A dog of any breed can get diarrhea. Nevertheless, some dog breeds may be more prone to diarrhea than others. Experts often associate diarrhea in German Shepherds with immunoglobulin A deficiency, even though several other reasons can cause runny poop in your dog. Whichever the cause, it is important to know how to treat German Shepherd diarrhea.
To treat German Shepherd diarrhea, rest your dog and fast him for a day before introducing a bland diet such as boiled chicken and rice. You can also use over-the-counter antidiarrhea meds. If your GSD’s diarrhea is severe, an immediate vet visit is the wisest thing to do.
Whether your German Shepherd has had an episode or two of diarrhea or you simply want to be forearmed in case it happens, this article is for you. I give you a brief of what causes diarrhea in GSDs and a thorough step-by-step guide to treating German Shepherd diarrhea.
Let’s get to the details right away!
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- Why Does My German Shepherd Have Diarrhea?
- How To Treat German Shepherd Diarrhea
- The Bottom Line
Why Does My German Shepherd Have Diarrhea?
Under normal circumstances, healthy dogs pass chocolate-brown and compact stools. Instead, a dog with diarrhea passes watery or loosely-formed stool.
Although mild diarrhea is common in dogs, it can be a symptom of an underlying health condition.
As I mentioned in the intro, German Shepherds are among dog breeds prone to immunoglobulin A (IgA) insufficiency. This antibody has a protective function of keeping pathogens from the lining of mucosal tissues in the body, such as the stomach.
IgA deficiency is considered the main cause of immunodeficiency disease in dogs, with repercussions on mucosal immunity. However, there are several other grounds for runny poop in German Shepherds.
Below is a list of transient and more serious causes of diarrhea in German Shepherds:
- Dietary issues: These include food allergies and intolerances, feeding on too many table scraps, changing the food type, ingesting a foreign body, or eating toxic foods for dogs.
- Intestinal parasites: Among the common ones are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia.
- Gastroenteritis: The inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GIA) due to viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, and in some cases, sensitivity to medications or new food.
- Intestinal viruses: Some common ones include parvovirus, distemper virus, rotaviruses, and canine coronavirus.
- Severe illnesses: Including cancer, liver and kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatic disorders, Addison’s disease, and heart disease.
- Immune disorders: Including the earlier mentioned immunoglobulin A insufficiency.
- Emotional distress: Caused by issues like stress and anxiety.
The intensity of your German Shepherd’s diarrhea will vary depending on which of the above triggers is causing it. For example, diarrhea related to dietary issues may be mild and short-lived, but that may not be the case if parasitic infections are left untreated.
As you read next, we’ll consider these differences in my step-by-step guide on how to treat German Shepherd diarrhea.
How To Treat German Shepherd Diarrhea
Diarrhea can be a passing, mild issue in your German Shepherd, so you should start treatment with that in mind.
Despite that, the care of a German Shepherd with diarrhea should be treated as a vet case if it persists or if you suspect underlying serious conditions.
With that in mind, here are the 6 steps to treating German Shepherd diarrhea:
1. Allow your German Shepherd to Rest
Because transient illnesses like diarrhea also pull down your dog’s immune system, it is important to let your German Shepherd rest to facilitate prompt recovery.
Engaging your GSD in his usual activity can use up the little energy and moisture in your dog’s body and worsen the situation.
Your resting dog should be in a place where he can easily go out if he needs to poop. A spot where the floor is easy to clean in case of loose poop accidents will work to your advantage.
2. Fast and Hydrate your German Shepherd
Leaving your dog without food when he has diarrhea facilitates the recovery of the gastrointestinal tract. So, consider fasting your GSD for 12-24 hours. That also means withdrawing any treats or snacks.
However, it’s important to keep your German Shepherd hydrated while in fast. Because diarrhea causes the loss of body fluids, it can lead to dehydration and the consequent electrolyte imbalance. When persistent, dehydration can trigger kidney and other organ failure and eventually turn fatal.
Always have fresh water available, or invest in a cool water fountain such as the Petsafe Drinkwell below, which will entice your dog to drink and help support kidney health.
3. Feed your German Shepherd a Bland Diet
Especially if your German Shepherd is not vomiting, giving some form of nutrition is wise, but only after a 12-24 hour fast.
Heavy diets that will strain your German Shepherd’s GIA are an absolute no-no! Instead, consider a bland diet.
Foods on top of the list for a German Shepherd bland diet include boiled rice and chicken without the skin and bones. This has always worked for my German Shepherd, Willow. You could also start with the rice water or the chicken broth and gradually proceed to the solid boiled rice or chicken.
Other food options for a bland diet include:
- Skinless boiled potatoes.
- Pure canned pumpkin puree.
- Plain yogurt and probiotics to promote healthy digestive bacteria.
- Commercial bland diets, such as Under the Weather Bland Diet, from Amazon. This product offers you the possibility to choose your German Shepherd’s favorite taste, like chicken, turkey, and pumpkin, among others.
You can read my article on what to feed a German Shepherd with diarrhea for the complete details. Instead, I’ll tell you how long to keep your dog on a bland diet in a later step.
Before that, you must consult a veterinarian about dog diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours. And that note introduces our next step.
4. Consider Over-the-counter Meds after Vet Consultation
Some dog owners are quick to purchase over-the-counter human diarrhea medications to give to their dogs. I recommend that you don’t.
Human anti-diarrhea drugs such as Imodium, Pepto Bismol, and Kaopectate can be toxic for your dog. This is especially true if you administer them in the wrong dosage.
Besides, Kaopectate and Pepto Bismol have bismuth subsalicylate as an active ingredient, a derivative of aspirin or salicylic acid. Given in incorrect doses, they can easily intoxicate your dog.
Also, although Imodium (Loperamide) is used widely as an over-the-counter antidiarrhea medication, any genuine advisor will tell you to use it only after consultation with a vet and as directed by the dog doctor. You should also consider that some dog breeds can react negatively to the drug due to the MDR1 genetic mutation.
If your German Shepherd still has runny poop after 24 hours and you’ve already gone through the above steps, it’s time to consider a visit to the veterinarian.
5. Bring your German Shepherd to the Vet
As a precautionary rule, you do not need to wait to see a vet if your dog has diarrhea. You can see one immediately. This should necessarily be the case in the following situations:
- The diarrhea is uninterrupted.
- The diarrhea has lasted for over 24 hours.
- You suspect your GSD’s diarrhea is from toxic food or an ingested foreign object.
- Your German Shepherd looks weak and lethargic.
- Your dog is also vomiting.
- The runny poop has traces of blood, is tarry or black, or has tiny rice-like objects indicative of intestinal worms.
- Your GSD has pale or gray-bluish gums.
- Your dog shows signs of extreme pain, so much so that he won’t let you touch his tummy.
- Your German Shepherd refuses to eat any food after the fasting period.
- Your dog is straining to pass stool.
Once at the vet, the dog doctor will follow these steps to treat your German Shepherd’s diarrhea.
- Ask you to recount the history of your GSD’s diarrhea. Your dog’s vet will ask questions like how long the diarrhea has lasted, the color and texture of the poop, if your dog is on any meds or supplements, details of your dog’s diet, and places recently visited with your dog.
- Conduct a physical examination. This will help pick signs of a painful or bloated stomach, the presence of a foreign object in your dog’s intestines or rectum, infection in the anal sacs, or signs of dehydration.
- Run diagnostic tests. These could be lab tests or x-rays to help rule out unobvious underlying causes of the diarrhea. Possible discoveries from the test could be intestinal parasites, objects lodged in the intestines, or other serious illnesses like cancer and canine parvovirus.
- Prescribe appropriate treatment. The most probable vet-prescribed meds for dog diarrhea include metronidazole (Flagyl) and Tylosin (Tylan). These target protozoa, bacteria, and intestinal inflammation. Your vet may add a probiotic remedy to help your GSD’s GI tract resume its normal functioning.
- Provide specialized treatment. The vet may give special treatment like intravenous fluids and meds in case of dehydration or vomiting. If foreign bodies are in your dog’s intestines, surgery is necessary.
Once your dog’s diarrhea is under control, it is time to get your German Shepherd back to his usual feeding schedule, which is the info you’ll find in the last step.
6. Gradually Switch Back to your GSD’s Usual Diet
Especially if it has been a severe case, diarrhea can adversely weaken your GSD’s GI tract. For that reason, determine if to give a bland diet for one to two weeks, depending on your dog’s case.
Once you judge that your German Shepherd is ready to get back to his daily feeding routine, do so gradually.
We recommend you readjust your GSD to his usual diet following these steps.
- Give 75% of the bland food and 25% of his usual diet for the first two or three days.
- Give 50/50 portions of the bland food and his usual food for another two days.
- Give 25% bland diet and 75% his usual food for a day or two.
- Start to feed your dog with 100% of his usual food.
By the time you do all this, your dog’s GI tract should be back to normal. Just remember to keep your dog away from the previous diarrhea triggers as much as you can.
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Before you go, these two questions about how to treat German Shepherd diarrhea are extremely important.
Are There Home Remedies for German Shepherds with Diarrhea?
Rest, fasting, hydration, and a bland diet are already home remedies for German Shepherd diarrhea. However, you can also consider an herbal remedy with tiny quantities of catnip. The mandatory condition for any herbal remedies for dog diarrhea is to use them only after consultation with a vet.
What Should I Avoid if My Dog Has Diarrhea?
Do not give your dog human medications if he has diarrhea without first consulting your vet. Also, avoid food seasonings, oily foods, or heavy foods like butter, and stick to a bland diet. Large portions of the bland diet can also strain your dog’s GI tract, and you should avoid them.
The Bottom Line
Diarrhea is not a rare occurrence among German Shepherds and other dogs. Nonetheless, runny poop is often mild and easily controlled with home treatments such as rest, fasting, hydration, and a bland diet.
Should your GSD show severe signs of diarrhea, avoid home remedies and head straight to the vet. Dehydration and other diarrhea-related complications can turn fatal if you wait too long.
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