When Is Dog Diarrhea an Emergency: Recognizing the Signs and Taking Action

icon September 18, 2023

As responsible pet owners, we strive to provide the best care for our canine companions. One common issue that dogs can face is diarrhea, and while it's often a minor inconvenience, it can sometimes indicate a more serious underlying problem. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore when dog diarrhea is an emergency, helping you recognize the signs and take the appropriate actions to ensure your furry friend's well-being.

Understanding the Basics of Dog Diarrhea

Diarrhea in dogs is characterized by loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements. It can vary in severity and duration, from mild and self-limiting to severe and chronic. While occasional diarrhea may not be cause for immediate concern, it's crucial to understand the potential causes and when it might signal an emergency.

Here are the typical stages of dog diarrhea:

  1. Mild Diarrhea: This stage is characterized by slightly loose stools that may occur infrequently. It is often caused by dietary indiscretion, stress, or minor gastrointestinal upset. Mild diarrhea can often be managed at home by fasting your dog for 12-24 hours and then gradually reintroducing a bland diet.

  2. Moderate Diarrhea: In this stage, the diarrhea becomes more frequent and may have a softer consistency. It can last for 1-2 days and is often accompanied by increased bowel movements. Moderate diarrhea can still be managed at home, but close monitoring is important.

  3. Severe Diarrhea: When diarrhea is severe, it is characterized by very watery stools, frequent bowel movements, and may contain mucus or blood. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, making it a cause for concern. It may require immediate veterinary attention.

  4. Chronic Diarrhea: Chronic diarrhea persists for an extended period, often for weeks or months. It may be intermittent, and dogs with chronic diarrhea may have underlying medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), food allergies, or chronic infections. Chronic diarrhea typically requires a thorough veterinary evaluation to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

  5. Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea (AHD): AHD is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition characterized by sudden and profuse bloody diarrhea. It is often associated with a condition called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) and requires immediate emergency veterinary care.

When Is Dog Diarrhea an Emergency: Warning Signs

While many cases of dog diarrhea can be managed at home, there are specific situations where it should be treated as a veterinary emergency:

1. Severe or Prolonged Diarrhea: If your dog's diarrhea is severe (very watery or bloody) or lasts for more than 24-48 hours, it's a red flag. Prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other complications.

2. Blood in the Stool: The presence of blood in your dog's stool is a significant concern. It can indicate various issues, including internal bleeding, infections, or a bleeding disorder.

3. Vomiting: If your dog is experiencing both diarrhea and vomiting, it could be a sign of a more serious problem, such as an intestinal blockage or poisoning.

Puainta® Treatment For Vomiting, Diarrhea:

Gastroenteritis Treatment Vomiting Relief-Tablets

4. Lethargy and Weakness: If your dog becomes lethargic, weak, or unresponsive, it's a clear indication of a severe problem. This could be related to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, or a serious underlying condition.

5. Loss of Appetite: A dog refusing food for an extended period can indicate a significant issue. Dogs that go without eating for more than 24 hours are at risk of developing additional health problems.

6. Abdominal Pain: Signs of abdominal pain, such as vocalizing when touched, hunching, or a distended abdomen, are concerning and require immediate attention.

7. Fever: If your dog has a high fever (above 103°F or 39.4°C), it could be a sign of a severe infection or inflammation.

8. Dehydration: Dehydration is a common complication of diarrhea and can be life-threatening. Symptoms include sunken eyes, dry gums, excessive panting, and a loss of skin elasticity. If you suspect dehydration, seek veterinary care promptly.

9. Pre-existing Health Conditions: Dogs with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease, are at higher risk of complications from diarrhea. Any change in their condition should be addressed promptly.

10. Young Puppies and Senior Dogs: Puppies and senior dogs are more vulnerable to the effects of diarrhea. In these age groups, even mild diarrhea can escalate quickly, so it's wise to consult a vet sooner rather than later.

What Causes Diarrhea In Dogs: Common Causes

1. Dietary Indiscretion: Dogs are notorious for their curious nature and tendency to eat things they shouldn't. Consuming spoiled food, garbage, or toxic substances can lead to diarrhea.

2. Sudden Diet Changes: Abruptly switching your dog's food can upset its digestive system and result in diarrhea. Gradual transitions are recommended when changing diets.

3. Food Allergies or Sensitivities: Some dogs may develop diarrhea as a reaction to certain ingredients in their food. Identifying and eliminating allergens from their diet can help manage this issue.

4. Infections: Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections, such as parvovirus, distemper, or giardia, can cause diarrhea in dogs. These infections can be highly contagious and require immediate attention.

5. Stress or Anxiety: Dogs can experience digestive upset when faced with stressful situations, such as a change in environment, travel, or separation from their owners.

6. Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can have gastrointestinal side effects, leading to diarrhea in some dogs.

7. Underlying Medical Conditions: Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), pancreatitis, or cancer can result in chronic diarrhea. These conditions often require specialized medical care.

Puainta® Low Fat Dog Treats (Help With Pancreatitis, Acute Diarrhea, Chronic Diarrhea, etc.)

Puainta® Complete and Balanced Dog Food; Prescription Diet

Does Dewormer Cause Diarrhea In Dogs

Yes, dewormers can sometimes cause diarrhea in dogs as a side effect. When deworming medications are administered, they work to eliminate intestinal parasites from a dog's system. During this process, the parasites may be expelled from the body through the stool, leading to temporary diarrhea. Additionally, some dogs may experience gastrointestinal upset or sensitivity to the medication itself, which can result in diarrhea. While mild, short-term diarrhea can be a normal reaction to deworming, it's essential to monitor your dog's condition. If diarrhea persists or becomes severe, consult your veterinarian for guidance and to rule out any adverse reactions or underlying issues.

Choose a Reliable Dewormer For Your Adorable Friend:

albendazole for dogs

Actions to Take in a Dog Diarrhea Emergency

If you suspect that your dog's diarrhea is an emergency based on the signs mentioned above, it's crucial to take immediate action:

1. Contact Your Veterinarian: Call your vet or the nearest emergency animal hospital to explain the situation and receive guidance. They may ask specific questions to assess the severity and recommend the next steps.

2. Follow Their Instructions: Your veterinarian will provide instructions on what to do next. They may recommend bringing your dog in immediately or providing specific care at home while en route.

3. Do Not Wait: Time is of the essence in an emergency. Delaying treatment can lead to worsening symptoms and complications.

4. Prepare for Transport: If you're advised to take your dog to the veterinarian, prepare for the journey. Place your dog in a secure, well-ventilated carrier or crate, and bring any relevant medical records with you.

5. Minimize Stress: Keep your dog as calm and comfortable as possible during the trip. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that could stress them further.

6. Provide Necessary Information: Be ready to provide details about your dog's recent behavior, diet, and any potential exposure to toxins or infectious agents. This information can help the veterinarian make a quicker diagnosis.

7. Stay Calm: While it's natural to be worried when your dog is in distress, try to stay as calm as possible. Your dog will pick up on your emotions, and a calm demeanor can help reassure them.

Preventing Dog Diarrhea Emergencies

While not all cases of dog diarrhea can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk and ensure prompt action in case of an emergency:

1. Maintain a Consistent Diet: Stick to a consistent feeding schedule and avoid sudden dietary changes. When transitioning to a new food, do it gradually over several days.

2. Avoid Table Scraps: Human food can be too rich and can upset your dog's stomach. Avoid feeding them table scraps or foods that are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, and onions.

3. Properly Store and Dispose of Garbage: Keep trash cans secure and out of your dog's reach to prevent them from scavenging spoiled or toxic foods.

4. Regular Exercise: Adequate exercise can help keep your dog's digestive system healthy. It also reduces stress and anxiety, which can contribute to diarrhea.

5. Maintain Hygiene: Wash your dog's food and water bowls regularly to prevent bacterial contamination. Also, practice good hand hygiene after handling your dog and cleaning up after them.

6. Regular Veterinary Check-Ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your dog's overall health and catch any potential issues early.

Related Questions:

How Many Times Should A Dog Have Diarrhea Before Going To The Vet

If your dog has diarrhea more than twice in a 24-hour period or if the diarrhea persists for more than 24-48 hours, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian. Additionally, if the diarrhea is severe, bloody, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, or abdominal pain, you should seek veterinary care promptly. These signs may indicate a more serious underlying issue, and early intervention is crucial to ensure your dog's health and well-being.

Should I Let My Dog’s Diarrhea Run Its Course

Mild and occasional diarrhea in dogs, especially if it's due to dietary indiscretion or a minor upset stomach, may resolve on its own. In such cases, it can be beneficial to fast your dog for 12-24 hours, provide access to clean water, and then gradually reintroduce a bland diet. However, if diarrhea persists for more than 24-48 hours, is severe, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms like blood in the stool, vomiting, or lethargy, it's advisable not to let it run its course. Consult your veterinarian to identify the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. Prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration and may be a sign of a more serious issue that requires intervention.



While diarrhea in dogs is a common occurrence, it's essential to recognize when it may be an emergency. Understanding the signs and acting promptly can make a significant difference in your dog's health and well-being. Always trust your instincts; if you suspect an emergency, contact your veterinarian immediately. Remember, your dog's health should always be a top priority, and providing timely and appropriate care is the best way to ensure they lead a happy and healthy life.

Leave A Comment
All comments are moderated before being published.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Join The Puainta

Become one of pet parents and get professional tips, immediate product info, updated promotions and discounts, and more surprises from us!