhea (especially if it is longer than a week) may indicate a more serious digestive system disorder. In the best interest of your sick canine

or feline, you need to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and subsequent treatment.



Common causes of chronic diarrhea include:

» Worms in the stomach or intestines (especially whipworms or roundworms; tapeworms are usually harmless);

» Giardia (infection of the small intestine typically from drinking contaminated water) and clostridium (a bacteria);

» Canine Parvo infection;

» Excessively high numbers of bacteria (including salmonella, clostridium or E.coli);

» Long-term use of antibiotics;

» Food allergies;

» Stale food (that may have begun to grow mold or fungi);

» Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD);


» Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); Consumption of indigestible materials (including bone fragments);

» Liver disease, thyroid disease and kidney disease; and

» Imbalances of intestinal bacterial, fungal or protozoal population (dysbiosis).



A common and potentially dangerous side effect from the colon not being able to absorb the normal amount of water is dehydration. This poses a real threat to the well-being of your canine or feline with long-term diarrhea (a week or more). Just like in humans, dehydration can be life-threatening.


SYMPTOMS: While some pet owners think only soft or abnormal stools indicate diarrhea; your dog or cat may also be suffering from diarrhea when they are straining and trying to defecate and only succeed in passing gas (indicating an inflammation of the rectum and anus).

The typical characteristics of diarrhea include:


Canines and felines suffering from chronic diarrhea may also be at risk for possible maldigestion or malabsorption of nutrients which will need to be addressed appropriately by your veterinarian.


» Soft or watery stools;

» Fatigue or lethargy (although some dogs/cats may not exhibit this symptom at all);

» Weight loss; » Loss of coat sheen; » Uncontrollable liquid squirts;

» Soft-formed stools with abnormal color or odor;

» “Cow-pie” type of stools;

» Mucus-coated stools; and


If you notice either of the last two characteristics above (mucus or blood-coated stools), or vomiting along with the diarrhea, or watery stool, take your pet immediately for medical help. These may be signs of a much more serious condition needing immediate attention.


Another critical symptom of diarrhea warranting immediate attention by your veterinarian includes abdominal distention or bloating. This may indicate an accumulation of fluid, gas or ingested food that is unable to move through the digestive system.  Sometimes abdominal distention can be caused by overeating or a physical obstruction of a foreign object or the telescoping of one part of the intestines into another (intussusceptions).  Any kind of abdominal distention or bloating is a serious disorder needing the immediate attention of your veterinarian.


Once at your veterinarian, they will need a complete history of your dog or cat’s health including when the signs or symptoms of diarrhea started, current diet and any past health problems.  Make sure you also bring along a fresh fecal sample for testing.


Your veterinarian will also conduct a visual exam of the mouth and abdomen for any unusual changes in shape or size.  They will also listen for any abnormal abdominal sounds with a stethoscope.  Additional tests may be needed to determine the cause of the problem including a blood test, x-ray imaging or ultrasonography.  An endoscope (a device with a light attached used to look inside a body cavity or organ) may be used to perform an internal examination of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, colon and rectum.  If the abdomen is swollen, it may be necessary to collect fluid from the abdominal cavity for analysis. 




Among the first steps the concerned pet owner should take to address diarrhea in their dog or their cat include:


» Fasting or a liquid-only diet for 24 hours;

» Followed by a bland diet to help detoxify the irritated digestive system; and

» Proper natural supplementation to help soothe, relieve and heal the inflamed intestinal tract and to also build up the immune system.


After the initial twenty-four hour fast/liquid-only diet (feeding a broth made from  vegetables, rice and meat stock to help replace the water, sodium and potassium sometimes lost during bouts of diarrhea); begin to feed your sick dog or cat a very bland diet of plain rice and boiled chicken. Feed them much smaller portions every four hours and keep plenty of clean water available and coax your pet to keep drinking water as much as possible to help stave off dehydration. Administering a solution of half Pedialyte mixed with half water is also helpful.



In a few days when you begin to see an improvement in your pet’s stools, begin transitioning your cat or dog back to their regular food by gradually adding the bland diet to their regular food.

Adding pumpkin can be helpful for some pets, especially if they have Inflammatory Bowel Disease.


If your canine or feline’s diarrhea began soon after introducing a new food item into their diet; eliminate that food item from their diet. Dogs and cats have difficulty diagnosing the milk sugar in milk products, so milk will usually cause diarrhea. Cats are most often allergic to: beef, and fish products.  Avoiding these foods will often help eliminate chronic diarrhea in felines.  Dogs will often develop diarrhea with the consumption of the following items: excessive fat trimmings, cat food, meat in large amounts, macadamia nuts, milk and dairy products, raw eggs, contaminated water and table food.  


Where the cause of your canine or feline’s diarrhea is due to bacteria or parasites, drugs may be necessary to elimination and eradicate the responsible organisms. Your veterinarian’s advanced knowledge and understanding of the life cycles of parasites along with the most effective parasitic drugs can best help you to choose the most effective treatment for the well-being of your beloved animal. There is no single dewormer that can take care of every type of parasite. You will need to consult with your veterinarian to determine which type of parasite your sick canine or feline may have and which specific dewormer to use.


Often a single pharmaceutical treatment is all that is needed -- unless the infection re-occurs or the damage done by the parasites is severe.  Control of digestive diseases and parasites in all breeds of dogs and cats depends largely upon the consistent practice of good hygiene and sanitation.  Always regularly clean your cat’s litter box and dog’s elimination area. Always provide adequate and nutritional food (including fiber to promote regular digestion) and easy access to clean and plentiful water.


Integrative Medicine


Not all animals can use all natural remedies; allergic reactions to oils
and/or herbs and digestive problems are possible.
A natural remedy is not a substitute for veterinary care.


The following nutraceuticals or natural/herbal formulas will not only provide effective treatment for your canines and felines living with chronic diarrhea, but will also help maintain optimal intestinal health and prevent diarrhea.


» Probiotics: just like people, canines and felines have certain intestinal microorganisms in their digestive tract called “intestinal flora” which are beneficial, aid in digestion and help prevent infection. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in the gut and assist in relieving chronic diarrhea.


» Saccharomyces boulardii:  a beneficial type of tropical yeast classified as a probiotic. In numerous clinical studies, this probiotic was found to significantly reduce the symptoms and frequency of diarrhea related to colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome as well as antibiotic-associated diarrhea. It is not affected by antibiotics.


» Lactobacillus sporogenes: a beneficial bacteria (probiotic) that has been shown to help treat diarrhea caused by unwanted bacterial overgrowth.


» L-Glutamine: an amino acid that serves as fuel for cells lining the intestinal tract and helps support normal intestinal functioning. Recommended for both canines and felines with diarrhea and chronic inflammatory bowel disorders.


» Slippery Elm: an herb that contains a thick, gluey substance (called mucilage) which provides a coating of soothing protection for the mucus membranes of the gastrointestinal tract. It also helps neutralize stomach acids and soothe inflammation.


» N-acetyl-glucosamine:  a natural supplement that helps heal the inflamed bowel lining (derived from the outer shells of shellfish. N-Acetyl Glucosamine has been used to treat IBD, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease. Pets with shellfish allergies may have an allergic reaction to this. There are some products that are derived from vegetable sources that do not cause this problem.


» DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice): a natural root extract that supports the healing process in the intestinal lining by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle spasms.


» Digestive Enzymes: often lacking in commercial pet foods. However, they are essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.


» Boswellia: an herbal supplement that helps reduce bowel inflammation.


» Polysaccharides: complex carbohydrates such as pectin, made up of chains of simple sugars and cellulose which allow water and fluids to permeate in and out of the cells for absorption in the body. 


Chronic Diarrhea
– Canine and Feline Products –

(Reference: Veterinarians’ Desk Reference)

(Live Link)






Cats: ½ scoop sid
Dogs: 1 scoop/25 lb sid

Arabinogalactans from Larix occidentalis are water-soluble polysaccharides and fiber that support proper immune system function. They also support the growth of probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria in the intestines; increase butyrate levels in colon.

Curing Pills25

Cats: 2 pills bid or tid
Dogs: 2-4 pills bid or tid

Improves digestion, regulates spleen and stomach, disperses wind-cold, resolves dampness.

CurcuVET-SA50 12

Cats: ½ capsule sid
Dogs: 1 capsule/25 lb sid

Curcumin has ant-inflammatory properties, hepato-protective effects, increases glutathione levels, down-regulates tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), NO, and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB), decreases free radicals in colonic mucosa.


Dogs: 1 capsule/75 lb sid

Curcumin has ant-inflammatory properties, hepato-protective effects, increases glutathione levels, down-regulates tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), NO, and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB), decreases free radicals in colonic mucosa.


1 capsule per 20 lb bid or
1 scoop per 20 lb bid

Helps to support normal intestinal functioning.


Cats: ¼ capsule/meal
Dogs: ½ capsule/25 lb/meal

Pancreatic enzymes.

Early Comfort24

Cats and small dogs: 2 drops bid
Dogs 20-50 lbs: 3 drops, bid
Dogs over 50 lbs: 4 drops bid

Expels dampness.


Cats: ½-1 capsule sid
Dogs: 1 capsule/15 lb sid

Supports enterocytes; improves local immune function; soothes gastric mucosa; provides probiotics.


1 capsule per 20 lb bid or
1 scoop per 20 lb bid

Maintains healthy well-formed stools.

Iberogast Liquid28

Cats: 2 drops, tid
Dogs: 2-20 drops, tid

Anti-emetic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory; regulates motility.


Cats: 1 capsule bid
Small dogs: 1 capsule/10 lb bid

Improves gut barrier function; immune modulator.


Dogs: 1 scoop/25 lb bid

Improves gut barrier function; immune modulator.

Seacure for Pets29

Cats: 1 scoop or tablet sid
Dogs: 1 scoop or tablet/10 lb sid

Bioactive peptides support enterocytes and intestinal integrity.

Vetri-Probiotic BD8

1 tablet per 12 lb

For dogs whose digestive and bowel functions are affected by food sensitivities or infiltration of unwanted bacteria. This formula is designed to soothe the digestive tract lining and provide ingredients that support proper immune function and microbial balance.


To help you quickly find the right Integrative Medicine formulas and manufacturers to help treat your dogs, cats and horses, please refer to the Veterinarians’ Desk Reference
(Click Here)


(Always consult with your veterinarian to properly diagnose any health problems. Misdiagnosis and/or mistreatment -- including OTC and/or homeopathic products -- can lead to dangerous complications.)



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