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diarrhoea

The seemingly random title of this post is actually a mnemonic for the tricky-to-spell ‘diarrhoea’. Of course, now you have to remember the sentence correctly which you may, or may not, find more difficult

 It’s a common enough condition amongst pets but can cause real concern for owners. Sometimes it’s a just an unpleasant bout of runny poo that will clear up by itself, given time, and other times it can be symptom of a more serious disease. But how do you tell the difference?
The ‘correct’ answer is you don’t. That’s what your vet is for, and if you are worried about your pet’s poo you should always consult a vet. A quick phone call to your clinic may be all that’s necessary to put your mind at rest, or you may be advised that you need to bring the patient in to be seen.
However, in a cat or dog, the sudden onset of diarrhoea is most likely to be due to something known as ‘dietary indiscretion’. In other words they have eaten something they shouldn’t have. This could simply be some human food that doesn’t agree with them, such as the kid’s dinner or the bread put out for the birds, or it could have been something disgusting from under a hedge somewhere. If your pet has a dodgy tummy but seems fine in themselves; still wants to eat and drink, seems as lively as ever and is not showing signs of pain, then 2 days cooked white meat and white rice fed in smaller, more-frequent-than-normal meals should sort them out. You can also get specially prepared tinned food from your vet for times like this, but chicken or fish, and rice will be fine. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water available at all times. After a couple of days, things should be more solid and you can gradually switch back to their normal food.
If the diarrhoea persists for more than 3-4 days, then go see your vet. There are various drugs that can help settle more chronic diarrhoea, and your vet might want to do a few tests to make sure there is nothing else going on.
If your dog or cat has diarrhoea accompanied by vomiting, pain or bloating, is not wanting to eat or is obviously less active than normal, then you shouldn’t wait but see your vet as soon as possible. Blood in diarrhoea should also be investigated sooner rather than later.
A puppy or kitten under 4-6 months old should be watched very closely if they develop loose stools. Even if they seem completely fine initially, they can go down hill quickly if they dehydrate.
Some pets develop diarrhoea intermittently. They are not unwell in themselves but they often need to ‘go’ frequently and with some urgency. It can be worth looking what is being fed to these animals, as a better quality pet food such as Burns often reduces the frequency of these episodes.

For pets other than dogs and cats, diarrhoea is usually more serious, mainly due to their smaller body size. Smaller pets can’t afford to lose much fluid and a couple of loose bowel movements can leave them moderately dehydrated. They can get very sick, very quickly and the wait and see approach has much less leeway than it does with a larger animal. Unless you have some experience keeping smaller pets hydrated while they recover from diarrhoea, your vet is the best person to put together a treatment plan to help them recover.