Friday, 20 April 2012

Natural Treatment for Diarrhea in Dogs, Cats - Cause and Remedy

1.0   Defining Acute v.s. Chronic Diarrhea  
2.0   Common Causes of Acute Diarrhea
3.0   Common Causes of Chronic Diarrhea 
4.0   Typical Signs, Symptoms of Diarrhea
5.0   When to Intervene 
6.0   When to Get Help
7.0   At Greatest Risk
8.0   Dehydration
9.0   Items to Avoid Feeding Your dog or Cat if He/She has Diarrhea
10.0 What to Feed Your Dog or Cat if He/She Has Diarrhea
        - Recipe
11.0 Use One Of these Herbs to Help Stop Diarrhea, Speed Up Recovery
12.0 Proactive Maintenance
1.0 Defining Acute v.s. Chronic Diarrhea  

Diarrhea is a common ailment in dogs and cats. Just as with humans, healthy dogs and cats suffer from an ‘upset’ stomach on occasion, which then results in a loose stool or diarrhea - this is a fairly normal occurrence and is called ‘Acute Diarrhea’. Acute diarrhea is one of the body’s natural ways of removing substances that are not welcome in the body. The most common cause of this type of diarrhea is ingestion of a food stuff that the dog or cat should not have consumed. Although diarrhea is a natural process, it is important to monitor Acute Diarrhea and you may need to provide some healing interventions. The symptoms usually disappear within a 72 hour time period.  

The other type of Diarrhea is called ‘Chronic Diarrhea’. The underlying cause of this type of diarrhea is typically rooted in an ongoing condition in which the body is repeatedly exposed to an irritant or the diarrhea is a symptom of a medical condition.
Common Causes of Diarrhea 

As noted above the most common cause of acute diarrhea is ingestion of food or other substances that the dog or cat should not be eating, such as poisonous/toxic plants.

It really is very important to make sure that your dog or cat cannot gain access to garbage - inside the home, in your garage, yard, on walks and when on off-leash excursions. Although many foods that are consumed by humans are fine for dogs, there are many foods that a dog and cat should never eat - at best these foods will irritate a dog’s or cat's gastrointestinal (GI) tract and at worst make a dog or cat seriously ill. Eating rotting food can also trigger diarrhea. 
2.0 Common Causes of Acute Diarrhea 

The following are common causes of acute diarrhea:
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Drugs - side effect of allergic reaction to the drug
    • i.e. Antibiotics, Metacam, Rimydal, Prednisone, etc.
  • Food intolerance
  • Ingesting indigestible substances
  • Ingesting too much of a food that would otherwise be good for the dog or cat
  • Ingesting food that is not good in any amount
  • Poisons/toxins - by absorbing, ingesting and/or inhaling
  • Sudden change in food or addition of new types of food to the diet
  • Vaccinations
  • Virus (i.e. Distemper, Parvo)

3.0 Common Causes of Chronic Diarrhea:
  • Allergy to food…ingredients in many commercial kibble can be a source of allergic reactions
  • Compromised immune system
  • Diseases such as colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, liver and kidney disease, stomach cancer, etc.
  • Parasites (i.e. infestation of worms or parasites such as Giardia)
  • Poisons/toxins - by absorbing, ingesting and/or inhaling
  • Poorly functioning GI tract
  • Too much fat in diet and /or the wrong type of fat
  • Medications such as chemical-based veterinarian prescribed and off-the-shelf heartworm, flea, tick preventatives can cause diarrhea
4.0 Typical Signs, Symptoms of Diarrhea

  • Your dog is either standing at the door anxiously, or anxiously trying to get your attention to let them outdoors at a time when they would normally not be asking;
  • Your dog starts to ask to go out multiple times (to eliminate) within the space of an hour or several hours;
    • In either case let your dog out and watch what he/she does;
    • If he/she eliminates take a quick look to see if his/her stool is normal (firm, brown) or loose;
  • Your dog or cat is straining to eliminate - although this may be a result of constipation, it is often also a result of repeated bouts of diarrhea;
  • Diarrhea causes disruption of normal muscle contractions in the GI tract…thereby giving the sensation that elimination is required even when there is nothing left in the GI tract to eliminate; 
    • Other symptoms include:
    • Bloating;
    • Dehydration;
    • Lack of appetite;
    • Listlessness;
    • Fever.
5.0 When to Intervene
  • If your dog or cat seems normal after a bout of diarrhea (he/she is behaving normally, has normal energy) - just keep an eye on him / her.
  • Make sure that your dog/cat has access to fresh drinking water; watch to see if they are drinking. If they are not follow the instructions provided below under ‘Dehydration’.
  • If the diarrhea occurs just once you can continue to feed your animal as you normally would.  
  • If the diarrhea is occurring repeatedly within the space of an hour or several hours:
    • Begin a treatment of slippery elm with a little bone broth, or bone broth gelatin(see further below).
    • Withhold food for at least a few hours while you repeat dose every 30 minutes to 60 minutes with the slippery elm and bone broth, and;  
    • Then proceed to feed your dog/cat as per the instructions provided further below

6.0  When To Get Help

You need to get help right away if…
  • Severe diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours;
  • Diarrhea continues to occur for more that 3 days;
  • Blood in your dog's, cat's stool;
  • Fever;
  • Sluggishness;
    Or any other sign of debilitation.

7.0 At Greatest Risk
Young (puppies and kittens) and the old or those whose health is already compromised are most vulnerable to suffering complications from diarrhea. Dehydration as a result of diarrhea can occur very quickly in these high-risk animals, putting them in immediate and serious risk.

8.0 Dehydration

 To ensure your dog or cat does not get dehydrated...
  • In order to avoid dehydration make sure that your dog and cat have access to fresh drinking water and gently encourage them to drink. 
  • Do not, however urge them from an anxious state of mind or you will further compromise their well-being by creating additional stress.
  • If you see your dog or cat is not drinking, to entice them to drink you can offer them a clear broth;
    •  You can use one of these homemade broth recipes  or this bone broth gelatin recipe for dogs and cats;
      • If your dog or cat is not drinking on his/her own make sure that you offer the broth to him / her at least 3 to 4 times a day;
    • Don’t give your dog or cat a commercially made broth as it can include a lot of sodium (salt) which will cause further dehydration, it may also contain additives such as food coloring, spices such as pepper, and other dangerous food stuffs such as onions and sugar - sugar feeds bad bacteria which will make diarrhea worse.
To check for signs of dehydration...
  • Pull up gently on the skin at the back of the neck;
    • If, when released the skin bounces back quickly, your dog's or cat's hydration level is fine.
    • If the skin does not does not go back in-place or goes back slowly, your dog or cat is dehydrated and needs medical attention right away;
    • Don’t waste time trying to hydrate the animal yourself - get the animal to a veterinarian who will probably give them a fluid injection shot right away and may put them on a saline drip;
    • Severe dehydration is very dangerous and can lead to organ shut down and death. 
9.0 Items to Avoid Feeding a Dog or Cat       If He/She Has Diarrhea
  • Do not feed your dog or cat his/her 'normal' food.
  • Do not feed your dog or cat rice and ground beef;
    • Many veterinarians will recommend that you feed your dog or cat plain rice and lean cooked ground beef...
      • Rice sits and lingers in a dogs and cats  gastrointestinal tract, where it can ferment in, create gas and make diarrhea worse.
  • Even lean ground beef has enough fat to cause more/worse diarrhea.
  • Do not give your dog or cat Pepto Bismal as it contains salicylates - a compound found naturally in foods and manufactured synthetically for use as a pain killer - i.e. salicylates are an active ingredient in aspirin;
    •  Salicylates will make your dog's, cat's condition worse.
10.0 What to Feed Your Dog or Cat if They
        Have Diarrhea

  • Begin with small doses of bone broth and slippery elm bark powder every 30 minutes. Don't give food at this time, continue to dose with this mixture, for at least a few hours. 
  • Once the diarrhea has calmed...
    • You can offer him/her a little plain cooked chicken and broth - see recipe here;
    • If after eating this your dog or cat does not experience additional diarrhea you can start to offer them a little meal of pumpkin or squash mixed with some more chicken - see the recipe below;
  • This food should be fed to your dog or cat 3 to 6 times a day in small amounts for up to 3 days (72 hours), by which time the diarrhea should subside
  • If your dog or cat still has diarrhea after 72 hours it is time to get assistance.
  • Along with the food you can add one of the herbs provided further below. 

10.1 Pumpkin or Squash and Chicken/Turkey

You maybe surprised when you first see the words 'pumpkin, squash' You might ask  why would you give a dog or cat that has diarrhea a high fiber root vegetable or squash? Well, because both are high in soluble fiber! Soluble fibers attract water and form a gel, which slows down digestion.  High quality soluble fiber (that is not prone to fermenting as rice is), prevents and relieves both diarrhea and constipation. Pumpkin and other squash are rich in nutrients while being easy to digest.

Turkey and/or chicken breast meat is rich in protein and nutrients and low in fat. The combination of these ingredients are the best and only food that you should feed your animal while he/she has diarrhea. 

What you will need…

Pumpkin or Squash
100% pure, plain, cooked pumpkin, or 100% pure, plain, canned pumpkin. Do not use pumpkin pie filling as it will make your animals condition worse. Pumpkin pie filling has sugar, spices and other ingredients besides pumpkin.

to which you add...

Plain, cooked turkey breast meat or plain, cooked chicken breast meat
  • Don’t use processed chicken or turkey meat;
  • Use real whole breast meat cooked and cut in small pieces or cooked ground-up breast meat or;
  • Use the chicken or turkey from making broth;
  • If you are using whole breast meet rather than ground - make sure you trim all fat prior to cooking. After cooking drain the meat to remove any remaining  fat - the same is so for making broth for dogs or cats with diarrhea.

Using a ratio of 50:50 mix the pumpkin with the chicken or turkey and feed small portions to your animal 3 to 6 times a day in small amounts for up to 3 days (72 hours), by which time the diarrhea should subside.

11.0 Herbs and Alternative Medicines
        to Stop Diarrhea and Speed Recovery

11.1 Slippery Elm Bark 

The herb ‘slippery elm’ is the best natural anti-diarrhea remedy. It is safe for puppies and dogs of all ages and does not create any complications when used in combination with other medications (i.e. a dog is on medicine for another condition not linked to the diarrhea).
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries. It is used in healing salves to treat: boils, burns, skin inflammation and ulcers. It is also used as an oral mendicant to relieve coughs, sore throats, diarrhea, and stomach problems.
  • Slippery Elm contains mucilage. Mucilage is a substance that when mixed with water, turns into a lubricating gel. It works to coat and sooth the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. It also contains antioxidants that help relieve inflammation. In addition, Slippery Elm triggers reflux stimulation of nerve endings in the GI tract, thereby promoting increased mucus secretion. This helps protect the GI Tract against excess acidity and ulcers.
  • Slippery Elm powder is available at most health food stores and through on-line herbal suppliers.
There are two simple ways that you can administer the slippery elm to your dog or cat…

  • One - Mix it With the Pumpkin/Poultry Food
    • The dosage is ½ tsp of slippery elm bark powder for every 10lbs of body weight - just mix the slippery elm powder with the dog’s pumpkin/poultry food.
  • Two - Make a Liquid Infusion 
    • If you want to make a liquid infusion to administer to your cat or dog via a dropper or syringe…
    • Combine one teaspoon of slippery elm powder with one cup of cold water;
      • Bring the mixture to a boil and stir;
      • Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for 2 to 3 minutes;
    • Remove from heat;
    • Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature;
    • Administer the Slippery Elm infusion to your dog or cat 4 times per day using the following dosage for each treatment:
      • Small dogs - 1 teaspoon, four times a day
      • Medium dogs - 1 to 2 tablespoons four times a day
      • Large dogs - 3 to 4 tablespoons four times a day

1.2 Colloidal Silver
Silver is a natural and powerful broad spectrum antibiotic agent, it is also has excellent antiseptic, antifungal and disinfectant properties. Read this article to find out:
  • The history of Colloidal Silver;
  • How Colloidal Silver:
  • Kills virus, fungus and bacterium;
  • Speeds healing;
  • How to apply it;
  • How to select a quality product.
11.3 Grape Fruit Seed Extract

Grapefruit seed extract has been proven to be effective in fighting 800 bacteria strains and viruses - for detailed information about the many health benefits and dosage for grapefruit seed extract read here.

12.0 Proactive Maintenance

Once your dog or cat is on the mend you can look at adding some healthy immune boosting food stuffs to his/her diet. Just make sure that you only add on item at a time - this way if your dog or cat has any sensitivity to the item it is easy to identify which new food item is causing the sensitivity.

12.1 Probiotics
Adding a good quality plain yogurt  or kefir is a great way to help your dog maintain a healthy flora of good bacteria in his/her GI tract.You can read here for information on daily dosage, selecting a truly good yogurt or kefir, and other health benefits.

If you would prefer to use a probiotic supplement read here for guidelines on choosing a good product - most are not effective and are a waste of money.

12.2 Herbs
You can add some herbs to your dog’s daily diet to boost their immune system and build their defence against bad bacteria. 

The antiseptic quality of the herb helps prevent bacterial growth, which is good news for your dog and bad news for the bacteria.
This herb is a powerful antibiotic that prevents the bacteria from latching onto the cell walls. It is particularly useful for treating stomach and bowel ailments.
Echinacea has antibiotic, anti-viral and immune system stimulating properties - it is very useful for preventing bad bacteria from flourishing.

The table below provides a general guideline for daily intact of herbs/spices based on your dog’s and cat's  weight.

General Guideline...
Daily Herbal Intake Based on Dog’s or Cat’s Weight
Dry Powders

1-10 lbs
a small pinch up to 1/8 tsp
less than 1/4 cup, 1-3 times/day
1/2 capsule, 1-3 times/day
1-3 drops, 2-3 times/day
10-20 lbs
1 larger pinch - 1/8 to ¼ tsp
1/4 cup, 1-3 times/day
1/2-1 capsule/tablet, 1-3 times/day
3-5 drops, 2-3 times/day
20-50 lbs
2 pinches - 1 teaspoon
1/4-1/2 cup, 1-3 times/day
1-2 capsules/tablets, 2-3 times/day
5-10 drops, 2-3 times/day
50-100 lbs 10-
2 pinches - 2 teaspoons
1/2-1 cup, 1-3 times/day
1-2 capsules/tablets, 3-4 times/day
20 drops, 2-3 times/day
Over 100 lbs,
up to 1 tablespoon
up to 1 cup 3 times/day
adult human dose
adult human dose

While certain herbs and spices do not create a hazard by themselves they can interfere with the conventional medicines. If your dog is on any of conventional medicines please make sure you consult your veterinarian before you introduce herbs or spices to your dog’s diet. The following provides a list of some of the medicines that some herbs may interfere with...
  • Anti-inflammatories (e.g. Rimadyl)
  • Aspirin
  • Antibiotics
  • Cardiac drugs
  • Central Nervous System drugs (e.g. phenobarbital)
  • Chemotherapy agents
  • Diabetic/hypoglycemic drugs (e.g. Insulin)
  • Diuretics (e.g. Furosemide, Diazide)
  • Hormones (e.g. thyroxine)
  • Steroids

13.0 Holistic Support

Holistic Wellness Services and Holistic Behaviorist Services 

Holistic Wellness and Behaviorist Services

Do you need holistic advice to support your companion animal's health and well being? Become a client. Book your consultation. My professional holistic nutrition, wellness and behavioral services are available to you:
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For more information go here. 
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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld 


  1. OH, fantastic post!
    100% pure pumpkin puree in cans has been working wonders for one of our dogs whose stools are often mushy.... difficult to separate diets between our 3 dogs.

    I'll be reading the rest of your post often!

    => I'm guessing parsnip is bad for the dogs: lots of that in our back-yard and they love to eat grass.

  2. Thank you very much for this article. I was giving my little dog rice to help with her condition because it's supposed to help humans...oops. I use slippery elm so I also gave her that. But now I,m going to get her some turkey and pumpkin thanks to's hoping;) I usually make her a chicken, carrot and celery soup of which she gets just the chicken and vegetables so it'll have to be turkey because she usually likes it very much. The vet gave me acidophilus (forti flora) so she gets this but ahe loves it so much that it's costing a lot. She also searches for grass when she's not well...she is a very nervous little chihuahua cross 13-year-old. Thanks a lot for your great advice.

  3. I wasted a lot of time and money on veterinary care and meds for my cat who had diarrhea. This turkey and pumpkin recipe changed her bowels overnight. I have transitioned her back to a grain free catfood and she is thriving. Removing grain from her diet is the only thing I've changed after the turkey and pumpkin therapy. Why didn't the vet suggest grain allergy to begin with?

    1. The truth is that the majority of veterinarians know nothing about diet – if they did they would not sell the terrible Hill’s, Science, Diet, Royal Canine and Purina prescription products they sell. The only thing that they know is to throw drugs at a problem – which is a problem in itself because the drugs are not designed to cure the root cause of the problem. And, unfortunately the drugs used, serve to supress the immune system making the issue worse. Then the veterinarians start prescribing steroids which do further damage. It’s bad… I do so many diet nutrition wellness plans every week for dogs that are suffering from allergies. Two most common issues I address are allergies and cancer. Cancer caused by the dog ’food’, over vaccinations, vet prescribed flea tick mosquito ‘preventatives’ (which the dogs would not need if they were on a good diet).

      Just an aside to help you understand some of what you have been through to date - The pet food industry is a very unethical industry as is the veterinary, supplement and pharmaceutical industry. In a 4 year conventional veterinary science’s course the veterinary student spends 1 week studying diet – 80% to 100% of the study material is supplied by one of the following Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canine, Purina. These companies don’t make dog ’food’ they make toxic profit in a bag – you can understand a little more about this by Going Here >>. The same food manufacturer’s provide the students with free products for their own dogs during the 4 year course, and then upon graduation and entering veterinary practice – the vets get major kick-backs + profit for selling the foods (and drugs) + ongoing work as the foods and the drugs create short and long-term health problems. During the course the students study the use of drugs – not healing. Big pharma supplies the study material. Most of the drugs were originally developed for emergency use but, have been aggressively marketed to the vets for daily use for which they were not designed – the adverse impact on dog’s health is epidemic. Several years ago the majority of the small independent veterinary practices in Canada and the USA were purchase by a couple of mega companies with major shares in the pet ‘food industry and pharmaceutical companies. FYI almost all small independent veterinarian practices were (several years ago) purchased by several large companies that own major interests in the ‘pet food’ industry and pharmaceutical companies. That is the tip of the ice burg.

    2. Always revert to reading one of your articles before during or after a mishap with my dachshund.. Bless insightful, invaluable information, thank you

  4. This is one of the most informative websites and blogs I have found on natural pet care. Great information... now I know why rice never worked for my dogs! Thank you.


Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats