How Long to Withhold Food from a Dog with Diarrhea

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

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Dogs and humans digest food differently. Humans’ salivary enzymes help break down food whereas those in dogs do not aid in digestion. Canine gastric acid is believed to be 10-100 times more acidic than that of the human stomach. So dogs can digest food that is practically whole. They have evolved this way because their teeth and salivary enzymes do not aid in digestion in the same way it happens in our bodies.

While this system works very well and is reliable, any system can be disrupted. And dogs have an excellent track record of manifesting a disruption of their digestion – which often requires a lot of cleaning products and paper towels on our part!

You may have heard that you should withhold food from your dog if they’re experiencing diarrhea, and this recommendation is an excellent start for relieving your dog’s discomfort. Fasting a dog for 12-24 hours can certainly help the GI tract settle. Whether your dog needs more treatment than fasting will be determined by what’s causing your dog’s diarrhea.divider-paw

Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

dog having a diarrhea
Image Credit: Image Credit: A-photographyy, Shutterstock

Dogs tend to explore the world with their mouths, which can unintentionally ingest toxic substances. Dietary indiscretion, or “garbage toxicosis,” as vets call it, is toxicity from eating garbage. Whether it’s actual garbage or some other non-edible substance, it’s the most common source of diarrhea in dogs.

Another common cause of diarrhea in dogs is a diet change. If you’ve recently changed your dog’s food, you’ll want to give your dog’s stomach a few days to adapt to the new food composition. Vets recommend slowly introducing your dog’s new food by mixing it with their old food, but this isn’t always possible when you run out unexpectedly. Dogs are also susceptible to food intolerances and allergies.

Parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia can all cause gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. Parvovirus, Distemper, and Coronavirus are all viral culprits in diarrhea, while Salmonella is a common bacterial infection that causes diarrhea.

How to Fast Your Dog

sick german shepherd dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: Taisya Korchak, Shutterstock

When you fast your dog, you want to do it correctly. You should first ascertain whether your dog has an infection or parasites and should have him seen by a vet to run fecal test and possibly blood work depending on the severity of the condition. These aforementioned causes will not clear up from fasting alone, and diarrhea will continue until the disease has been cleared from the body, oftentimes with the help of medication.

You’ll want to fast your dog for 12 hours. A dog’s digestion cycle is about 10 hours. So giving your dog’s digestive tract at least 12 hours to clear itself out can help relieve your dog of its diarrhea.

Make sure you give your dog water while you fast them. Diarrhea can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, dehydration. If your vet recommends it, you can also offer your dog unflavored Pedialyte to maintain good electrolyte levels.


Final Thoughts

It can be hard to see your dog going through something painful. Luckily, fasting your dog is an effective first step for many cases of diarrhea, specifically those caused by garbage gut or a change in food routines.

Featured Image Credit: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

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