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Understanding and Managing Diarrhoea in Pets: A Comprehensive Guide

Pet owners often seek the help of veterinarians when their beloved pets suffer from Diarrhoea. Whether it's a recurrent problem due to a sensitive digestive system or a one-off event, it signals an issue that requires attention. This article explains the common causes of dog Diarrhoea and cat Diarrhoea and provides solutions to this health issue. At Very Important Pets, we offer a range of quality pet supplies to help you keep your dog and cats healthy.

Understanding Diarrhoea in Dogs and Cats

Diarrhoea is characterised by loose or liquid bowel movements, with its frequency and characteristics serving as vital clues to its cause. Diarrhoea can occur suddenly, lasting for a day or two, or persist for weeks or longer, potentially indicating a more serious underlying condition. It can lead to dehydration and significant discomfort, so it's necessary to have prompt attention.

Assessing the Diarrhoea Before you reach out to your vet or take action, you can observe the nature of your pet's Diarrhoea. Consider the following factors:

  • Duration: How long has your pet had Diarrhoea? Any previous episodes? If yes, there may be a dietary intolerance to deal with and, therefore, specific foods to avoid.
  • Pet behaviour: Is your pet active or lethargic? The latter might require urgent treatment.
  • Appetite: Is your pet still eating? If yes, this could indicate a less severe issue.
  • Consistency: Is the Diarrhoea watery or slightly loose? Watery stools could indicate active fluid secretion in the intestines, leading to dehydration.
  • Other symptoms: Has your pet been vomiting? This could indicate an issue at the front end of the digestive tract.
  • Blood in the stool: The presence and colour of blood can indicate the problem's location in the digestive system.
  • Frequency and type of Diarrhoea: Is your pet producing large amounts of Diarrhoea a few times a day or straining to pass small amounts of mucus-covered Diarrhoea more frequently? This can indicate whether the problem originates in the small or large intestine.

Dealing with Common Causes of Diarrhoea in Dogs and Cats

  1. Intestinal parasites. Ensure your dog/cat is wormed with a licensed veterinary product every three months to prevent an infestation from building up and causing Diarrhoea and weight loss.
  2. Bacterial infections. Arguably the most common cause of Diarrhoea in pets. Many animals are, by nature, scavengers and will gobble up things they find lying outside, some of which might harbour nasty bacteria that cause vomiting and/or Diarrhoea. Certain bacteria are worse than others; the three ones to worry about are E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, as these can be passed to humans. However, bacterial infections are usually easily treated by a course of antibiotics. Veterinarians typically prescribe a non-specific broad-spectrum antibiotic to start with. If the stools do not firm up, a swab is taken to determine the species of bacteria involved and which antibiotics it is sensitive to.
  3. Viral infections. Though relatively rare nowadays in the UK due to widespread vaccination, viral infections are often more deadly than their bacterial counterparts. One of the better-known and most deadly ones in dogs is Parvovirus, which causes explosive foul-smelling bloody Diarrhoea, usually with vomiting and severe dehydration. Since antiviral drugs are seldom used in veterinary practice, treatment usually focuses on keeping the dog hydrated via an intravenous drip and treating any secondary bacterial infections with antibiotics.
  4. Dietary intolerance. Also widely known as food allergy, this is a hypersensitivity reaction to certain ingredients in a pet's diet. Certain breeds are more prone to it than others, and it can occur in pets that have been fed the same diet for years but suddenly develop an allergy to one of its ingredients. The symptoms can either be Diarrhoea, though the animal usually remains bright with a good appetite, or itchiness, exceptionally licking at the paws. Diagnosis is either via a blood test sent to a specialised laboratory to measure antibodies to different ingredients or by conducting a strict dietary trial and feeding nothing but chicken and rice for six weeks, with no treats. A long-term resolution is identifying the food element responsible and eliminating it from the diet.
  5. Inflammatory bowel disease. This is an inflammation of the wall of the intestines, usually due to a defective immune system. It is characterised by a long history of intermittent or constant Diarrhoea that is non-responsive to antibiotics or a dietary trial. Diagnosis is usually made by taking biopsies of the intestines and having the tissue samples examined by a pathologist. The disease cannot be cured and is often managed with low-dose steroids and/or a prescription diet.
  6. Liver disease. This tends to occur more in older animals and is easily diagnosed via simple blood tests. There are medications to lessen the symptoms and a low-protein, high-fibre diet is advised. 
  7. Hormonal imbalances. A disease of the adrenal or thyroid glands can cause Diarrhoea. These can be diagnosed via blood tests and treated appropriately.
  8. Cancer. This is unlikely to occur in young animals. Several types of cancer can cause Diarrhoea, all having different prognoses. Early identification and surgical removal of some classes may be curative. Still, the outcome is poor if it has already spread via the lymphatic system.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

If your pet is lethargic, off their food, unable to hold down water, vomiting, or their Diarrhoea contains a significant amount of blood or is very dark looking, consult a veterinarian immediately.

If you suspect your pet has a high temperature or is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian immediately. Timely intervention can prevent complications and help your pet recover faster.

How to Handle Pet Diarrhoea at Home

If your pet has recently developed Diarrhoea but seems otherwise normal, ensure they're well-hydrated and put them on a 24-hour fast. Following this, reintroduce food gradually, starting with a bland diet like chicken and rice. Feed small amounts of chicken and rice three times daily for the next five days if eaten. This bland diet will be gentle on the digestive system as your pet recovers. Most cases of sudden-onset Diarrhoea will respond to this protocol. In some cases adding a probiotic paste may be beneficial. If your pet's condition does not improve, consult with a vet.

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