Diarrhea is the passage of loose, unformed digestive material or feces. Diarrhea may be associated with an increased amount of stool or an increased frequency or urgency of defecation. There are hundreds of causes of diarrhea, ranging from simple dietary causes to very serious diseases. Your veterinarian can best determine the cause of your pet’s diarrhea by asking a series of questions regarding the amount, frequency, color and smell of the stools, as well as when the problem first started.
Diarrhea is a clinical sign in and of itself. It is often associated with other clinical signs associated with the gastrointestinal tract including lack of appetite, vomiting, flatulence, scooting or licking at hindquarters, or signs of abdominal pain.
In order to find the cause of diarrhea, veterinarians may pursue a number of different diagnostic strategies. In most cases, your veterinarian will suggest that owners not give food for 24 hours or give a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice. If diarrhea is persistent, bloody or accompanied by vomiting, you should have your pet examined immediately. Young dogs under one year of age should also always be examined, as they can become very quickly dehydrated due to water loss associated with diarrhea.
Your veterinarian may perform any or all of the following diagnostic tests: a fecal examination, x-rays, blood tests, ultrasound and endoscopy. Depending on the severity of clinical signs your veterinarian may recommend hospitalization to provide supportive intravenous fluids and medications. Young or unvaccinated animals are highly susceptible to a number of potentially fatal viral infections (such as parvovirus) and should be closely monitored.