What is diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea – frequent liquid or loose bowel movements – can be caused by a number of different illnesses and some of them can be serious, but it is also a very common occurrence after a change in diet or environment.
Diarrhoea will usually hit suddenly and, in most cases, will only last for a number of days, sometimes only a number of hours. In some extreme cases, loose or liquid bowel movements can last for a number of months. In these more severe cases, dehydration may develop and this could lead to more serious health concerns.
It is important to keep in mind that in the instance of diarrhoea lasting more than a couple of days, the loose or liquid stool could point to an underlying illness.
Signs of dehydration in pets can be excessive panting in dogs, excessive drinking of water or miscoloured and dry gums. Serious dehydration can lead to weakness, intolerance towards exercise and even collapse and seizures.
If the diarrhoea continues for a number of weeks, underlying causes could include a number of serious conditions. Inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, kidney or liver disease and bacterial or viral infections can all cause bouts of diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea, just like in humans, isn’t a serious health condition. If the symptoms persist for a week or more, it’s best to visit your vet for a check-up.
The obvious symptoms of diarrhoea are loose or liquid bowel movements. Other signs of the condition include bad-smelling flatulence, changes in the volume of the stool, even changes to the animal’s appetite and water intake.
Your pet will usually drink a lot more water due to increased bowel movements. You may find mucus or signs of blood in the stool. The effects of ongoing diarrhoea may include: lethargy and an intolerance to exercise, dehydration, reduced appetite, fever, weight loss and vomiting. If your pet is showing a hurried urge to go to the release its bowels, this is also a sign of diarrhoea.
Remember, the stool doesn’t necessarily need to be liquid to be classed as diarrhoea; often the stool will be loose or soft. If your pet is passing black-coloured waste, there could be internal bleeding in the stomach or intestines. In this case, or in the case of fever or excessive vomiting, veterinarian assistance is necessary.
Diarrhoea is considered to be chronic if there has been a change in frequency and consistency to the animal’s faeces for more than a three week period. Diagnosing diarrhoea is as simple as observing the excrement; your vet will simply take a stool sample and conduct a physical examination of your pet.
The true concern will be for the cause of the diarrhoea. You vet will determine the origin of the diarrhoea (the small or large intestine), take biopsies from the intestines and will most likely take blood chemical profiles. Blood samples as well as x-rays may be taken until the cause of the diarrhoea is determined.
If considered to be chronic diarrhoea, viral or bacterial infection may be the cause. Some other causes may be inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, or even parasite infestation.
Treatment and management
In most cases diarrhoea will subside in time and with a stable, stress-free environment, a good diet and time to rest, your pet will soon be back to normal. Treatment for diarrhoea itself is often not necessary; most vets, if the condition is chronic, will look to determine if there are any underlying diseases that require attention.
Stress can cause the onset of diarrhoea. A stressful or new environment, paired with a new diet can lead to some diarrhoea, often lasting a day or two. An environment where the animal feels intimidated or abused may cause diarrhoea to last longer and should be avoided.
Some veterinarians suggest that a quantity of rice water be introduced into the animal’s diet to help firm up the stool. Rice water is simply the cloudy water that remains after boiling rice. If your pet isn’t interested in drinking it, mix through a little bit of chicken stock for taste.
The only real way to prevent the onset of diarrhoea is to try to keep your pet’s diet consistent, its environment calm and stress-free and free of any other illness.
The fact of the matter is that all cats and dogs are likely to have a bout of diarrhoea at some point in their lives.
Commonly affected breeds
All breeds of cat and dog are susceptible to developing diarrhoea. Animals living in stressful environments or pets that have moved to a new home are more likely to develop the condition.
There are no real treatments specifically suited to treating your pet’s diarrhoea. Giving your pet the water that remains after boiling rice is a great way to build up their ability to overcome the condition, however.
Diarrhoea is considered to be chronic if your pet continues to pass loose stool after a couple of days. Some cases of diarrhoea can last for many weeks or even many months.
If diarrhoea persists for a week or more, it could well be the sign of a more serious condition. There are a number of serious illnesses and diseases that tend to bring about chronic diarrhoea as a symptom. See your vet if it lasts for more than a couple of days.