Your dog may experience occasional loose stools -- not quite as firm as they should be but not in a liquid state like diarrhea, either. The occasional loose stool is not typically cause for concern unless your dog experiences other physical symptoms, or sudden or unusual changes in bowel or digestive habits. Chronic loose bowel movements can be a sign of a potential medical problem and should be evaluated by a vet.
Typical Reasons for Loose Stool
If your dog gets into the garbage, eats too much people food or has a bout of indigestion, he may have one or two loose or runny bowel movements. Some medications, like antibiotics and heartworm medications, can produce loose stools as well. Ask your vet if this is cause for concern, especially if meds are prescribed long-term. Toxic plants, like plum trees, can also be culprits.
If the condition appears on occasion and stools are not blood-tinged or dark and tarry, it's not usually a cause for worry. If your dog strains, cries or goes back and forth between constipation and loose stools, he may suffer from chronic constipation. Chronic constipation can be caused by diet, disease or stress; it requires a vet's exam to narrow the cause.
Medical Conditions and Diseases
Many medical conditions present with changes in gastrointestinal habits. Your pup may have inflammatory bowel disease, a kidney or liver disorder, or a bacterial or viral infection. Tumors in the intestinal tract can also cause loose stools. Chronically loose stools could signify gastrointestinal infection, internal blockage or early warning of anal sac disease or parasitic infection. Make a vet appointment and collect a stool sample for evaluation. Also take a list of medications and supplements your dog is taking, and a list of the foods he normally eats.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your vet will perform a physical exam and look at your dog's feces under a microscope. He may also test blood and urine, and may recommend an ultrasound or X-ray, especially if a tumor or blockage is suspected. Treatment will depend on the underlying problem. Infections are treated with antibiotics; parasites, like worms, are eradicated with a dewormer. You vet may recommend dietary changes as well. In severe cases, your pup may require anti-diarrheal medications and hydrating IV fluids.
Home Remedies for Loose Stools
With your vet's approval, firm up your dog's feces with home remedies. Veterinarian Karen Becker recommends adding pure canned pumpkin puree to your dog's regular food twice a day. Use 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of weight, she recommends. Alternatively, boil chicken or shred lean beef, and mix it with rice as a special treat. Both methods can help clear up loose stool problems -- but you can't provide them long-term.
Your vet may also recommend a one-day fast to clear out your dog's system. If you follow this course of action, continue to make fresh water available so your pup doesn't become dehydrated.