Diarrhea in older dogs - Blog Veterinaria La Asunción Elche

Diarrhea is one of the most frequent reasons for consultation in the day to day of the clinic. The vast majority of the time it affects puppies and young dogs, it is usually due to some homemade food that has made them sick. In older dogs, in addition to this cause, the problem is that there are many diseases that can cause diarrhea as one of their symptoms, and all of them must be considered, so it is always recommended to carry out complementary tests to rule out other diseases typical of the disease. advanced age.

We define diarrhea as a high number of bowel movements in a short time with excessive water content in the stool (watery diarrhoea). It is true that the consistency can vary, but the danger is above all in maintaining diarrhea for a long time, since our dog can become dehydrated.

Types of diarrhea in older dogs

The first thing will be to differentiate between acute diarrhea and chronic diarrhea. If it lasts less than three weeks, it will be acute diarrhoea, the dog will be down and it will be more noticeable. While if it persists continuously for more than three weeks, it will be a chronic diarrhea and the evolution will be slower. Intermittent type diarrhea is also considered chronic, that is, those in which there has been a time of normal stools interspersed with diarrhea.

In terms of severity, both acute and chronic diarrhea can be benign and can be resolved or controlled quickly and satisfactorily, as well as very serious and can end the life of our dog.

Next, it will be classified according to its origin (damaged part of the intestinal system)

– Diarrhea of ​​the small intestine:

It is usually large-volume liquid feces, but 2-3 stools a day, that is, the dog does not feel the urge to defecate constantly during the day. They also do not show discomfort when defecating, but the dog usually feels down and lacks appetite. They are usually lighter or yellowish in color and there may be some digested blood, which will give the stool a blacker color.

– Diarrhea of ​​the large intestine:

It is characterized by an increase in the need to defecate, and therefore in a high number of stools during the day, which, unlike the previous one, will be of small volume and with mucous consistency. Sometimes, we can find red blood typical of lesions in the final section of the large intestine (colitis). In this case, the dog is usually not very down, but cannot wait and feels uncomfortable until it defecates.

Possible Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

– Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

It is a fairly common pathology in older dogs and consists of a chronic inflammation of a part of the intestine that produces chronic and persistent diarrhea. The inflammatory response prevents nutrients from being absorbed, so they tend to lose weight and, in some cases, also experience vomiting and abdominal pain. The origin of the disease is not known for sure. It is only known that it has an immune-mediated basis and that factors such as genetic predisposition, allergens, diet or the intestinal flora itself may intervene. In any case, to reach its diagnosis we will need to rule out other causes and perform imaging tests such as ultrasound or endoscopy. The treatment is usually dietary and depending on the case, drugs such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or immunosuppressants will be needed. It is important to understand that it is a pathology that is never cured, so our dog will always have to follow a controlled diet and may have relapses where the symptoms will have to be treated again as they appear.

– Intestinal tumors

Some tumors such as carcinomas or lymphosarcomas can be located in the small or large intestine and cause chronic diarrhoea. They should be considered as a possible cause of diarrhea in older dogs with progressive weight loss. The treatment and the prognosis will depend on the type of tumor, the existence or not of metastasis and the location. These types of tumors are more rare to appear in young dogs.

– Rectal polyps

Polyps are non-tumorous tissue growths that usually appear in the rectum. They can ulcerate and cause chronic diarrhea in the large intestine., with increased need to defecate, mucus and fresh blood. They usually need surgery to remove them.

– Chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Occasionally, the appearance of diarrhea in older dogs is due to problems in other organs not related to the digestive system, for example, the kidneys. Older dogs with chronic kidney failure, that is, with irreversible loss of kidney function, can suffer from diarrhea and vomiting due to increased blood urea and creatinine. Although this disease does not have a curative treatment, once it is diagnosed, the symptoms can be treated and its progress slowed down with a special diet and appropriate drugs.

– Liver diseases

As in the previous case, liver problems, especially if they affect the production of bile, cause diarrhoea, vomiting and other non-specific gastrointestinal symptoms in their early stages that we must rule out.

– Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

The pancreas is another organ that, if affected by acute or chronic pancreatitis, can cause diarrhea in older dogs. In this case, the lack of pancreatic enzymes usually results in soft, strong-smelling stools that are lighter in color. Weight loss is usually very marked and abdominal pain appears.

– Other causes

We must not forget other causes of diarrhea such as sudden changes in diet, intestinal parasites or infectious gastroenteritis caused by bacteria or viruses, which can occur at any age.

In short, diarrhea in older dogs can be due to many problems that must be studied and ruled out by means of complementary tests by the veterinarian. In older dogs, the causes are very varied, of greater and lesser severity, and we must be attentive to any change in our dog’s stool to do a complete check-up, even if there are no other symptoms.