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How I Treat Labrador Diarrhea: A Dog Shelter Owner’s Approach

Last Updated: March 1, 2024

As a dog shelter owner, I’ve seen my fair share of health issues, but one that frequently tugs at my heartstrings is Labrador Diarrhea.

Labrador diarrhea is a common affliction that occurs as a symptom of gastrointestinal issues. Although it’s often mild and short-term, it can be acute or chronic, causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalance (body minerals).

So, how do you treat a Labrador with diarrhea? That’s a question I’ve answered more times than I can count. But don’t worry; I’m here to share that knowledge with you!

Here’s the short answer…

To treat a Labrador with diarrhea, initially offer a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice, ensure they stay hydrated, and gradually reintroduce their regular food. If symptoms persist beyond 24 hours or worsen, consult a veterinarian for further guidance.

Labradors are known for their hearty appetites, and sometimes, their culinary adventures lead them into trouble.

Understanding the steps to take when faced with this common issue can make all the difference.

“In my years of caring for Labs, I’ve learned that a simple diet change can turn a sickly dog into a vibrant one almost overnight.” – Sowmya Sankaran

From dietary adjustments to knowing when to call the vet, I’ll guide you through the essentials of managing and hopefully preventing future episodes of Labrador diarrhea.

Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways:

  • Determine if the diarrhea is from a minor issue like a diet mishap or signals a serious condition needing vet care.
  • Temporarily switch your Labrador to a bland diet like boiled chicken and rice to soothe their digestive system.
  • Prevent issues by carefully managing your Lab’s diet, avoiding sudden changes, and preventing ingesting harmful items.
A Labrador pooping diarrhea.

How To Treat a Labrador With Diarrhea

A weak, dehydrated Labrador due to diarrhea isn’t a pleasant sight for any dog owner.

Fortunately, there are several options you can use to prevent and treat Labrador diarrhea effectively.

Let’s explore them here in detail.

1. Fasting and Hydration

Diarrhea, especially acute, can have severe effects on the stomach, including inflammation and the strain of rushed bowel movements. For this reason, you should allow your Lab’s GI to rest and recover through fasting. 

Fasting means not giving your Labrador any food, including treats, snacks, or main meals, for at least 12 hours. 

“I remember the first time I dealt with a case of Labrador diarrhea. It was a wake-up call on how quickly things can go south if not addressed promptly.” – Sowmya Sankaran

While fasting your dog, proper hydration should also be done by giving your dog plenty of water to replace what’s lost with loose stool.

If your dog can handle it, you can feed him a bit of rice water (water from boiled rice) once in a while to provide energy and minerals.

A yellow Labrador with diarrhea.

2. Introduce a Bland Diet for Your Dog’s Recovery

A bland diet is the best home remedy for Labrador diarrhea. Your dog should start this diet 12 hours into fasting. This diet is easy to digest and works well with your dog’s delicate stomach following runny poop.

Bland diets for dogs with an upset stomach have the following characteristics:

  • They have one protein source and a simple carbohydrate. 
  • They are made with easy-to-digest foods that are soothing to your dog’s digestive system. 
  • The ingredients of a bland diet are low-fat and low-fiber to help restore solid stool and delay your Lab’s need to go the bathroom.

There are several bland diet options you can choose from, such as:

  • Boiled rice and chicken: This diet is the standard diet proposed for dogs with diarrhea because it’s easy to digest.
  • Vet-prescribed bland diets: These are great for dog owners who don’t want to make a bland homemade diet.

I also recommended the below bland foods. Ensure you cook them where appropriate:

  • Pasta
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Turkey
  • Banana
  • Yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
“Every time a dog under my care recovers from diarrhea, it reinforces the importance of hydration and a well-managed diet.” – Sowmya Sankaran

Whichever option of bland diet you go for, it’s important to start your dog on small amounts (a tablespoon or two every hour) and increase the serving gradually.

3. Preempt Labrador Diarrhea With a Fiber Supplement

Consider giving your Labrador fiber supplements before potentially stressful events, such as vet visits, to prevent stress-induced diarrhea.

The good bacteria in your Lab’s GI consume fiber and make short-chain fatty acids that heal the intestines. These can prevent stress-induced diarrhea from starting.

Psyllium fiber is an over-the-counter option contained in products like Metamucil. Because it’s not formulated for veterinary use, you should only use Metamucil for Labrador diarrhea after consulting with a vet.

The fiber supplement comes in capsule and powder form; you should provide plenty of water.

Don’t give flavored Metamucil options to dogs with diarrhea. Also, pay attention to the label to ensure the fiber supplement doesn’t contain xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol in plants that’s highly toxic for dogs.

4. Give Your Lab Probiotics

According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the GI makes up 70% of your dog’s immune system.

That means a healthy gut is vital for preventing and curing diseases and conditions like diarrhea.

Probiotics help stabilize the acidic conditions in the GI by facilitating the release of short-chain fatty acids.

“Preventing a repeat episode of diarrhea in our Labs has become a mission for me. It’s all about vigilance and understanding each dog’s dietary needs” – Sowmya Sankaran

Like fiber supplements, you can give probiotics before a stressful event that can trigger diarrhea in your Labrador. But probiotics are also a healthy daily option for your dog’s digestive health since they help fight harmful bacteria in the gut.

5. Avoid Feeding Your Labrador Human Food

Your Labrador might always convince you to give it some of your plate contents with its puppy dog eyes. But don’t give in, especially when your dog has diarrhea!

Some human foods are poisonous for dogs, and yielding to your Lab’s begging eyes can be the cause of Labrador runny poop.

Human foods that can cause diarrhea in Labradors include:

  • Milk and other dairy foods: Labradors shouldn’t take these due to their lactose content. Dogs don’t have enough lactase enzymes to digest dairy products.
  • Nuts: You want your dog to avoid nuts, especially pecans, almonds, and walnuts, which contain high amounts of fats and oils.
  • Salty snacks: These snacks can cause sodium ion poisoning.
  • Alcoholic beverages and food products: Alcohol decreases your dog’s control and coordination and affects the working of the Central Nervous System.
  • Coffee and chocolate: They contain methylxanthines, a substance that can trigger diarrhea.
  • Coconut, coconut water, and coconut oil: These foods are high in potassium and should be kept away from your Lab.

You can read more about this topic here: What Foods Are Poisonous to Labradors?

A Lab having a poop on the grass.

6. Give Your Lab GI-Soothing Herbs To Manage Diarrhea

If your Labrador’s diarrhea is mild and caused by temporary triggers like diet change, giving herbs with GI-soothing properties can help resolve your dog’s runny poop.

These include:

  • Fennel seed
  • Mint
  • Marshmallow
  • Ginger
  • Slippery elm

Caution: Always talk to your vet or an expert in veterinary herbal medicine before giving home remedies.

7. Change Your Lab’s Diet

If your Labrador’s diarrhea is linked to its diet, consulting your vet for a diet change could be the key to resolving the issue. An alternative, hypoallergenic diet may be recommended.

For Labs with protein intolerance, hydrolyzed protein diets offer a solution. These diets feature proteins broken down into small, digestible pieces that prevent the dog’s immune system from recognizing and reacting to allergens.

8. Consider Prescription Drugs

I’ve left the use of drugs as my last proposal for curing diarrhea in Labs. There are two reasons for this:

First, many Labrador diarrhea cases are mild and resolve within 24 hours. For these cases, home treatment and care can successfully resolve Labrador runny poop issues. 

Second, dog owners often run to give over-the-counter diarrhea drugs to their dogs. Usually, these drugs are meant for the treatment of diarrhea in humans.

Drugs like Imodium and Pepto Bismol indicated for treating diarrhea in humans should never be used with your dog unless prescribed by a veterinarian.

“There’s nothing quite like the relief of seeing a Labrador bounce back after a bout of diarrhea” – Sowmya Sankaran

For these reasons, the best approach is to consult a vet if your Labrador has diarrhea for more than 24 hours.

Your vet may do the following to treat your Labrador’s diarrhea…

Check Your Labrador’s Health History

A recount of your Labrador’s health history related to the diarrhea episode. Telling your Lab’s health history will reveal details on:

  • How long the dog has had diarrhea.
  • The nature of the stool (color, texture, presence of blood, etc.).
  • Any meds or home remedies administered.
  • Your Lab’s regular diet.
  • Any suspected triggers.
  • Any interactions with other affected pets.

Perform a Physical Examination

The vet will perform a thorough physical examination to detect any issues related to your Lab’s diarrhea.

The physical examination focuses on issues such as a painful abdomen, fluid collection in the stomach, any detectable masses, anal sac infections, and dehydration, among others.

Do Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic testing to detect any possible diarrhea causes beyond the physical. The tests that the vet will perform on your Lab with diarrhea include:

  • Fecal floatation to detect the presence of intestinal worms.
  • Blood testing for diarrhea-triggering underlying conditions such as pancreatitis or liver disease.
  • Abdominal x-ray to detect any foreign bodies in your dog’s digestive tract.
  • An endoscopy to assess the intestine for abnormal tissues.

Give Your Dog the Necessary Treatment

Treatment is in line with the results from the physical and diagnostic testing. Treatment options will include:

  • A prolonged bland diet for Labrador diarrhea with no underlying causes or caused by diet issues.
  • Intravenous fluids for dogs with extreme dehydration.
  • Anti-diarrhea meds.
  • Dewormers, according to fecal flotation results.
  • Anti-nausea meds.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers if needed.
  • Antibiotics, where bacterial infection is discovered.
  • Fiber and probiotics to help support your Lab’s intestinal health.
  • Surgery if foreign bodies are blocking your Lab’s digestive tract.

9. Allow Your Lab To Have Enough Rest

With all the Labrador diarrhea treatment options discussed above, you must allow your dog plenty of rest.

Diarrhea causes the loss of body minerals and fluids and takes plenty of your dog’s energy. As such, you must avoid giving him physically engaging activities until he has fully recovered.

Rest also aids in the recovery and renewal of body tissues strained or injured by consistent loose stool movements, such as the intestinal lining and the anus.

Sleeping Labrador Puppy

Bloody Diarrhea in Labrador

When it happens, you should address bloody diarrhea immediately and seek veterinarian advice

There are two main types of bloody diarrhea in canines:

1. Hematochezia

Hematochezia is bloody diarrhea or stool that happens due to bleeding in the colon or the lower digestive system. The blood has a bright red color.

If only a line of blood is seen in the stool, its occurrence could be merely a fluke. However, the consistent appearance of blood in your Lab’s diarrhea could be indicative of serious conditions, including:

  • Bacteria or virus infections
  • Colitis (inflammation in the colon due to infections or autoimmune conditions)
  • Ruptured blood vessels in the small intestines
  • Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  • Parvovirus
  • Cancer

2. Melena

This kind of dog bloody diarrhea or stool has a dark red color because the blood in the stool has been digested.

Dark, bloody diarrhea announces a serious health problem in your Lab’s upper digestive tract. It can be caused by:

  • Ulcers
  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Intoxication
  • Foreign bodies in the digestive tract
  • Parasites
  • Inflammatory disorders

Whichever type of bloody diarrhea your Lab presents, the most prudent move is to immediately call and take your dog to the vet. Bloody diarrhea is potentially fatal.

Labrador Puppy With Diarrhea

Diarrhea in Labrador puppies is caused by the same triggers that cause adult Labrador diarrhea.

Nonetheless, puppies are more prone to diarrhea because their immune system isn’t yet fully developed and because of the increased exposure to diarrhea-causing factors such as contact with intestinal parasite larvae in infected soil.

Some of the most serious causes of Labrador puppy diarrhea include:

Disease and Infections

Diseases and infections that mostly predispose Labrador puppies to diarrhea include:

  • Canine Parvovirus and Canine Coronavirus: A study with puppies below 12 months of age found that the two diseases were more significantly associated with puppy diarrhea than other diseases and infections such as salmonella and giardia. Another study found that the primary risk factor for weaning diarrhea among puppies was exposure to fecal excretions contaminated with canine parvovirus type 2.
  • Intestinal parasites: Puppies are often born with intestinal parasites or easily pick them from the environment. Diarrhea is a recurrent clinical sign in intestinal parasite infections such as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, giardia, whipworms, and coccidian.


Like other systems in your dog’s body, the brain controls the GI system. When your Lab is stressed, the brain chemicals send messages to your dog’s GI, which he can respond to with physical symptoms such as diarrhea.

Examples of stressful situations that can cause diarrhea-triggering stress in your Lab include:

  • Meeting new people
  • Moving to a new place
  • The first days of being left home alone

Ingesting Garbage and Toxins

Puppies often swallow or eat stuff they shouldn’t. These could be pieces of toys or food taken from the garbage. Also, puppies may lick or chew leaves of poisonous plants in your garden and suffer diarrhea.

Change in Diet

Puppies have more delicate stomachs than adult dogs. Changes in their diet can easily be met with resistance and cause diarrhea.

If your Lab puppy has diarrhea with fever, pale gums, pain, vomiting, or bloody diarrhea, take him to the vet immediately. 

Understanding Labrador’s Digestive Health

Labradors, known for their high energy, are at an increased risk of diarrhea, a condition influenced by their age and susceptibility to intestinal parasites.

Research on Portuguese police working dogs revealed that high activity levels are linked to more frequent diarrhea episodes.

This suggests that a Labrador’s high energy could make them more prone to diarrhea, especially during periods of intense activity.

Additionally, both puppies and older dogs, with their weaker immune systems, are more vulnerable to diseases and infections that can lead to diarrhea.

Young dogs, in particular, face risks from factors such as exposure to parasite-carrying prey, contact with contaminated environments, and interactions with children.

A study highlighted that dogs under six months are most susceptible to endoparasitic infections, a leading cause of diarrhea.

Furthermore, when examining the prevalence of intestinal parasites, Labradors ranked sixth, following Border Collies, Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and mixed breeds.

This ranking indicates that Labradors are relatively prone to diarrhea, as it is a common symptom of intestinal worms.

However, Labradors, like all dogs, can be affected by various general causes of diarrhea. The next section will explore these causes in more detail.

Why Does My Lab Have Runny Poop?

Your Lab has runny poop, probably because of health issues like infectious diseases, pre-existing medical conditions, dietary issues, exposure to toxins, anatomical problems, or sudden disease.

Infectious Diseases

These are diseases that Labs can contract directly or indirectly from other dogs or animals. They include:

  • Intestinal parasites: These include hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and giardia.
  • Enteric pathogens: These organisms reside in the intestines and can cause disease. A study in North America found that 22% of fecal samples from healthy dogs and 30% of fecal samples from dogs with diarrhea had potential pathogens.
  • Viral infections: These conditions include parvovirus, distemper virus, coronavirus, rotavirus, and canine adenovirus.
  • Protozoa: This microorganism includes giardia, coccidian, and cryptosporidium. 
  • Bacterial infections: These infections include Salmonella spp., clostridium difficile, and pathogenic E.coli.
  • Algal infections: They include prototheca (algaemia).
  • Fungal infections: They include histoplasmosis.

Dietary Problems

A Lab puppy with diarrhea.

Dietary factors are those that cause Labrador diarrhea by disrupting the dog’s digestive system and processes. These include:

  • Sudden diet change
  • Food allergy and intolerance
  • A poor-quality diet
  • Scavenging (dogs eating things they shouldn’t)

Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

Labrador runny poop isn’t normal and is likely linked to medical conditions that can interfere with your dog’s metabolic processes. They include:

  • Addison disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)
  • Liver disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney disease
  • Intestinal cancer

Anatomical Issues in the GI

Anatomical issues are those that affect the structure of your Lab’s GI structure. These are symptomized by vomiting, excessive drooling, regurgitation, constipation, and diarrhea, among other signs.

An example of a GI anatomical issue that causes Labrador diarrhea is intussusception, a condition in which a segment of the intestine inflates into the opening of an adjacent part of the intestine.

Intussusception can occur if your Lab swallows foreign bodies, has viral intestinal infections, untreated intestinal parasites, or intestinal tumors.

Exposure to Toxins

Toxins that can cause diarrhea in dogs include:

  • Pesticides: Most pesticides have arsenic which can poison a dog if ingested and cause symptoms like diarrhea.
  • Drugs: They include human drugs for diarrhea that contain bismuth subsalicylate (a derivative of aspirin and salicylic acid). According to Preventative Vet, these drugs, including Kaopectate and Pepto Bismol, can be toxic for your dog, especially if given in the wrong doses.

Sudden Diseases

These diseases can happen suddenly without pre-announcing signs or following triggering experiences. They include:

  • Acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome: This condition refers to sudden severe bloody diarrhea accompanied by vomiting and has the potential for fatal dehydration.
  • Acute pancreatitis obstruction: This condition is a reversible pancreatic inflammation that can come with high-fat diets, hereditary factors, or trauma and has diarrhea as one of the clinical symptoms.

Other Factors

Other factors that cause Labrador runny poop include: 

  • Garbage toxicosis or eating toxic foods such as grapes and chocolate, overeating, or eating spoilt food.
  • Ingesting foreign objects such as toy pieces, a piece of clothing, or a piece of a stick, known as pica. Check out this post for more info, Why Do Labradors Eat (Poop, Grass, Bees, Dirt, Socks, & More)?
  • Indulging in too many fatty foods or table scraps.
  • Reaction to antibiotics and other drugs.
  • Stress or anxiety.

Key Takeaways

Labrador diarrhea is usually mild and short-term. However, it can become acute and cause serious health risks, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and death. 

Knowing how to stop Labrador diarrhea can be the determining factor between restoring your Lab’s health and increasing the risk for severe disease. 

Diarrhea-causing factors in Labradors include disease and infections, diet issues, stress, and ingesting objects.

Fasting and feeding your dog a bland diet is the most effective home remedy for mild Labrador diarrhea. When severe or triggered by underlying health conditions, Labrador diarrhea requires the immediate attention of a veterinarian.

Sowmya Sankaran
Sowmya Sankaran is crazy about dogs, rabbits and birds! An avid rescuer and rehabilitator of dogs and other animals, she runs the Life With Equality Charitable Trust, an animal shelter in Chennai, India. She is also the founder of Petsmond, a pet website, in which she shares her experiences in raising different creatures and paying attention to intricate aspects of their health.

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