Please help with my dog's chronic loose stool problem!
July 25, 2012 3:44 PM   Subscribe

My dog's had diarrhea and soft stools on and off for about two months, despite rounds of forti-flora, tylan powder, metronidazole, and anti-parasite medication. Please help me figure out what's going wrong inside her!

My dog's had a problem with her poop for the last two and a half months! I've been back and forth with her vet and nothing seems to be helping. She's a terrier mix, roughly 25 pounds.

Some background: I came home from work one Saturday to find that she'd had diarrhea all over the living room. She'd also thrown up. Towards the end of the diarrhea, there were a few very small blood spots. I cleaned it up, held her food for a day, got some Royal Canin Gastro-Intestinal HE from her vet, started her on that. She didn't pass for a few days, was solid for another few, then bam, diarrhea all over the place the following weekend. This cycle repeated for a few weeks, and finally the vet put her on Tylan powder. It bound her right up, but as soon as I took her off of it, the issue came back. Tried metronidazole as well (for fifteen days!) with similar results. Given this we've ruled out the kind of infection an antibiotic would kill.

At this point it's been about two months. Last week my vet gave her an anti-parasite medication on the thought that she might have whipworm, which doesn't always show up in a stool culture (she's had several - all were, ahem, "clean.") It's now been about a week. I've been giving her 2/3s of a can of the GI food since her last diarrhea episode last week, and her stools vacillate between firm and soft. When they're soft, they're slightly greenish in tinge, and appear slimy or filmy. They're not completely liquid-loose, but they're not firm like they used to be.

When she's NOT sick she gets Dave's Naturally Healthy dry food, and she's been getting that for two years easily without issue. She has a healthy appetite and is more than willing to eat whatever I put in front of her, and while she's not drinking much water she still urinates regularly and it's pretty well concentrated. I'm assuming she's getting hydration from the canned food.

She's been getting fortiflora powder on and off, and I'm not sure if that helped. I've got maybe ten packets of the stuff left, but she hasn't gotten any of it since getting the parasite killer last Wednesday afternoon. She's off of almost all her supplements, which included glucosamine and powdered cranberry as a preventative for persistent urinary tract infections and l-theanine for anxiety. She's still getting the cranberry in her breakfast, though. She developed a UTI pretty quickly when she was off of her supplements, and ended up with both doses of the Tylan AND cipro in the morning, which can't have been good for the flora in her stomach, but she hasn't had any of that sort of thing in a good 2-3 weeks.

I'm not really sure what to do at this point, and I don't think my vet knows, either. He was suggesting subcutaneous vitamin b injections, but that to me doesn't really seem like it's addressing the core underlying problem. Again, the metronidazole and the tylan powder helped, but seemed more to mask the symptoms and not the core issue.

Does anyone have any suggestions?
posted by Lakmir to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
Canned pumpkin and yogurt. Start with more yogurt and a tiny bit of pumpkin - you don't want to fiber-bomb her.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:50 PM on July 25, 2012

You need a 2nd opinion from another vet.
posted by k8t at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you've ruled out parasites like Giardia then the mucus stool thing can be indicative of an irritated bowel. Sounds like from the amount of meds she's been and the length of time she's had diarrhea that it may have caused some inflammation and she might need some time on some gentle food to get back to normal.
posted by merocet at 4:04 PM on July 25, 2012

Does your pup spend time outside by herself (fenced yard)? Perhaps she's eating something when you're not looking. I used to live in a house with a pond in the yard...Lucy Fur would Chase and eat toads and frogs, and get horrible diarrhea. Nothing smells worse than a frog that's gone through the digestive tract of a dog, let me tell you.
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:06 PM on July 25, 2012

Tinned pumpkin. Make sure it doesn't have anything but pumpkin in, so no spices or sugar. Recommended to me by a vet as a hormone in it helps regulate dogs bowels so it's good for constipation as well. Boiled rice and plain yogurt are also very effective and charcoal in the form of burnt toast or charcoal tablets might help.

You might want to consider changing your dogs food even if you are buying the same product as 2 years ago there is no knowing if they are sourcing their supplies from the same place or if they have changed their recipe and there might be something that your dog now reacts to.

If the dog starts vomiting or the poop starts showing sign of mucousy blood please contact a vet immediately, our dog was minutes from death when we got him to the emergency vets one Christmas eve with Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis, we literally walked in the door and blood started pouring out of both ends. His symptoms started as a 2 week long case of the runs which just suddenly got out of hand. This is also why I am now obsessed with ways to stop dogs getting irritated intestines. We now use add pumpkin, yogurt and plain boiled rice to the dogs diet at the first sign of a runny or mucousy poop and have found all 3 effective.
posted by wwax at 4:25 PM on July 25, 2012

I would swear there's some new gastro-intestinal canine bug this year, but your dog's symptoms sound serious enough to seek a second opinion if your vet is stumped. A holistic vet may be a good choice for digestive issues (who may also be able to better help with the persistent UTIs and anxiety). If she continues to have bloody spots in her stool you're potentially going to need to check for IBS or IBD. The supplements you are giving are not ones known to cause diarrhea, FWIW.

Before that step, in no particular order, here are some things to try. IANAV.

Feed a bland diet for about a week. Overcooked white rice (add extra water, cook slowly until mush) or oatmeal, mixed with boiled ground meat, all fat drained and rinsed off. Plain canned pumpkin, ground psyllium husk or beet pulp (see below) can be added to this mix for fiber.

Most intestinal parasites, including whip worms, need repeated courses of an appropriate dewormer several weeks apart, often more than two courses of treatment. Wash all bedding, etc. It is not uncommon for parasites to fail to show up for a fecal analysis even when they are present.

FortiFlora is good; Bactaquin is similar but more potent. Both contain probiotics (which live culture yogurt has in lower concentrations, but these avoid complicating things with a milk product).

If the digestive problems are not from a lack of probiotics, added enzymes might help.

Feed a high fiber food. I am sorry to say, but IAMs ProActive Health has helped a lot of dogs with loose stool. The key ingredient seems to be the beet pulp. If you do not want to switch foods, you can buy beet pulp at feed/farm stores inexpensively; give a tablespoon or two over each meal, moistened slightly.
posted by vers at 4:44 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Totally non-veternarian approved advice - we went through something similar with our dog, who had reoccuring, severe diarrhea. We did rounds of antibiotics and antiprotozoals - didn't help. We took him off all his supplements - didn't help. At that point, our vet's only advice was to try an expensive prescription diet I would have to buy from a Banfield clinic in a Petsmart.

Then a friend suggested trying a diet of 40% cooked low fat meat, 40% steamed veggies and 20% well-cooked brown rice. It worked! Cleared up his problems and that's what both dogs eat now. The steamed veggies and most of the rice goes into the Cuisinart to blend them together, and that all gets mixed up with the drained ground beef. The dogs love it and it keep the poop solid.

Oh, and since this dog is our medical mess, he also has GERD and takes a Pepcid AC once a day, which helped clear up the vomiting problem he had. I'm not sure if the Pepcid affects his stool in any way, but it's all part of the digestive system so I thought I would mention it.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:53 PM on July 25, 2012

a diet of 40% cooked low fat meat, 40% steamed veggies and 20% well-cooked brown rice

This can be good short term. If feeding long term, you'll definitely want to supplement calcium among other minerals and vitamins. There can be serious consequences of this limited diet over time.
posted by vers at 5:02 PM on July 25, 2012

I don't want to be alarmist but I suggest you take the dog to the vet and have them run a battery of blood tests.

Our dog had been having GI issues for a few months which the vet at the time insisted were dietary and finally we came to the conclusion that she needed to be on a grain-free diet. But what was actually going on, as a different vet discovered, was that she had cancer.

Getting the 'above and beyond' range of blood tests done is just a good thing generally as it creates a very useful set of baseline metrics which can be important to have down the line if your dog develops a medical condition.
posted by donovan at 5:03 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my dogs are on vitamins and other supplements as well as the home-cooked food. New vet is aware and approves.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:04 PM on July 25, 2012

Has your vet tested for everything possible? Our dogs got hookworms but it took a while to diagnose because it's not on their standard stool test - they have to send the sample out.

FWIW, I thought FortiFlora was a waste of time. We just moved (and are at the end of treatment) and the new vet gave us a different probiotic. Still waiting to see if it helps.
posted by radioamy at 5:06 PM on July 25, 2012

Chicken (in any form) gives our dog the big D. It took us months to figure it out — especially since most recommended bland diets call for chicken. There are lots of "novel protein" dog foods out there. Ours gets Natural Balance Venison and Sweet Potato now, and great poops! :)
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:23 PM on July 25, 2012

Seconding the idea that this might be the first symptoms of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. My dog had loose stools for a couple of weeks and then started throwing up blood. After a couple of rounds of this, she was diagnosed with probable inflammatory bowel disease. She takes a low dose of prednisone every other day now, and eats a special hypoallergenic food, and she hasn't had a reoccurrence of symptoms since, but it was touch and go for quite a while.

They can do endoscopy to check, but my dog was down to options that were either untreatable or all had the same treatment, so I went with just trying the pills (cheap) instead of the diagnostic procedure ($700, with the anesthesia likely to kill a small and at that point very ill dog anyway).
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:26 PM on July 25, 2012

Liver problems can look like this, too (my 17 pound terrier just went through this). Ask your vet to do an ALT blood test. ALT is an enzyme associated with liver cell damage and it'll be elevated in the bloodstream if the liver is struggling.

If that comes back with elevated ALT, the next step is to test liver function with a bile acids test, which is another blood test, this time measuring bile acids in the blood stream before food, and again 3-4 hours later. A healthy liver will return blood bile acids to normal in that time. An unhealthy liver won't.

And after that, it starts getting expensive.

More info:
posted by notyou at 7:35 PM on July 25, 2012

Is there anything at all the dog could be getting into without your knowledge? My mom's dog had chronic diarrhea on and off for years, and she couldn't figure out why until removing an ailing bush from the yard -- turned out he had been eating its fallen berries whenever he went out to pee.
posted by bunji at 9:45 PM on July 25, 2012

My dog had this problem for ages, and we attempted several rounds of probiotics and metronidazole without seeing an improvement. We moved, and our new vet suggested an injection of penicillin.

I'm pretty sure that my dog's issues began when he had strep throat and was on antibiotics for a good month. It must have really messed with the flora in his gut. So I was initially skeptical about using yet another antibiotic on him. But it was an instant fix. I was amazed.
posted by Kriesa at 5:37 AM on July 26, 2012

Sounds like Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis to me.

Our dog had it for months (maybe even years). Our vet was repeatedly very dismissive of the symptoms until we pushed them. They ran some tests, diagnosed gastroenteritis -- a bottle of pills later he was back to healthy.
posted by wrok at 2:01 PM on July 26, 2012

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