If your pet is profusely bleeding, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
If your pet has diarrhea paired with vomiting or loss of appetite, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet see your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within the next 12 hours. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
If your pet has acute diarrhea without vomiting, this is considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.
Before we get started, we’re just going to flat out say it: yes, this blog is entirely about your pet’s diarrhea. So, if you’re eating or get squeamish when discussing bodily functions, then please return to this blog if and when you need it, or not at all if you prefer!
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s continue.
Ranging from soft to liquid stool, diarrhea can be a messy – and frustrating – symptom to manage at home, especially when it means extra bathroom trips outside or even accidents throughout your house. Although diarrhea is a common symptom, pet parents struggle to determine the best course of action. Here’s a breakdown of the main causes of diarrhea in pets and how to decide when to monitor your pet at home versus when to seek veterinary care.
The most common causes for your pet’s diarrhea include:
Causes Inside the GI Tract (Stomach, small intestine, large intestine)
Causes Outside the GI Tract
What to Do Next
When you are concerned about your pet’s diarrhea, it can be difficult to decide on a course of action. Is it okay to monitor your pet at home? Should you schedule an appointment with your family veterinarian in the morning? Or does your pet require immediate care at an animal ER? We get it – there’s a lot to consider! Every pet and every situation is different. Generally speaking, however, here’s what we recommend:
Monitor Your Pet at Home When…
- Your pet feels otherwise normal – they are eating, have normal energy level, and aren’t vomiting
- Diarrhea has been present for less than 24 hours
- Diarrhea is light brown and contains no blood
- Some stool is normal in appearance (I.e., diarrhea is beginning to resolve)
Bland Diet Instructions
While monitoring your pet at home, you can offer a bland diet for 3-5 days. A bland diet is a highly digestible diet that contains minimal fat and spices. This can be a prescription diet you’ve previously received from your family veterinarian or a homemade one. We feed pets such a diet when they are experiencing gastrointestinal illness, disease, or are recovering from surgery. Note that bland diets are intended more for dogs than for cats.
Bland diets should consist of one part meat to two parts grain:
- Meat Options (All options are prepared WITHOUT skin, seasonings, grease, or fat)
- Boiled white chicken meat
- Cooked white turkey meat
- Boiled lean (92% or more) hamburger
- Note: NO steak, roasts, pork, or processed meats such as deli, cold cuts, hot dogs, or brats)
- Grain Options (All options are prepared plain without butter, oil, or seasonings)
- Cooked white or brown rice
- Boiled or baked potato
- Cooked oatmeal
It may also be helpful to add water to the food to increase your pet’s water intake.
Schedule an Appointment with Your Family Veterinarian When…
- Diarrhea has been present for more than 24 hours
- Diarrhea is frequent or large in volume compared to your pet’s normal eliminations
- Your pet is less than 6 months old
- The diarrhea contains blood
- Your pet is also vomiting
- Your pet has a decreased appetite or decreased energy level
- Your pet has diabetes
- Your pet is a small rodent or rabbit
- Your pet is undergoing chemotherapy and you do not have medications at home to treat diarrhea
- Your pet is taking an NSAID medication (such as Rimadyl, Carprofen, Novox, or Deramaxx) or is on steroids (such as prednisone)
Seek Immediate Veterinary Care from Your Local Animal ER When…
- Diarrhea contains mostly blood (50% or more is blood)
- Diarrhea is very dark or black (like coffee grounds) or bright red
- Diarrhea is extremely liquid or large in volume – especially if bloody
- Your pet’s energy level is very decreased, or your pet seems depressed and lethargic
- Your pet is not eating for 24 hours or more (and that is abnormal for them)
- Your pet is not drinking for 12 hours or more
- Your pet has inappropriate mentation or collapses
For additional information on any type of veterinary emergency, please see our Fast-track Triage chart at: https://aercmn.com/for-pet-owners/faqs/
Remember, always call your local animal ER or family veterinarian before arriving at the clinic so they know to expect you and your pet!
Determining a Diagnosis
Since there are so many possible causes of your pet’s diarrhea, your veterinary team will recommend the following diagnostic testing to help determine the underlying cause:
- Abdominal x-rays
- Fecal exam
If these results lead to determining the underlying cause, your family veterinarian or emergency veterinarian will suggest appropriate treatment options such as medications, diet change, or fluid therapy.
However; it’s also very common that your veterinary team may not be able to pinpoint the cause of your pet’s diarrhea. It could take many different diagnostic tests, time, and money to get to the root of the problem. In these incidents, your veterinary team will treat your pet’s diarrhea symptomatically and may treat for some of the causes we feel are most likely the culprit such as parasites, a bacterial dysbiosis, or a toxin.
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s diarrhea or any other symptoms, call your family veterinarian. When in doubt if your pet needs emergency care or not, call your local animal ER. At Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, we are available 24/7 and our team is always happy to talk with your over the phone to help determine if your pet needs to be seen.
- Vomiting in Pets & When to Seek Veterinary Care
- 5 Most Common Non-Toxin Pet Emergencies
- Understanding GI Upset in Pets & When to Go to the ER
- Help! My Pet Won’t Eat, Drink, or Lie Down!
- How to Tell if Your Pet Has Ingested a Foreign Body