Kaopectate For Dog: Dangers and Alternatives

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Can you give a dog Kaopectate for mild diarrhea? ​The short answer is no. You should not give your dog Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol because these over-the-counter products contain additional active ingredients that can be very harmful to dogs.​ Kaopectate is a brand-name anti-diarrheal medication intended for human use. Another common brand name of this type of anti-diarrheal medication is Pepto-Bismol.

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There are safer ways for pet parents to treat mild dog diarrhea and stomach upset at home. Severe diarrhea or obvious stomach upset lasting longer than a day or two requires veterinary attention.

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Dangers of Kaopectate for dogs

Kaopectate is a human medication found in pharmacies. The brands Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol are staples in many people's medicine cabinets. These products are used to treat cases of diarrhea and minor stomach upset and indigestion in humans.

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Kaopectate (sometimes called kaolin/pectin) and similar brands originally contained the active ingredient attapulgite, an inert clay aluminum. But Kaopectate was recently reformulated and now contains bismuth salicylate as its active ingredient. Bismuth salicylate is an aspirin derivative, and this is where things get dangerous for dogs and other pets.

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Bismuth salicylate is an agent designed to work by coating the lining of the stomach and intestines. Although Kaopectate and other brand-name upset stomach relief products are available without a prescription, you should not administer them to your dog without the guidance of a veterinarian. In fact, it's unlikely that a veterinarian will recommend these anti-diarrheal products at all considering that new formulations have made them much riskier to use for pets than they used to be. There is an increased possibility of reaction to the salicylate.

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Bismuth salicylate toxicity for dogs

Furthermore, dogs who are allergic to aspirin, who are taking products containing aspirin or steroids, or who are taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should not be given Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol containing bismuth salicylate.​ Products containing bismuth salicylate can also cause constipation, temporary darkening of the dog's stools, and other serious side effects, such as gastrointestinal ulcerations or stomach ulcers.

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Also, never administer Kaopectate with bismuth salicylate to cats. Aspirin and any aspirin derivative is extremely toxic and potentially fatal to felines. Diarrhea in cats can be serious and often requires immediate veterinary attention.

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Side effects of Kaopectate for dogs

In addition to being potentially toxic to dogs, Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol, and other anti-diarrheal medication can result in the following side effects:

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  • constipation if used in high doses
  • fever
  • lethargy
  • abdominal pain.

Clearly, any of these symptoms require immediate veterinary care. Also note that anti-diarrheal products can react with the following medications: Digoxin, Lincomycin, aspirin, steroids, and Rimadyl.

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All of these are reasons why attempting to medicate pet health issues at home can be problematic. Cases of severe canine dog diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, or cases of constipation or stomach upset where an intestinal obstruction has not been ruled out by a veterinarian should not involve any over-the-counter medication, including Kaopectate. These situations require immediate veterinary attention, and essentially, no medication should be given without knowing the cause of the dog's diarrhea.

Treatments for stomach upset in dogs

Most bouts of dog stomach upset do not require medication at all and especially not Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol, or anything containing bismuth salicylate. Cases of mild or dietary indiscretion canine diarrhea are usually self-limiting and can be managed with a bland diet and small, frequent feedings for a few days.

Suggestions for a bland diet that can help ease dog stomach upset include boiled boneless and skinless chicken breast or shredded chicken and white rice. Although white rice has less nutritional value than brown or wild rice, it's easier to digest. Avoid butter or seasonings in any dog food. Also, boiled and mashed sweet potato or canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filler) are good for dog diarrhea and even constipation thanks to the high fiber content. Bone broth is another option.

In summary

Kaopectate and other anti-diarrheal medications designed for humans, such as Pepto-Bismol, should not be given to dogs. These products contain bismuth salicylate, which is possibly toxic to dogs and may cause serious side effects. Contact a veterinarian to determine the cause of the dog's diarrhea before administering any treatments. Most cases of stomach upset do not require medication.

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