Diarrhea, the most common medical condition associated with the intestines, can occur as a result of damage to the digestive system, but may simply be your dog’s way of coping with an ingested irritant. Diarrhoea may be accompanied by vomiting, tummy rumbles, pain, burping, or passing wind, and it may contain mucus or blood. Get immediate veterinary attention if your dog is lethargic, has a fever, or passes blood, or if the bout of diarrhoea is persistent or explosive, because these symptoms could indicate a potentially serious condition.In some cases, diarrhoea can be associated with an increase or loss of appetite or severe lethargy. Examination of the characteristics of a dog’s diarrhoea and observation of any changes in behaviour can help to identify the problem.

General causes include the following:

  • Dietary indiscretion;
  • Dietary allergy or sensitivity;
  • Food poisoning;
  • Parasites, such as Giardia or Trichuris;
  • Viruses, such as parvovirus (dog in the above image is suffering from parvovirus) or distemper;
  • Bacteria, such as Campylobacter,
  • A reaction to some drugs.

Treatment for diarrhea
A dog with persistent diarrhea should always be examined by a vet. Acute diarrhoea is treated symptomatically; where the cause is known, such as with diet, drug, toxin, or parasite problems, these are eliminated. Antibiotics are seldom used unless bacterial infection is suspected. A dog with diarrhoea can become dehydrated, so even if you are withholding food from your dog, encourage it to drink plenty of fresh water. Many experts recommend that you avoid changing the dog’s diet after a bout of diarrhoea; its regular diet provides familiar food to the gut flora.

Acute bloody vomiting and diarrhoea
This life-threatening condition occurs most frequently in small, middle-aged dogs like Miniature Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers, and Dachshunds. A dog with these symptoms needs emergency help – it may require hospitalization and aggressive fluid therapy.

Inflammatory bowel disease (colitis)
The term “colitis” refers to a range of immune-mediated diseases that involve inflammation of the large intestine or colon. Affected dogs have chronic diarrhoea, pass stools more frequently, experience pain when they pass stools, lose weight, look malnourished, and are often anaemic. The German Shepherd has a high incidence of colitis and other bowel disorders. Your vet will recommend a “hypoallergenic diet”, and immune-suppressing drugs such as corticosteroids are routinely used.

Constipation is not uncommon and is usually self-limiting, lasting only a day or two. Serious causes include eating indigestible material, nerve disorders, obstructions, pain, and dehydration. In older dogs, inactivity and poor muscle tone can cause constipation. If your dog is suffering from age-related constipation, follow these guidelines:

  • Soak dry food in equal parts of water and leave 20 minutes for it to be fully absorbed, to increase fluid intake;
  • Let your older dog out frequently, increasing opportunities to defecate;
  • Give your dog cow’s milk – a natural laxative – or use a mild product such as lactulose, as instructed by your vet.

Rectal obstructions
Obstructions that affect the rectum can cause constipation or ribbon-like stool. An enlarged prostate gland, for example, can interfere with the normal passage of stool. A perineal hernia occurs when a weakness in the walls of the rectum causes a bulge; stool can build up in the bulge, diverting the course of the rectum and dilating it, resulting in a rectal obstruction. The objective of treatment is to remove the obstruction. Dogs with enlarged prostates are given drugs to shrink the prostate, or are neutered. Hernias are often surgically repaired.

Dogs scoot by dragging their bottoms along the ground, preferably on an abrasive surface such as grass or carpet. Although irritation from worms causes some dogs to scoot, anal sac irritation is a more common cause. Some dogs with anal sac problems will jump up from a resting position as if they have had a fright or felt a sudden pain. Uncomplicated blocked anal sacs can be emptied by gentle external pressure. Its not pretty, but its a simple way to provide releif for your dog. I’ve heard of several cases of pet owners almost worming their dogs to death thinking that their dogs scooting was worm related, when in fact it was from blocked anal sacs. If the anals sacs are infected, the sac swells and bursts through the skin on either side of the anus, producing a painful draining abscess. Treatment for infected anal sacs will involve antibiotics.

A distended belly
There are a number of causes of a distended abdomen, but obesity is the most common. In unneutered females, pregnancy and exaggerated phantom pregnancies are also normal causes of a distended abdomen. A dog’s belly can become enlarged, however, for a number of clinical reasons that involve serious medical conditions; see your vet immediately if your dog’s abdomen suddenly and unexpectedly enlarges.

Burping and flatulence may be caused by swallowing air when eating quickly, but also by eating highly fermentable foods such as soya (tofu) and undigestible carbohydrate as in uncooked greens. To minimize these problems, feed several small meals of easy-to-digest, low-fibre food daily. Activated charcoal and the over-the-counter product simethicone may be useful to absorb intestinal gas. Another reported cause is certain brands of dog food, leading to the the colloquialism, “chum bum”.

Pancreas disorders
The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the intestines to digest food. Not enough digestive enzymes leads to malabsorption conditions. Seepage of enzyme anywhere other than directly into the intestine causes intense and painful assuming a “prayer position”. To treat, pain control and overcoming shock are vital. Food is withheld to reduce pancreatic activity. When stability returns, a low-fat maintenance diet is given, usually in small, frequent meals. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency: the pancreas can lose its ability to manufacture digestive enzymes when the immune system malfunctions and attacks and destroys the part of the pancreas that secretes these enzymes. Affected individuals eat voraciously, but lose weight. They scavenge, and pass copious quantities of grey, cow manure-like diarrhoea. This condition can be treated with pancreas enzyme capsules, given before meals.

Diabetes Mellitus
Insulin, produced by the pancreas, helps body cells absorb glucose. In diabetes mellitus (or “sugar diabetes”), the immune system mistakenly destroys the pancreas’s insulin-manufacturing capacity. A resulting lack of insulin causes blood sugar to increase after eating. Breeds more likely to suffer from sugar diabetes include Dachshunds, Poodles, and small terriers. A diabetic dog requires daily insulin injections , and your vet will also recommend a high fibre diet.

Liver disorders
The liver’s digestive responsibilities include metabolizing or detoxifying substances from the intestines.

Common liver problems include:
– Liver disease (hepatitis): acute hepatitis involves sudden and severe inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by infections such as infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) and leptospirosis, trauma from accidents, advanced heatstroke, or poisoning from plants, chemicals, or drugs. Early signs of liver disease include vomiting, lethargy, increased drinking and urinating, and weight loss. By the time that jaundice (yellow staining to the body) develops, over 80 per cent of liver function has been lost. Treatment involves correcting the underlying cause; diet management eases the work of the liver while that is done.
– Liver shunt: blood vessels from the intestines sometimes bypass the liver; toxic substances are not removed, and brain inflammation can result. Affected dogs may stagger, twitch, act lethargically, or have seizures. This condition may require surgery.