- Because some causes of diarrhoea are zoonotic, is vital that you exercise strict hand hygiene before and after caring for and cleaning up after your pet.
- Remove any food whose feeding coincided with the onset of diarrhoea.
- If your pet is lethargic, feels warm to touch, or is off food, seek veterinary attention immediately.
- Kittens are vulnerable to severe dehydration secondary to diarrhoea, and should be examined by a veterinarian. If a kitten is weak, smear a small amount of glucose syrup or honey onto the gums and seek immediate veterinary attention.
- It can be helpful to collect a fresh stool sample in a sealable container or bag to present to your veterinarian.
- In the majority of cases, diarrhoea is self-limiting, and signs resolve before a definitive diagnosis is made.
- If your pet is bright and otherwise well, and continues to have a good appetite, feed a high-fibre, low-fat or bland diet (such as a commercial diet for animals with gastrointestinal upsets, or boiled chicken (with skin, bones and fat removed) and rice.
- It may be helpful to provide a balanced electrolyte solution (available from most pharmacies) for your pet to drink. Otherwise water is fine and should not be withheld.
- Provide more frequent toilet walks to avoid accidents in the house.
- If diarrhoea continues for more than 72 hours, or contains blood, seek veterinary attention.
- If diarrhoea resolves within 72 hours, slowly reintroduce the normal diet over five to seven days.
- DO NOT GIVE ANTI-DIARRHOEA MEDICATIONS TO YOUR PET UNLESS PRESCRIBED BY A VETERINARIAN AS THESE ARE POTENTIALLY TOXIC.
WHAT IS IT?
Diarrhoea is an increase in the volume and fluidity of stool, which may be loose and usually less formed than normal.
- An increase in frequency of stool
- Semi formed to soft or loose stool
- Occasionally blood or mucus in stool
- Straining to defecate
- A red, sore bottom
- Rubbing of the bottom on the ground, “scooting”
- Rectal prolapse
Potential causes of diarrhoea can be:
Primary gastrointestinal disorders caused by:
- Dietary: change in diet, poor quality food, food intolerance or allergy, ingestion of spoiled or contaminated foods, toxic foodstuffs. Intestinal foreign bodies may also be associated with diarrhoea.
- Parasites: hookworms, whipworms, roundworms and protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium are common culprits.
- Bacteria: campylobacter, salmonella, clostridia and E. coli
- Viruses: feline panleukopenia virus and coronavirus.
- Medications: antibiotics, parasite treatments, anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications can cause diarrhoea.
- Cancer: tumours in the stomach or intestines can lead to diarrhoea.
Secondary causes include:
- Stress, pancreatitis, hypoadrenocorticism or Addison’s disease, liver disease, gallbladder disease, kidney disease, diabetes, pancreatic insufficiency and thyroid disease (mostly seen in cats).
NOTE THAT SOME INFECTIOUS CAUSES OF DIARRHOEA, PARTICULARLY PARASITES AND BACTERIA, ARE ZOONOTIC AND CAN BE TRANSMITTED TO HUMANS.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Dehydrated animals may require intravenous fluids, and where infection is diagnosed antibiotics are administered. If parasites are detected on a faecal exam, anti-parasite treatment will be administered.
Tests are available for some viral causes of diarrhoea, such as parvovirus. Affected animals require intensive care, pain relief, anti-emetics, antibiotics, and occasionally transfusions.
Other tests your veterinarian may recommend include faecal cultures, blood tests and abdominal imaging.
Hall E (2009) Canine diarrhoea: a rational approach to diagnostic and therapeutic dilemmas. In Practice 31:8-16.