There are very different reasons why dogs or cats can suffer from diarrhea. In many cases, pet owners do not know the cause at all, because the diarrhea is only moderate and after only two to three days it subsides on its own. Veterinarians then speak of idiopathic diarrhea. Sometimes, however, there are serious diseases behind them, which should be treated quickly.
Common causes of diarrhea in dogs and cats include:
Feed intolerances or food allergies
Eating spoiled (e.g. old food leftovers, carrion, etc.)
Infections, e.g. with viruses or bacteria
Parasites (e.g. worms or giardien)
Diseases of other organs, e.g. pancreas or liver, or metabolic diseases
Side effects of medications, e.g. antibiotics
Animal diarrhea is usually noticed by keepers because their dog or cat suddenly releases feces more often than normal, which is of brittle, sometimes watery or slimy consistency. Blood constrictions can also occur in more serious cases.
But when is diarrhea rather harmless and when is the veterinarian in demand? In principle, it is good for pet owners to observe their animals more closely when they suffer from diarrhea. Free-range cats should, therefore, stay in the apartment first. If the animal works cheerfully and the unformed feces does not occur more than three or four times a day, one can wait for otherwise healthy, adult animals.
This is different, however, if dogs or cats have watery or even bloody diarrhea more than six times a day, make a sloppy or sick impression or sleep remarkably much. These are signs of a serious illness that pet owners should take seriously and therefore present their pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
A special situation concerns young animals: dog and cat puppies suffering from diarrhea dry out very quickly (within a few hours) – if you wait too long here, it can also become life-threatening.
Therefore, a dog or cat baby with diarrhea should be taken to the veterinarian immediately for safety reasons. Animals whose diarrhea subsides on its own but recurs after some time should also be examined by the expert. This is the only way to find and treat the cause of diarrhea.
What can you do?
If your dog or cat has moderate diarrhea but otherwise looks healthy, you can first prescribe a diet for the animal: do not feed it in the next 24 hours, even if it is difficult for you! The zero diet relieves the stomach and intestines and gives the digestive tract the opportunity to recover.
Fresh, clean drinking water, on the other hand, should be available at all times. If you go outside with your dog, don’t let it drink from puddles or other waters as they may be contaminated!
Diarrhea not only removes water from the body but also many important minerals – so-called electrolytes – so it may be useful to replace them with electrolyte solutions or powders (available from the veterinarian or pharmacy).
Whether it’s a change of food, stress or antibiotic therapy: Often, in case of diarrhea, the intestinal flora is out of balance. The disturbed composition of the intestinal bacteria can be both the cause of diarrhea and the consequence of diarrhea.
Healthy microbiome – a healthy animal
Scientists also refer to the many different bacteria and their quantitative composition as a microbiome. Some see the intestinal bacteria as a veritable organ that contributes far more to health than previously thought. The intestinal inhabitants participate in digestion by splitting up and re-using food components and promoting their uptake.
They also produce important substances themselves, such as vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes. In the intestine is also an important component of the defense system.
The intestinal bacteria support the work of the immune cells, as they themselves partly counteract pathogens and their reproduction. They also provide an intact intestinal mucosa – which prevents disease-causing germs from entering the body via the intestine.
Scientific evidence shows more and more clearly that the composition of the intestinal bacteria has a decisive influence on health.
Various strains of bacteria that support the physiological intestinal flora are also called probiotics. Probiotic bacteria that have shown positive effects in studies include Lactobacillus spp. enterococcus faecium.
Among the advantages of these bacterial strains, in particular, are their synergistic effects on each other: the bacteria support each other and promote each other in growth.
It is now also known that other components of the diet also make a positive contribution to a healthy intestinal flora, as they stimulate the growth of those “good” intestinal inhabitants.
This so-called prebiotics includes certain indigestible substances such as inulin. This multiple sugar is dietary fiber. Probiotic bacteria use it as an energy source and can, therefore, reproduce particularly well.
So-called synbiotics combine the beneficial properties of probiotics and prebiotics. Especially for dogs and cats, synbiotic dietary supplements are available which contain exactly the three components mentioned (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium, and Inulin) (e.g. Enterocomp Forte®).
They are suitable to bring the intestinal bacteria, especially in situations with acute indigestion, back into balance quickly. Especially in the case of diarrhea, synbiotics are also characterized by other effects, as they can positively influence the moisture and hardness of the feces.
For pet owners, handling is straightforward, as synbiotics such as Enterocomp Forte® can be easily administered with drinking water or – following the food carcinogen – also with the food.
But synbiotics can be used not only in acute situations but also to support intestinal health as a long-term therapy – for example in chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Further measures in case of diarrhea
After the diet, it is important not to overwhelm the gastrointestinal tract with the first feedings. Suitable are, therefore, gentle food, which is offered in several small rations throughout the day.
Dietary foods include rice or potatoes, cooked carrots and low-fat meat (e.g. chicken without skin and bones). In dogs, two parts of the carbohydrate-rich feed should come to one part protein (meat or another protein source), in cats the inverse ratio applies. Once diarrhea has survived, the animal may gradually regain its usual food.
The following always applies: In order to remain healthy, animals also need a good, species-appropriate diet. This also means that much of what we humans like to eat is taboo for dogs and cats. These include treats such as chocolate, but also very fast, deep-fried or spicy foods.
As for us humans, raw animal food (raw meat, raw eggs) is a source of infection for animals.
Even if it is difficult to stand up to the begging eyes of dogs and cats – stay steadfast and feed your animal only suitable food!