Skip to Content

Dog Diarrhea Causes and When is it an Emergency

Dog diarrhea is one of the most common causes for a vet visit and many pet owners panic when they see an abnormal stool, but understanding why this occurs can go a long way toward helping both animal and owner.

Toxins, unfamiliar foods, non-food items, medications, parasites, microorganisms like giardia, viruses, and various diseases and illnesses can all cause inflammation to the lining of the organs that comprise the digestive system.

Dog treats and diarrhea are another common occurrence. Too many dog treats will cause an upset stomach and a nasty round of diarrhea!

When this inflammation is present, the body cannot properly extract water and nutrients from the stool, which also passes through the system at a rapid pace.

The result is diarrhea.

Dog Diarrhea Causes and When is it an Emergency

Dog Diarrhea can take on many different appearances.

Light brown stools are often the result of excess bilirubin and iron in the system. In addition, lighter brown stools commonly occur due to the lack of time spent in the intestines.

As water and nutrients are extracted, the color darkens, so lighter colored stools, which often appear watery or contain mucus, indicate intestinal inflammation, also known as gastritis.

Feces can take on a green-brown hue when bile, produced by the liver to digest fats, passes through the intestinal tract without being properly processed.

Yellow feces are typical of giardia, a microorganism often transmitted by drinking contaminated water.

Giardia causes severe gastric upset and requires treatment from a veterinarian.

Black stools can result from blood in the digestive system and therefore, should be cause for concern, although it should also be noted that certain medications, like pepto bismol, can cause black stools for a day or two.

German Shepherd on vet exam table

Blood in the stool

Small amounts of blood can also be present in cases of acute diarrhea, due to swelling and irritation that’s present in the digestive tract.

Bright red blood indicates that the source of the blood is somewhere in the lower portion of the digestive tract, while dark red blood indicates that the bleeding occurred in the upper portion of the digestive tract.

Blood, particularly larger amounts, can often be present due to a dangerous condition known as an intestinal obstruction.

In the case of a complete obstruction, there will be a lack of movement through the digestive tract due to the blockage.

In the case of a partial obstruction, some matter can pass the blockage site, which is often bleeding due to irritation and damage from the item that has caused the obstruction.

For many cases, a stool sample is required for testing.

This is particularly true when parasites or microorganisms are suspected.

Pet owners are encouraged to collect a fresh sample within a few hours of visiting the vet to aid in the diagnostic process.

Sleeping brown dog

In addition to the typical signs of illness, intestinal system emergencies can also include symptoms such as blood in the stool (with significant amounts present, or if the blood is present in more than two bowel movements), bright green stool (which often indicates toxicity), and dehydration.

LeAnn Harbert

Tuesday 1st of January 2019

This is good information to have on hand if my dogs ever need it.

Lana simanovicki

Tuesday 1st of January 2019

This is good to know

Dana Rodriguez

Thursday 27th of December 2018

This is an interesting post. These are things that are good to know if you are a dog owner.

rochelle haynes

Thursday 27th of December 2018

Thanks for the tips

Lisa F.

Tuesday 25th of December 2018

After one singular episode of diarrhea, if my dogs are acting normal, I usually wait a day. But, it has to be one episode and they have to be hydrated since diarrhea can take a lot of water out of a dog. If any doubt, best to get them in to the vet.

Love these woofs?

Help spread our waggie tales. You're pawesome for doing it!