Alberta Emergency Services Medal Presentations
Structure of the Canine Ear
A Survival Guide for Dog Diarrhea
Mara Bovsun - Reprinted with permission from American Kennel Club
It’s not a topic anyone likes to discuss, but if you own a dog, chances are you have found yourself cleaning up a stinking brown puddle (or, politely put, doggie runs) more than you’d care to think about.
Diarrhea is a common canine affliction and it varies in frequency, duration, and intensity from dog to dog.
You may not be able to totally prevent diarrhea, but knowing as much as possible about it might help limit the number times your dog has one of these unpleasant episodes and reduce the duration when the runs do come.
The Canine Digestive System
There are significant differences between the way dogs and people digest food.
Human jaw shape and salivary enzymes, for example, will start breaking down a morsel in the mouth. Dogs, on the other hand, have mouths and jaws made for tearing, crushing, and wolfing food down. Their salivary enzymes are mostly designed to kill bacteria, which is why they can tolerate items that would send their human companions to the hospital.
Food travels rapidly down the canine esophagus and enters the stomach in chunks, where most digestion takes place. Canine stomach acids are about three times stronger than those of humans, so they can digest food that is pretty much intact. Under normal circumstances, transit time from mouth through the small and large intestines should be under 10 hours, producing a firm, well-formed stool at the end.
Dirty Dozen—Top 12 Causes of Doggie Diarrhea
Many things can disrupt this well-balanced system, causing diarrhea or, less frequently, constipation. Some things, like eating too much grass, are not serious at all. Others can be a sign of a life-threatening problem, such as an indigestible object (like a rock) lodged in the stomach, or a disease like cancer.
There are many reasons why a dog may develop loose stools, but most cases may be attributed to one of these 12 triggers:
- Dietary indiscretion: Eating too much, eating garbage, or spoiled food. There’s actually a name for it in veterinary circles—“garbage toxicosis” or “garbage gut.”
- Change in diet: It may take a few days for a dog’s digestive system to adapt to new proteins. That’s why many dog-food manufacturers recommend that you go slow when you switch from one brand of food to another.
- Food intolerance
- Parasites: Most of these will cause illness in puppies or in adults with weak immune systems:
- Poisonous substances or plants
- Swallowing an indigestible foreign body, like a toy or a dozen or more socks
- Infections with common viruses such as: Parvovirus, Distemper, or Coronavirus
- Bacterial infections, such as salmonella
- Illnesses, such as kidney and liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer
- Antibiotics and other medications
- Stress or emotional upset
What Stools Can Tell You About Your Dog’s Health
The consistency and color of diarrhea reveals a lot about the cause of the problem and what is happening in your dog. Take very careful note of the color, consistency, and anything else that might help when you describe the symptoms to a vet. In many cases, diarrhea will resolve after a few days of home treatment, but it’s a good idea to give your vet a call if it continues for a long period or has any one of several signs that may point to a serious problem.
This infographic from Just Right by Purina gives you an idea of a “perfect dog poop,” which is chocolate brown, shaped like logs, compact, and easy to scoop. Experts say it should feel like cookie dough or Play-Doh when pressed. Large volumes, pudding-like or watery consistency, or signs of mucus (looks like jelly), or blood streaks, are not normal.
Take Note of the Color of the Poop
Color can also indicate a lot about what is going on inside your dog’s gut. Chocolate brown is normal, while colors like orange, green, or gray may signify issues with such organs as liver, gall bladder, or pancreas. Black tarry stool is very serious, and may point to internal bleeding. If you see this, contact your vet as soon as possible.
Color, shape, and consistency will all help you and your vet figure out what is wrong when your dog gets diarrhea. These factors will help your vet determine where the problem is originating along the dog’s digestive tract.
Other Ways to Decipher Dog Poop
Following are some common abnormalities, in addition to color, and what each might be telling you about why your dog has the runs:
- Small amounts with straining, several times in an hour, which some people call “the squirts,” can be a sign of inflammation of the large bowel.
- Three or four times, with large volume, suggest small bowel disorder.
Oddly shaped or colored solid objects can tell you what your dog has gotten into. Several small white rice-like shapes, for example, may signify a tapeworm infestation. Grass, wood, or string could tell you that your dog has eaten something that he couldn’t digest.
As disgusting as it may seem, it’s important that you examine your dog’s poop carefully if she has diarrhea and be able to give the vet as many details as possible. Armed with this knowledge, the vet will be able to tell you whether to schedule and exam or whether you can treat it at home.
Home Remedies for Doggie Diarrhea
A great many cases are mild and, with your vet’s advice, may be treated without a trip to the office. They may respond to a regimen of very basic treatments, including:
Withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, and providing water in small amounts frequently, can clear the cause of the upset and allow the gastrointestinal tract to settle. It’s usually the first line of attack for the runs. Before you decide on a fast, be sure that your dog is healthy enough to endure it. Puppies, and elderly dogs, for example, need nutrients. Also, a fast may not be appropriate for little dogs, who do not have the physical reserves of their larger cousins.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so make sure to give your dog access to water at all times. Many people also offer unflavored Pedialyte to maintain electrolyte balance.
Cures from the Cupboard
After a fast, food is usually introduced slowly and many people start with binders, which can normalize stool consistency. Some tried-and-true methods include:
- Rice water: Boil high-quality rice in a lot of water, remove the grains, and offer the dog the creamy white soup that’s left. A splash of broth or a bit baby food will make it more palatable.
- White rice
- Canned pumpkin (plain, not prepared pie filling) has the odd distinction of being effective for diarrhea and constipation.
- Yogurt, which has beneficial bacteria, can help in dogs who can tolerate milk and milk products.
- Probiotics, live bacteria that aid digestion (these are also found in yogurt)
- Boiled potatoes, without skin
- Cottage cheese
- Plain protein sources such as egg (prepared with no butter or oil) or chicken (without skin)
- Herbs, such as fennel, have gut-soothing properties
- Specially-formulated dog foods: Some manufacturers offer foods that can sooth stomach problems. You may need to obtain these from your vet.
- Over-the-counter medications for humans may also be effective for doggie diarrhea, but should be given with caution and you should talk to your vet before using them.
Methods that work for one dog may not help another, so you might need to do a little experimentation to find the right formula. It might also be helpful to write down what works and what doesn’t so you’ll know what to do the next time you find yourself mopping up a mess.
Once you find a recovery diet that agree with your dog, and doesn't cause a relapse, you can slowly increase the portions over a period of days, and then start to add small quantities of your dog’s regular food, until things are back to normal.
When Doggie Diarrhea Means A Trip to the Vet
The right time to contact a vet depends very much on what’s normal for your dog. Unfortunately, some dogs are more prone to digestive disorders than others, so you have to be very aware of the things that are out-of-the-ordinary on an individual basis.
There are, however, benchmarks that can suggest that you should at least consult with your vet:
- Other physical symptoms, such as lethargy, fever, vomiting, dry, tacky or pale gums, or weakness;
- Diarrhea that does not stop despite home remedies that worked in the past;
- Long duration (Some say a few days, others give more time. This all depends on what is normal for your dog.);
- Use of medication (a dog on antibiotics, for example);
- Existing conditions, such as advanced age, diabetes, Cushings, cancer, or any medical issue, and
When things just don’t seem right. You know your dog, and only you know the subtle signs that something is wrong. Respect your instincts and if you think you need veterinary guidance, pick up the phone.
Old Age is not a Disease
Understanding canine cognitive dysfunction – and what can be done to manage it - By Andrea Smith BSc, DVM
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a brain disorder found in senior dogs that is often compared to dementia, senility and even Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Over time, CDS impacts cognition, or the mental abilities and processes involved in knowledge, memory, judgment and problem solving. Dogs experiencing cognitive decline may display behavioral changes in one or more of the following ways:
- disorientation in the home or yard,
- changes in interactions with family members,
- disruption of sleep patterns,
- loss of housetraining or
- decreased levels of activity.
The progression of these signs tends to be very gradual, which leads to a lot of owners to dismiss any changes as merely a part of old age.
To demonstrate how common CDS is in the general dog population, a recent study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 28% of dogs aged 11 to 12 years old showed impairments in one or more of the categories listed above, and that 10% had impairments in two or more areas. Even more startling, the study found that 68% of dogs aged 15 to 16 years old had impairments in one or more categories, and 35% had impairments in two more.
Aging has numerous effects on the brain and general nervous function, which can contribute to the behavioural changes that occur in CDS. Some of these changes include the following –
Brain atrophy – as a dog ages, the total weight and size of the brain will decrease. The decrease in the number of brain cells will cause a decrease in brain function and ability.
Brain plaques – Beta amyloid is a protein that will accumulate and destroy brain cells. Dogs, like humans, will develop beta amyloid plaques in the brain. The larger the accumulation of this protein, the greater the negative effects on brain function. In dogs, studies have linked beta amyloid plaques to errors in learning tests.
Decreased blood flow in the brain – blood flow in the rain can be impeded by small bleeds and areas where blood flow is disrupted or has stopped. Decreased blood flow can deprive b rain cells of oxygen, and ultimately lead to permanent damage or death of the cells.
Chemical changes in the brain – in older dogs, it has been found that natural levels of a chemical called Monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) tend to increase with age. MAO_B breaks down the neurotransmitter dopamine, which ultimately decreases dopamine levels. Dopamine controls the brain’s pleasure centre, and so it is no surprise that increased MAO-B is thought to play a role in depression and other health issues affected by low dopamine levels in the brain.
A diagnosis of CDS is generally made by exclusion, meaning all other potential causes of a particular problem are first ruled out. Once routine tests are performed, which can include a neurological exam, blood work and imaging. CDS is usually suspected based on the patient’s history and age.
WATCH FOR SIGNS OF CDS IN YOUR SENIOR DOG –
- going to the wrong side of a door,
- decreased awareness,
- house soiling,
- depression or apathy,
- vocalizing at night,
- altered sleep/wake cycle,
- not responding to previously learned commands,
- looking for increased/decreased affection from owner,
- increasing irritability,
- no interest in play,
- compulsive behaviours (e.g. increased licking) and
- altered relationships with people and other pets.
The general goals of treatment for CDS are to slow down the rate of cognitive decline, and to relieve any pain or distress associated with changes in physical and/or mental status. CDS may be treated with medication, supplements and/or behavioural modification therapy.
Medication – Selegiline (L-Deprenyl) is an anti-depressant medication that is currently the only veterinary drug licensed to treat CDS in North America. Selegiline prolongs the activity of dopamine in the brain, which helps improve cognitive function. In addition, it has been found that Selegeline will decrease the levels of damaging free radicals in the brain that can help slow the rate of cognitive impairment. Selegiline is an oral medication that is given daily. Most patients will see some form of improvement within one month of starting treatment.
Supplements – S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) is a supplement formulated specifically for dogs and cats. It helps protect brain cells, demonstrates antioxidant activities and participates in the renewal of certain neurotransmitters in the body. SAM-e has been found to be effective in improving clinical signs associated with CDS in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Sam-e is a daily supplement that has very few adverse effects.
Diet – There are a variety of veterinary prescription diets that are formulated to be rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. These properties have been found to decrease the rate of cognitive dysfunction progression while improving behavioural function, and they may even have a protective effect. Some diets will also include medium chain triglycerides, which serve as an alternative energy source for brain cells to help improve cognitive function. Cognitive improvements have been seen as early as two weeks to eight weeks after therapy begins.
Environmental enrichment – Mental and physical activity is essential in preventing the advancement of CDS, and may play a bigger role than previously thought. Mental stimulation can lead to a better quality of life for many older dogs. For dogs, olfactory stimulation (sense of smell) is likely coupled with cognition. Mental stimulation can involve work for food, food puzzles, food games or any other mental exercise that involves their sense of smell.
Ultimately there should be absolutely no punishment for any undesirable behavior that occurs as a result of CDS. Negatie actions will elave the patient more anxious.
If you have any concerns regarding vehavioural changes in our older dogs, be sure to bring them to your regular veterinarian for prper assessmentand diagnosis. With many advances over the past 10 years, we are abel togive our beloved companions longer and happier lives in spite of the effects of CDS.
Andrea Smith BSc, DVM, CCRP (candidate) is an associate veterinarian at the Don Mills Veterinary Practice in Toronto. firstname.lastname@example.org