It’s inevitable that your Australian shepherd will experience a few bouts of diarrhea throughout their life. When it happens it can be worrying and difficult to know what to do. This article will cut to the chase and explain the common causes of diarrhea and what you can do to help your Aussie recover.
7 Causes Of Diarrhea In Australian Shepherds
This section runs through the most common causes of diarrhea in Australian shepherds. While reading, something might stand out to you and be particularly relevant to your Aussie’s situation.
1. Digestive upset
The first thing to consider is whether your Australian shepherd has eaten anything they shouldn’t have. General dietary indiscretions easily cause upset stomachs and account for the majority of diarrhea cases.
The obvious problematic items would be things from the trash, rotten foods, foreign objects, and anything foul your Aussie might find in the bushes at the park.
Less obvious items could simply be a new treat you’ve decided to try, or your Aussie has eaten some table scraps from someone in the house without you knowing.
Many Aussies suffer from sensitive stomachs, so eating anything outside of their standard food and regular treats could easily be the cause.
2. Changing food too fast or using low quality food
If you’ve recently tried changing your Aussie’s kibble, it could be the cause of diarrhea (even if she’s still eating it).
Every dog is different: even if one kibble works well with your friend’s Australian shepherd, it may not work well for yours. It could indicate the kibble is of low quality or the change was just made too fast.
It’s always advised to switch food slowly over 1-2 weeks so your Aussie’s body can get used to the new formula. This is especially true if your Aussie already has a sensitive stomach. Change too quickly, and the result could be diarrhea (even if the kibble is high quality and destined to work out well in the future).
And lastly, keep an eye on the common allergens contained in the food. Common allergens include chicken, beef, pork, lamb, dairy, wheat, egg, soy, rabbit, and fish. Obviously, most kibbles use a range of those. So if your Aussie has had runny poop for quite some time, it could indicate a long-term allergy problem.
3. Bacterial infections
Bacterial infections are not all that common, but they can happen relatively easily. Bacteria can build up on things your Aussie uses on a daily basis, from their water and food bowls to their favorite toys, and bed.
We also have to remember there are incredible amounts of bacteria throughout our home and yard, all of which your Aussie might come into contact with.
For the most part, this is natural and almost unavoidable, but in some cases, bacteria can build up, develop and end up being too much for your Aussie’s immune system to handle, resulting in a bacterial infection (most likely in their stomach).
Your veterinarian would need to take a sample of your Aussie’s poop in order to diagnose a bacterial infection. Medication will almost always be required to help your Aussie overcome a bacterial infection.
4. Stress & anxiety
Stress and anxiety are very common in dogs and it can affect their bodies in a range of ways, diarrhea being one of them.
Many different things can cause your Aussie to be stressed, and it’s not necessarily an easy thing to spot or pick up on.
From being left home alone too long, not receiving adequate exercise or mental stimulation, to less obvious things such as moving home, acquiring new neighbors that have new smells, or make different noises.
Intestinal parasites are another well-known cause of diarrhea, although relatively uncommon it’s still important to be aware of them.
Your Australian shepherd could get parasites by ingesting an infected flea, the eggs of an infected flea from soil or feces. It’s also quite easy for mother dogs to pass on parasites (if she has them) to her offspring.
With parasites, you are often able to see visible worms in her stool. Sometimes they can grow to be quite large. Other symptoms are diarrhea, bloody stools, vomiting, appetite changes, general discomfort, and restlessness.
If you do notice these additional symptoms other than diarrhea, it’s very important to seek help from your vet asap.
6. Dehydration & heatstroke
Dehydration is particularly rampant throughout summer (of course) and with our dogs not drinking enough as they should, most are in fact fairly dehydrated.
The problem with dehydration and diarrhea is that they complement each other in a negative way. Dehydration causes diarrhea, but then diarrhea causes even more dehydration! It’s a bad downwards spiral.
Dehydration can set in relatively quickly, but heatstroke usually takes longer to happen. Heatstroke generally happens if your Aussie spends all day out in the direct sunshine or just in a hot temperature for a prolonged period of time.
Both dehydration and heatstroke can cause diarrhea and a plethora of other symptoms, some of them severe, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, an inability to walk, fatigue, skin hot to touch, and even seizures.
7. Underlying health problems or medication
Lastly, any existing health issues could also be the cause, along with any medication that’s required for those health issues.
A lot of common health issues do tend to have an impact on the digestive system as well as an increase in stress. Both of these combined can make it easy for bouts of diarrhea to happen.
If your Aussie has existing health issues or is currently on any kind of medication, then it’s best to speak to your veterinarian asap.
When To See a Vet
So when should you see your veterinarian?
● If there are additional symptoms:
If your Australian shepherd has diarrhea accompanied by any additional symptoms like vomiting, nausea, food refusal, lethargy, weakness, or bloody stool then contact your veterinarians asap.
● When it’s just diarrhea:
If your Australian shepherd doesn’t have additional symptoms, but the diarrhea doesn’t improve (you only need to see improvement) after 24 hours of fasting or a bland food diet, then again, speak to your veterinarian.
● When it’s a puppy or senior:
If we are talking about an Aussie puppy (under 6 months) or senior (over 8 years) then it’s best to waste no time in seeking help from your veterinarian. Puppies and seniors are somewhat fragile and should receive help asap.
Remember, there’s no wrong moment to consult your veterinarian. If you are unsure or suspect something sinister, contact your vet as soon as you can.
Helping Your Australian Shepherd With Diarrhea
Providing you don’t need to contact the veterinarian right away, there are a few things you can try. Just remember, that if the diarrhea doesn’t improve 24 hours after trying the following, it’s still recommended to contact your vet.
1. Witholding food (fasting)
One of the most tried and tested ways to help with diarrhea, and often what veterinarians recommend you do first, is to withhold food for 12-24 hours.
Withholding food is the best and most immediate way to give the digestive system and stomach time to reset and recover.
This allows the stomach to rebuild strength before digesting food again, which is quite a strenuous task for a poorly belly.
● Withholding food for 12-24 hours is perfectly safe assuming your Australian shepherd does NOT have health issues, is a puppy, or a senior. Fasting is only appropriate for otherwise healthy adults.
2. Bland food diet
If your Aussie is able to fast, you should do that first, then proceed to the bland food diet. If your Aussie was not able to fast, then proceed to the bland food diet as your first step.
The bland food diet is another veterinarian-approved method of dealing with diarrhea. This is a diet consisting of certain bland foods, the most common being plain boiled chicken breast with cooked white rice.
There are other foods that are considered “bland foods” but chicken and rice are the most basic. Veterinarians usually recommend sticking to only bland foods until your Aussie’s situation improves. It’s usually best to stick to three small portions of chicken and rice three times per day.
Remain on this until the diarrhea stops, and then slowly reintroduce the kibble over the course of 7-10 days. (assuming this wasn’t the initial cause of the diarrhea!).
Something else you can try is Probiotics. Due to the fact that diarrhea is mostly gut-related, probiotics can help significantly.
Probiotics are full of healthy gut-friendly bacteria which help to recover and restore balance in the gut and immune system.
You could incorporate some Probiotics alongside the bland food diet. Be sure to only use a trusted brand, and always follow the instructions and correct dosage. You can often find Probitiocs in your local pet shop, as well as at your local vets.
Lastly, you can resort to antidiarrheal medication. Usually, vets will advise trying the bland food diet first, and then use antidiarrheal medication if no improvement is made.
Pro-pectalin is just one example of many antidiarrheal medications that you can typically buy over the counter. Although you can buy this over the counter, many veterinarians recommend speaking to them first before giving it to your dog.
Your vet may provide an alternative antidiarrheal medication, depending on the health of your Aussie.
Preventing Diarrhea in Australian Shepherds
A few healthy habits may be able to stop your Aussie from having diarrhea in the future. Check out the following tips
● Never feed table scraps or tidbits
● Always introduce new kibbles or treats slowly
● Keep trash cans and garbage secured away from your dog
● Keep a close eye on your dog when out on walks
● Regularly wash your dog’s toys, bed, and bowls
● Regularly inspect your yard for other animal feces & anything unusual
● Try to keep your Aussie’s immediate environment calm and peaceful
● Avoid letting your Aussie play with unvaccinated dogs
● Stay on top of puppy vaccines, jabs, worming medication
It goes without saying, you won’t be able to stop every bout of diarrhea your Aussie has, but the tips above should definitely help somewhat.
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