Sunday, September 11, 2016

Astonishing Secrets - Chronic Diarrhoea in Dogs

Welcome to another Astonishing Secrets - written to help you, the pet owner help your pet until you can take them to the vet for a thorough check up.
"Do you have the do-run-runs?"

Diarrhoea is one of those signs that most pet owners do not miss, but they often over or under estimate its importance as a sign of illness in our pets. 

The majority of our animals (like us) do suffer from sudden onset diarrhoea, which resolves just as quickly as it started.  Some of these cases do require hospitalisation and aggressive therapy (such as parvovirus or whipworm infection).

Some of these cases do fine on simple dietary manipulation, such as
- bland, highly digestible food (such as chicken/boiled rice/yoghurt)
- feed small amounts often
This is a normal poo! 

Some of these cases continue on for days and days, or worse, occur intermittently - i.e some days the poos are normal, and other days, they are like soft serve icecream or cow pats or chocolate milkshake.

The information here is for those dogs who have
- diarrhoea longer than 3 days
- diarrhoea that seems to come and go

as these are these dogs that have chronic diarrhoea.

The short version of the post is - Unfortunately, you will need to take your pet into to see a vet for a thorough physical examination, and don't forget to take in a freshly collected poop sample from your pet with you.


As veterinarians, we are trained to ask the right questions (get the history), examine your pet (look for signs of systemic illness), and form a diagnostic and treatment plan.

Chronic diarrhoea is one of those conditions that lends itself to this kind of thinking process, as the list of causes is extremely long (think of the book War and Peace).

Chronic diarrhoea is frustrating for the pet, the owner and the vet, and ad hoc therapies which often don't work add to that frustration. 

So, what can you do at home?

You need to review some very important things about your pet and their lifestyle

- Weight - 
Has your pet lost any weight unexpectedly?
Has their activity level changed?

TIP - chronic intermittent diarrhoea with weight loss requires more
 intensive examinations and tests, compared to those 
whose weights have been stable.  
You will need a vet visit sooner, rather than later.

- Worming -
Intestinal parasites are going to be high on the list of possible causes, even if you have been worming your pet consistently.
If you haven't wormed your pet in the past two weeks, do so now.
Clean up your yard of dog poop (to reduce re-contamination), and continue cleaning it up daily.

TIP - Your vet can dispense Fenbendazole for 3 days
 to cover those hidden parasites that 
regular worming may not kill or kill enough of.

- What your pet eats -
This includes the food you intend to give your pet (their diet), and the food/rubbish your pet decides they want to eat (treats, toys, bird poop)

TIP - Dietary manipulation is often needed, 
so keep a good Food Diary.

- Regular Activities -
Do a quick review of what your dog does regularly, and see if there is a correlation.  Perhaps your pet gets diarrhoea the day after they visit Grandma, or after Doggie Daycare.

 TIP - Avoidance of situations that can trigger 
a "stress" 
or "dietary indiscretion" 
diarrhoea is best.

Once you have written down the answers to your reviews, have wormed your pet, cleaned the yard, and hoping  for a miracle cure, what do you do if nothing seems to work?

Obviously, we need to see you.

WE will review the information you have, and will form a plan to get to the right answer.

Often, we will run a giardia test and perform a fecal floatation.  A full blood count and biochemistry test will help us rule out liver and kidney disease as a cause of chronic diarrhoea. 

If we have eliminated those things, then we submit a poop sample to a laboratory to perform a "Chronic Diarrhoea pcr test", which screens for Salmonella, E Coli, Campylobacter, Clostridia and a many other potential causes. Sometimes we run this test first, it really depends on the individual case.

Once we have a better idea of what it is (and what it isn't), then we can make useful recommendations and offer treatments.

The problem lies in that many cases of chronic diarrhoea are recurrent even on the right therapy. Sometimes the best that we can get is a reduction in the frequency of the problem. As with people with chronic gastrointestinal disease - it is often a case of managing rather than curing the problem.

A quick note on feeding
Dietary manipulation is often crucial to a successful outcome.

The options include
- a Novel or single protein diet (i.e a protein your pet has not been exposed to previously)
- a hydrolysed protein diet (the molecular weight of the protein has been modified such that the body does not recognise it as an allergen)

At Russell Vale Animal Clinic, we stock a quality range of hypoallergenic, novel protein, single protein and hydrolyzed protein diets.  We are the owner of a food allergic dog, so we are very experienced and knowledgeable on food trials and elimination diets.

Just one of our many "novel single protein diets" for dogs.

The benefit of fibre 
As vets, we know that many chronic diarrhoeas are responsive to fibre added to the food. Multiple studies have shown the benefit of adding Psyllium husks (aka Metamucil) to the pet's food.

Our September 2016 issue of our monthly newsletter, Animail Tails, lists how much to give. Click here to read. 

I am Dr Liz, the mad vet from Bellambi.  We are here to help you help your pet - keeping them happy and healthy, always.

Call us on 02 42 845988 if you have any questions on this, or any other pet health concern you have.