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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 20638
Experience:  Hello, I am a small animal veterinarian and am happy to discuss any concerns & questions you have on any species.
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My dog has watery diarrhea and tries to and cant.

Customer Question

my dog has watery diarrhea and tries to defecate and cant. he is very lethargic and wont eat?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.
How long has Frisco had these signs?
Has he had any vomiting, retching, gagging, or lip licking?
Any mucus or blood in his diarrhea?
Can he keep water down?
Are his gums pink or pale/white? Moist or sticky?
If you press on his belly, does he have any discomfort, tenderness, or tensing?
Could he have eaten something he should not have (ie bones, toys, rocks, plants, chemicals, etc)?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
his lips are pink and slightly sticky, he has vomited just once that I know of, symptoms came on yesterday. no blood in stool that I have seen
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
does not show signs of distress when pushing on belly
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
he can keep water down
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you,
First, I am glad to hear that you have seen no blood in his stool. Still if his gums are sticky (an early sign of dehydration), we need to tread with care. Furthermore, I would note that the straining to pass feces without doing so does sound suspicious of tenesmus (where the colon is inflamed by the diarrhea causing him to feel like he needs to go when he doesn't). And if colonic inflammation is present that could cause nausea and the one vomit we have seen.
With all this in mind, as I am sure you can appreciate, just like people, we can see loose stools in older dogs for a range of reasons. This can include bacterial or viral gastroenteritis, parasites/protozoal infections, dietary indiscretions, nutritional sensitivities, inflammatory disease (ie IBD), organ/metabolic issues, cancer (ie GI lymphoma), and toxins or foreign body ingestion (the last 2 less likely at his age).
Now in regards ***** ***** your wee one, there are some supportive care options we can start at home. First, if we have underlying nausea impacting his appetite, then we can try him with an antacid to settle his stomach. There are a range of OTC ones that can be used in dogs, so we can consider trying him with :
* Pepcid (More Info/Dose @ or
* Zantac (More Info/Dose @, or,
* Tagamet (More Info/Dose @
These should be offered 30 minutes before food and of course do double check with his vet if he is on any other medications or has any other health issues.
If we can get that stomach more settled, then we can also start him on a light/easily digestible diet. Examples of this would be cooked rice with boiled chicken, boiled white fish, scrambled eggs (made with water and not milk), or cottage cheese. There are also veterinary prescription diets that can be used in cases of gastroenteritis (ie Hill’s I/D or Royal Canin’s sensitivity). The easily digestible diet will be better tolerated and absorbed by the compromised gut and should get some nutrients in and result in less diarrhea. You can also feed this as small frequent meals to further decrease the volume of diarrhea he is producing. I usually advise that the diet be continued until the vomiting is settled, and that they are then slowly weaned back to their normal diet over a week.
Since diarrhea can quickly dehydrate an older dog, so we need to keep an eye on his hydration. To check Frisco 's hydration status to make sure they are not becoming dehydrated there are a few things we can test. One is whether the eyes appear sunken, if the gums are tacky instead of wet/moist, and whether the pet has a "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this HERE ( If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then you do want to have him seen by the vet before this becomes an additional issue. (since it is often the dehydration that starts to tap their energy level and depresses them)
If you are concerned that he is becoming dehydrated, you can try and encourage him to drink but offering fresh water or even low-sodium chicken broth. If he isn’t amenable to these, you can syringe feed him pedialyte as long as we settle that nausea. Pedialyte is nice (though aim for a flavorless one) because it will get some of those lost electrolytes back into him as well. A typical maintenance rate for hydration in an animal is 48mls per kilogram of weight a day. If you do give syringe pedialyte, this should obviously be divided up into multiple offerings through the day rather then all at once. This value will give you the total he needs for the day and is a good starting point to give you an idea of his daily requirement. (we aren’t calculating losses, so you can add an equivalent volume to match how much diarrhea he is producing). If he vomits when you have given pedialyte, then therapy should be discontinued (since we don’t want him vomiting because of our intervention).
Further to this, since you have not seen blood in his stools, you can consider trying him today on a dog safe anti-diarrheals. As I am sure you appreciate, these would not be a cure if his diarrhea is being caused by an infectious agent (ie bacteria will require antibiotics, parasites or protozoa will require anti-parasitic treatment, etc). Still it can slow the diarrhea to aid the body to absorb more water/nutrients then it would have if the diarrhea were unchecked. Furthermore, these treatments will coat the GI and could just settle the GI upset. In regards ***** ***** options for your wee one, the one we most commonly use in dogs is Kaolin/Kaopectate (More Info/Dose @ available from your local pharmacy. I would avoid Pepto Bismol here if he is not eating (as aspirin can cause stomach upset). Furthermore, Propectalin, Fast Balance, and Protexin Pro-Fiber (which is available OTC at vets, pet stores, and even Amazon) would be another options. All will slow diarrhea and those last ones have the bonus of providing support to the delicate good bacteria of the GI. So, you can consider trying these as a short term means of trying to soothe his upset GI.
Overall, there can be a range of causes for diarrhea in the older dog. Therefore, we do need to see if we can tackle this loose stool, settle his stomach, and get him back to normal. So, do keep an eye on his hydration and do support his fluid and nutrition intake through this bout of diarrhea. You can use the light diet and anti-diarrheals (+/- worm him if its been a while) to try to settle the benign causes for diarrhea. But if you try this and he isn’t showing improvement within the weekend (or is becoming more dehydrated), then we would want to consider a check with his vet +/- have a fecal sample tested. Depending on their findings, they will be able to advise you which of our concerns are causing the diarrhea and dispense treatment to clear this for him.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
Dr. B.