My Dog Has Diarrhea, Should I Call the Vet?

As a dog owner, it’s normal to worry if you notice your pet is dealing with diarrhea. But how do you know when diarrhea is a cause for concern and when it’s something you can just observe for a little while? Is diarrhea always a reason to call the vet?

In the article below, we’ll help you learn more about situations in which you should call the vet for dog diarrhea, as well as times when you should just wait and see. With the help of this information, you should have a better idea of how to respond if your pet is dealing with diarrhea in the future.


Wait and See Situations

There are some situations where it would be ok to wait and see how your dog feels.

Diarrhea Lasts Less than 24 Hours

Any diarrhea that lasts less than 24 hours is not a cause for concern unless it is accompanied by other worrying symptoms. Diarrhea for a day or less is typically related to stomach upset and can be caused by a wide range of issues. Some dogs may develop diarrhea even just from overexerting themselves now and then, so a little bit of loose stool is typically not a problem. You do not have to call your vet if your dog’s diarrhea clears up quickly, and especially not if your pet is drinking water and eating normally through this time.

Diarrhea is Related to Obvious Stress

If your pet has been recently stressed by something—a trip in the car, a thunderstorm, a move to a new home, or a new baby in the family, for example—then you may notice they are having more diarrhea than normal. Diarrhea that is related to stress and is not constant usually does not require a trip to the vet. If your pet is so stressed that they are having frequent diarrhea, however, then you should reach out to the veterinarian for assistance with your dog’s anxiety issues.

Diarrhea Occurs After a Change in Food

Any changes in your pet’s regular food or treats may cause temporary diarrhea. If you know you have just changed your dog’s food and you notice diarrhea shortly thereafter, you don’t have to call your vet. Additionally, if you share human foods with your dog—even those that are not toxic to animals—you may see some loose stool or diarrhea for the following day. To prevent this problem, only feed your dog food and treats designed specifically for dogs, and do not change their food without slowly transitioning from the old one to the new one over the course of several days.

When to Call the Vet for Your Dog’s Diarrhea

If your dog is showing any of the symptoms below it is important to give your Heart + Paw veterinarian a call.

Diarrhea Lasts Longer than a Day or Occurs More than a Couple of Times in One Day

Diarrhea that lasts longer than one day, and especially diarrhea that lasts longer than two days, should be checked out by your vet. It is a good idea to call first, but plan to take in a stool sample for your vet to test as well. If your dog is having diarrhea more than a couple of times in a day, and especially if it is uncontrollable, this is also a reason to contact your vet for more information. Your vet will let you know what you should do to help your dog and tell you whether you need to come in.

Diarrhea is Accompanied with Vomiting More than Once

If your dog has diarrhea for less than a day and vomits once, this is probably just normal stomach upset and will work itself out quickly. However, if your dog’s diarrhea is accompanied by multiple bouts of vomiting, then it is time to call the vet. Your dog may be dehydrated from too much vomiting and diarrhea, and they could need fluids. Additionally, the underlying cause of these symptoms together could be something serious, such as ingestion of toxic substances. Your vet can give you more information and let you know if you need to bring in your pet for a visit.

Diarrhea is Accompanied with a Fever or Other Concerning Symptoms

Other symptoms that can be a cause for worry along with diarrhea include fever, pain, confusion, swelling of the face and neck, or seizures. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, go to the vet.

Your Veterinarian Can Help with Your Dog’s Diarrhea

Based on this information, you can easily see how common diarrhea really is for dogs. Many dogs experience diarrhea every now and then, and a few infrequent bouts of this problem are typically nothing to worry about.

However, if your dog’s diarrhea becomes excessive or if they have other concerning symptoms along with it, then it may be time to reach out to the vet. And of course, any time your dog is dehydrated from frequent diarrhea, it is important to go to the vet or emergency vet for fluids as soon as possible.

Need to talk with a veterinarian about your dog’s diarrhea? Book an appointment at any of our Heart + Paw locations by using the online form!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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