If you’re a dog owner, you’ve no doubt dealt with a bout of doggie diarrhea at one point or another. Vets usually recommend a bland diet–boiled chicken and rice–but this may not be the best solution for all pets. A quick internet search will probably yield you a million confusing suggestions, so I’ll keep it simple for you by sharing my tried and true 24 hour cure for occasional dog diarrhea.
Before we begin, a couple of caveats: I am NOT a vet. I have been studying and successfully applying holistic animal care to my dogs and horses for more than half my life, but that doesn’t make me a vet, if that matters to you. Secondly, the recommendations in this article apply to the canine species only, not cats. Sorry cat people, I’m more of a dog lady. Thirdly, the recommendations in this post are applicable for occasional diarrhea, not chronic and continuing.
If your dog’s diarrhea persists longer than 2 days or comes in frequent bouts, consult a vet. Also see your vet immediately if there is blood in the stool.
Now, onto the fun topic of dog diarrhea.
How It All Began
My dog Shaia, the adorable labradoodle pictured with me in the sidebar, suffered repeated bouts of diarrhea as a puppy, and although the longterm treatment involved my finding her ideal diet + repairing her digestive tract, I learned a lot about diarrhea along the way. Lucky me! (Click here for my recommendations about what to feed your dog).
Shaia had a few food allergies (probably a result of taking multiple rounds of antibiotics as a puppy) coupled with the tendency to eat anything and everything in site. And junk is plentiful in city parks and on sidewalks where she grew up, let me tell you. “Leave it!” is my most often used command. She’d get the runs anytime she ate chicken, other dogs’ food, cat food, or any assorted disgusting treats/stale pizza off the street.
Causes of Dog Diarrhea
When something irritates the gut–the small or large intestine–regulated bowel movements (peristalsis) increase in speed. The body is attempting to expel the irritant or toxin, so transit through the bowel speeds up. Contents of the intestines move at a much faster rate, which doesn’t allow for normal removal of fluid from the bowel, and diarrhea results.
This isn’t a bad reaction (though it’s pretty unpleasant for you and your dog): if your dog ingests a toxin of some sort, the body is doing its job in expelling it rapidly. This is why I don’t recommend PeptoBismol or KaoPectate, which will certainly stop your dog up but will delay release of offending agent.
- eating indigestible substances such as garbage and decayed food
- eating dead animals, too much grass, certain plants, and pieces of plastic, wood, paper, or other foreign materials
- switching your dog’s food suddenly. You need to make gradual changes in foods.
- food allergies (chicken, chicken fat, chicken by-products, corn, dairy, and wheat are common culprits)
- eating too much protein or fat-rich food (I once fed Shaia too much fat skimmed off the top of the bone broth and that caused the runs. Getting into the cat’s food will do it too).
- stress, a sudden move, or anxiety
- parasites (giardia is common in dogs). If your dog seems to get diarrhea on a regular basis (say, every 3 weeks), bring a stool sample into your vet’s office to check for parasites.
- IBS or IBD causes chronic diarrhea
- chronic stress
Of course, some dogs have iron stomachs and can eat anything and be fine. My dog certainly is not one of those.
How to Alleviate Dog Diarrhea in 24 Hours
First off, pull your dog off his food as soon as you notice the runs. Refrain from feeding him his normal diet for 24-48 hours, but do NOT withhold water. During this time, make a batch of white rice, and give him that twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening, mixed with a powdered probiotic. I usually add a boxed onion-free (onions are toxic to dogs) beef or chicken broth. Or you could make a bone broth with no onion. The broth is excellent for the minerals that can be depleted when your dog gets diarrhea. Make sure he stays well hydrated.
NOTE: if your dog is diabetic, don’t fast him or change up his diet dramatically. Check with your vet.
If you have some seaweed on hand (and who doesn’t really?), grind that up and add it. Because I’m super crunchy, I always have kelp, toasted nori strips, or some kind of sea vegetable in my pantry for broths and soups.
The next day, instead of regular kibble or your dog’s usual diet, brown up some ground turkey or lower fat ground beef (like 90-95% lean if you can find it. Higher fat content is irritating to sensitive guts), and make him a mix of pumpkin and browned meat with white rice.
If you are certain your dog is ok with chicken, you can use plain boiled chicken breast, but chicken is a common allergen and can cause diarrhea. You can use mashed sweet potato too. Pumpkin is very soothing to the GI tract and feeds the good bacteria. It’s a great source of fiber to help bulk up stool. My dog doesn’t do well with chicken or turkey, so I use ground beef, lamb, or you could use fish such as salmon too. How much you feed depends on the size of your dog. My dog is around 65 pounds and I give her about one cup of white rice with 1 tbsp pumpkin and 1/2 – 3/4 cup ground meat. Add powdered probiotic.
IMPORTANT: too much pumpkin can actually cause diarrhea (because of the fiber), so don’t overdo it: 1 tbsp per feeding for large dogs and 1 tsp per feeding for small dogs.
You can also use a supplement like this pumpkin-based Firm Up which is specifically designed to help firm your dog’s stool during a bout. I keep it on hand and use it as needed. There are directions on the package for how much to feed based on weight. I mix this with the white rice and ground meat.
Give your dog the pumpkin/ground meat meal with white rice and probiotic twice on this day (the day after you fed the white rice-broth mixture). I feed at 8am and again at 4pm. The diarrhea should resolve on this day. If not, you can continue this feeding routine for another day or so until your dog recovers. He may be constipated for a day or 2 after a diarrhea bout, so continue with the probiotic and pumpkin for a few days after if need be. Pumpkin works great for constipation too.
You can also give enzymes to help break down toxins or remnants of whatever he ate. If your dog has a sensitive GI tract or farts a lot, consider giving enzymes and probiotic daily in his food, and also experiment with the best diet. It’s possible the gastric upset is due to too much protein from a grain free diet (some dogs do well with a little non-irritating grain like rice or oatmeal), or he may need a chicken-free protein.
Some vets suggest having slippery elm on hand. You can offer about a half a teaspoon or a capsule for each 10 pounds of body weight with every bland meal (source). You can also give your dog powdered glutamine, which is very healing to the digestive tract, but don’t feed that long-term.
Holistic remedies for dog diarrhea
My post on holistic nutrition for dogs
Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.
You say to make him a 50-50 mix of pumpkin and ground turkey….. Then in the next paragraph you say…
IMPORTANT: too much pumpkin can actually cause diarrhea (because of the fiber), so don’t overdo it: 1-2 tbsp per feeding for large dogs and 1-2 tsp per feeding for small dogs.
Pumpkin is high in beta carotene which can be toxic to dogs in high doses. The fiber in pumpkin is not the problem. So yes it must be limited to the smaller serving size you mention above (NOT 50 percent!)
Beta carotene isn’t the problem. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A, which can be toxic to dogs in high doses, but it’s virtually impossible to achieve this toxicity via real food: “The toxic dose of vitamin A for dogs has been set at between 2,500 and 113,600 IU per pound of food, but only if this elevated level of vitamin A is fed to a dog daily for months or even years.” It’s good to use pumpkin in small doses so it doesn’t cause further GI upset, but it would be difficult to poison your dog with it.
Unfortunately, due to our negligence, our dog got into the cat food and had herself a feast. This resulted in diarrhea all night last night, two empty bottles of 409 and a few remaining squares on a roll of paper towels.
We’ve begun fasting (while making sure she has plenty of water), but knows she needs to have something substantial soon to get her digestive system back on the right track.
I read your article which has some useful information, but I was also confused by the 50/50 pumpkin and ground turkey mixture. Our puppy is a 6 year old, 65 pound mutt…do your instructions mean 2 tablespoons of pumpkin and two tablespoons of ground turkey for her first meal? Or 2 tablespoons of pumpkin mixed into the ground turkey? How much turkey for her first meal? I don’t want to overwhelm her system already.
Yikes, I know what that is like. Sorry for the confusion: 50-50 doesn’t mean exact ratios, just that it should be partly composed of ground meat and part pumpkin. Use 2tbsp pumpkin and about a cup of ground meat for that size. You can also do unseasoned ground turkey or ground beef and rice, 1 cup of each.
The general information here sounds reasonable to me, but I need some specifics. My vet has always recommended giving the same overall daily amount of the alternative “sick puppy” food mixture as the daily amount of kibble our dog usually eats.
Is that what you’re suggesting here? For our black mouth cur, that would be 1 C per meal 3x daily. Is that the same premise for the broth–given int he same amounts as a regular daily feeding? If not, how would I estimate the right amount for my dog (approx. 70 lbs.)?
Couple things (if I understand your question): you want to fast them for 12-24 hours and do the bone broth and probiotics during this time. Then give the regular amount of rice/meat/pumpkin they’d otherwise get. I don’t have a formula; I just eyeball it. So if your dog gets a cup of food, just sub in the rice mixture instead.
for the broth, do you boil a marrow bone in a big pot of water?
You mentioned ground turkey so, how about telling us if it’s cooked or boiled!
I brown it in a skillet.
When you say to make a batch of bone broth and give it 2-3 times a day — about how much broth should I give at every serving?
Depends on dog size. I use it as a delivery for probiotics during the fasting phase, and if they like it, a cup or so per serving is fine for a medium-large dog.
Great article.. however reading the comments ppl
Really don’t haven common sense.. thank you for taking the time to write this. 🙂
My dogs love a product called Buster’s Brew which helps them stay regular. In fact, I find it makes it easier for them to go to the washroom. It’s a bone broth for pets: https://bustersbrew.net
Great suggestion, Marilyn. I’ll look into that.
My vet told me with my medium sized dog to fast one day then give chicken and rice. That didn’t work. I tried pumpkin, he wouldn’t eat it until I mixed in Tracey. Now about 2 weeks later my elderly small dog has diarrhea but of course over Christmas everything was closed. Then I forgot to buy pumpkin today, (Dec 26th) I didn’t have chicken on hand , being I’m a vegetarian, so on Christmas I have her rice, she barely ate any, but a dog I’m dog sitting ate all of the rice when my teenage son let her upstairs where I was trying to separate food. Her stool is always soft so who knows. Ironically before I had my friends dog about 3 weeks ago she had diarrhea. The vet claimed this isn’t contagious, but another friend said her dog got diarrhea a few days after she was at my house when my 1st dog was ill. This all seems odd to me. Anyhow, I have fasted her 24 hrs, then gave her plain rice which she barely ate. She still has the diarrhea but I forgot the pumpkin in my running around so I gave her a 1/4 Or her normal serving of food, is that ok? I wasn’t sure but I don’t want her starving either….
Gravy not tracey
What can I substitute to wrap pills around to mask the taste? Is Velvetta, in small bits alright?
Depending on what pills you’re using, there are specific dog treats that come pill shaped: http://amzn.to/2ESgXWq
If it’s a probiotic, I break it open and sprinkle on food.
Lewis my 5yrs Labrador/Bullmastiff has had diorreah in last 6hours.Hes never had the runs like this before.Once or twice after having a new food he has had slight soft pop.Hes a rescue dog that came into our lives at 1& a half yrs.Hes an inside live with the family boy & he actually had an accident on the balcony early evening before dinner time.Poor boy has never had an accident inside to date.He was a dream to toilet train, he lets us know he wants to go out.A not normal HUGE pop of a light fawn/beige colour.Boys took him out for 30mins or so & he went same twice.I took him for walk later & he went 3 times over 50 mins.Ive got 6 kids from 24oldest to 10youngest so instinctivley I didnt fed him dinner & feel hes go an upset stomach.We know alot about what dogs can cant eat & kids are always reaserching how dogs live/behave in their pack/family.He us a very fussy eater & cant have bones as he vomits within a half hour of having any sort of bone to chew on,even a raw chicken wing!His vet says dont give him his digestive system doesnt like them.I will do the broth suggestion for 24 hours.He loves rice & chicken shall I just do once a day or still twice still?As in his breakfast?
Jodie, you probably need to keep him on probiotics and enzymes longterm (you can add to his food; I link to what I recommend in the post) and potentially feed him grain free lamb-based meals or lamb and rice, which are easier to digest than other proteins. Aside from that, you can keep him on rice and chicken with bone broth (I add the broth to the rice and chicken mixture) until it clears up.
My 75 lb Border Collie (Yes, he is a big guy), got into a lot of cat food and has had the runs most of the day, and I just saw this post. I am going to put up his Kibbles and Bits and try a Chicken Broth as he likes chicken, but how much probiotic should I put in it?
Hi Kim, i use about half of the dose that would be appropriate for humans on an ongoing basis and a full human dose when they have diarrhea.
Thank you for the advice on the probiotic, will start asp! Will let you know ?
I’m rather shocked to see that you recommend adding both garlic in the onion to the bone broth for a dog. Both garlic and onion are members of the Allium family and a toxic to dogs but not people. If your dog accidentally in just a small amount of either one it may be OK, but adding it to their diet intentionally could have quite serious effects.
I don’t recommend using onion and onion; it’s just my recipe for the bone broth. You can leave the alliums out.
Hi Mary, I have a 4 month old puppy. She’s a rescue from Puerto Rico. I have had diarrhea issues with her since a few days after I got her from the foster. My vet tested her stool 3 times. All negative for worms and parasites. The vet put her on 2 different prescription foods, neither worked. I put her on white rice/boiled ground chicken and a little pumpkin, plus carrots as treats. This helped her right away,. The problem is that my vet says this cannot be her ongoing diet. I then added a probiotic and vitamin. The vet said it’s still not nutritious enough. He said I have to bring her to an internal medicine doctor, that she may have an exotic parasite. He says she’s too young for allergies. He also said she’s the one dog he hasn’t been able to treat for diarrhea… in all of his years in practice. I don’t know what to think, I feel like he refuses to think outside the box. However, I am worried about my puppy. She is growing but she still looks skinny. Her diarrhea on all of the dog foods I tried was terrible. 10-12x a day, 2-3x up st night. I was so happy the chicken and rice worked that now she’s been on it 3 weeks. Any thoughts?
Hi Suzanne, it could be stress or even IBS. It’s a huge transition for a pup to be flown in a rescue situation (assuming she was flown from PR). My labradoodle would have bouts of diarrhea from stress when she was young also, and same situation– nothing was found. I would give your pup a lamb and brown rice based dog food with saccharomyces boulardii, which clears up diarrhea, and a probiotic . Mix the kibble with bone broth. Of you can make it yourself until she clears up: https://www.maryvancenc.com/holistic-nutrition-dogs/
then switch her to a kibble.
Also be sure to provide comfort and support, e.g. not leaving her alone for long periods, making sure she is well socialized and has toys, a space or a crate to herself, and a regular routine. Good luck and let us know how she improves!
Hi my pup got into the garbage well being babysat and ate a bunch of fatty chicken bits and has had diarrhea since , can you just use probiotic from a drug store?? She has never had accidents in house and last two days have been horrible
you can sure, but they may not work as well. if you have a whole foods near you get Jarrow brand.
Hi Mary. I know you’re not a vet but I’m hoping you can help or that you might have a recommendation for me. Our puppy became sick while we were out of town. The vet theorized it was stress induced. She had an elevated level of bacteria in her poo. The babysitters fasted her and started feeding her a chicken and rice mixture, and while the vomiting has stopped, it seems like her poop is just not clearing up. We called the vet upon coming home and he recommended adding a little bit of canned pumpkin (about 1 Tbsp to every 1/2 cup mixture we’re feeding her (she’s about 20 lbs)). We also started giving her Advita (probiotic) after reading this article. It’s been another day and her poop is still coming out all squishy. It’s a little bit formed, better than the cow puddles we had earlier, but it’s still not right. I’m loosing faith in my vet. Does this seem normal? I don’t’ know what else to do but continue – does she need something a little more bulky to firm things up? Again, I know you’re not a vet, but I would deeply appreciate any recommendation you might have.
Hi Sarah, yes, it can take a few days to return to normal. Continuing probiotics is never a bad idea.
Help! My dog had some turkey, and had bad diarrhea it’s been a couple days. What can I do out when should I be worried
Mia, you can follow the directions outlined in the post, or call your vet if the diarrhea is ongoing.
what if you have a fur baby that has pancreatic issues and he has diarhea?
Hi Sherri, dogs with pancreatitis or other pancreatic issues need a lower fat diet in general. They would be fine with pumpkin & rice or boiled chicken, pumpkin, and rice. All are low fat. But you should always check with your vet if you dog has any medical issues.