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Every dog or cat parent will eventually have to deal with diarrhea. Along with vet visits and cones of shame, it’s one of the least fun parts of sharing your life with animals.
Whether it’s some mild diarrhea or a serious runny tummy, nobody likes to see their furry family members suffer. As diarrhea sometimes pops up without warning, I always try to have some tummy taming ingredients or products on-hand.
While you should always check with your vet first before changing or adding anything to your pet’s diet – especially if they have a pre-exiting condition – having some knowledge of home remedies for stomach upset can definitely save your pet (and you) some discomfort.
So to get you started, here are some recipes, ingredients, and supplements that have worked for us in the past.
But before you get cooking…
Remember that time and moderation are key. Most remedies are good for the short term, but if the problem persists or your cat or dog cannot comfortably exist without the remedy, there may be a more serious underlying problem. Please consult your vet.
If you pet’s stomach upset accompanies more troubling issues like vomiting, lethargy, loss of balance, bloody vomit or diarrhea, dehydration, or uncontrollable diarrhea, among other symptoms, your pet’s situation is not something that should be remedied at home. Consult a vet.
If your pet’s stomach is distended, they are pacing, their belly is tender to the touch, they try to vomit but cannot, and are drooling excessively, get to the vet immediately. This could be life-threatening situation.
Dealing with Diarrhea
Maybe your dog got into the trash. Maybe your cat stole something off your plate they shouldn’t have. Maybe you switched your pet’s food and it didn’t agree with them. Maybe your pet suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
There are a multitude of reasons why your cat or dog might have diarrhea or loose stools, but helping to soothe their stomach doesn’t have to be complicated.
The first step is to take away their food and/or (obviously) the offending thing they’ve consumed. This includes treats or chews. Fast your dog or cat for about 6 to 12 hours – this gives the gastrointestinal tract some time to rest and recover.
If your cat or dog has vomited a little, you may want to take their water away for a few hours too, giving them a few sips occasionally if they are very thirsty. If they are just experiencing some mild diarrhea, it’s good to encourage them to stay hydrated. However, don’t let your dog or cat gulp down water – it can exacerbate their tummy troubles. If they are thirsty, but are gulping water, either give them ice to chew or lick at, or only give them a few spoonfuls of water at a time.
After fasting, you can re-introduce some food.
The Bland Diet
The tried and true “Bland Diet” recommended by many vets can do wonders for dogs and cats. The recipe is very simple.
Extra-lean ground beef
Plain, cooked white rice (see “For Cats” feeding instructions below)
Optional: plain, steamed and pureed pumpkin, sweet potato, or kabocha squash – We like Nummy Tum Tum Organic Pumpkin or Sweet Potato for pets. You can buy fresh kabocha squash and steam and puree it (no seeds) in place of pumpkin or sweet potato.
If you prefer a quick and easy pumpkin product with a longer shelf life, try Firm Up! by Diggin. It's a dehydrated pumpkin and apple fiber product that you just add water to. It's great to keep on-hand at home, and also for travel.
Any of these products could work. Some dogs and cats are pickier – you may have to experiment!
NO salt or seasoning
If you choose chicken, boil it in enough water to cover it, skimming off the fat and keeping the water. To some dogs and cats that chicken water is liquid gold! You can use it as a way to add moisture to their food, or as a way to entice them to drink more liquid (fending off the dehydration that can come with diarrhea). Shred the cooked chicken and let cool.
If you choose beef, before to drain off the fat before feeding it to your pet. Excess fat can cause pancreatitis or further upset the stomach.
Mix the meat with rice, at about 50/50 meat to rice. If you want to add the plain pumpkin (it helps firm up the stool and soothe the stomach), you can mix that in as well. We like this serving guide from Nummy Tum Tum to figure out how much to feed.
We recommend erring on the side of conservative as overdoing it on pumpkin can actually cause more stomach upset.
Giving cats too much rice, something their bodies can’t as readily digest as dogs, might actually serve to exacerbate their tummy troubles. Instead, follow the recipe above for either beef or chicken, but include little to no rice. The majority of the meal should be meat. Pumpkin can also be added to a cat’s meal – see chart above. We recommend starting with 1/4 to 1/2 a tablespoon to see how your cat reacts to it (or if they’ll even eat it).
And with cats, do save that chicken water! Most cats are chronically dehydrated, so encouraging them to drink more liquid – especially when recovering from dehydrating diarrhea – is important.
Don’t rush it. Your pet’s stomach may still be sensitive. Instead of giving them their regular sized meals, give them several small meals. Their first meal after fasting should be the smallest, to make sure their stomach can handle it.
Give your dog or cat small meals of the Bland Diet every two or three hours, gradually giving larger meals and spacing them further apart as their stomach trouble improves.
After a couple days, if your pet’s stomach upset has subsided you can slowly reintroduce their regular food. Transition them onto their old food using the Bland Diet you cooked. Depending on the severity of their stomach upset, this transition could take anywhere from two days to a week.
Generally speaking this is how you might transition from the Bland Diet to their regular diet:
Day 1: 25% regular diet and 75% Bland Diet for all meals
Day 2: 50% regular diet and 50% Bland Diet for all meals.
Day 3: 75% regular diet and 25% Bland Diet for all meals.
Day 4: Back to their regular diet (maybe adding in some extra water – did you save some chicken water?)
Additional Diarrhea Recovery Methods
PROBIOTICS – Probiotics are not only a great way to maintain your pet’s digestive, immune system, and skin health (among others), but after a bout of diarrhea probiotics are a great way to replenish the good gut bacteria and mucosal barrier in the digestive tract that may have been depleted.
A probiotic regimen might also help to protect your pet again future bouts of diarrhea.
There are many pet probiotic products on the market, but we find that products like The Honest Kitchen’s Pro Bloom, a drinkable goat milk, is a great way to get more moisture into a pet’s diet and give them probiotics. Plus, most cats and dogs seem to love it like a treat!
If for some reason your cat or dog cannot tolerate a goat milk probiotic, our customers have had good experiences with Nzymes products.
SLIPPERY ELM – Slippery elm is an herbal remedy that coats, soothes, lubricates and fights inflammation in a dog or cat’s digestive tract. It’s kind of like Pepto-Bismol for dogs and cats.
Though slippery elm is safe for dogs and cats, it’s important to only give it in supplements that are intended for dogs and/or cats – UNLESS you have a supplement that is ONLY slippery elm AND you have a dosage approved by a professional. Basically, don’t guess. Dosage or extra ingredients in a human supplement may not be safe for animals.
A supplement like The Honest Kitchen’s Perfect Form might be a good choice as it is not only formulated specifically for pets, but aside from slippery elm it contains other stomach soothing ingredients. Plus, it is easy to administer.
BONE BROTH – To recover from a bout of diarrhea, your dog or cat may also benefit from a bone broth. Soothing and healing, it is chock full of gelatin and collagen and helps with hydration. It is especially great if your pet has Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Unfortunately, pets with Chronic Kidney Disease should not consume bone broth, and should instead stick with something like chicken water.
From an article by pet nutrition expert Susan Thixton, she quotes:
“Another recent study found that “gelatin as feed supplement protected against ethanol-induced mucosal damages in rats.” This directly supports the traditional thought that broth is healing and coating to the gastrointestinal lining, and gives a scientific explanation for broth’s ability to calm and soothe. Gelatin has also been found to improve body weight as well as bone mineral density in states of protein undernutrition.”
Here is Thixton’s bone broth recipe:
Bones from poultry, fish, beef, lamb.
Raw bones with or without skin and/or meat. (As example, I purchased a 3 pound package of chicken necks and chicken backs. $0.50 per pound. I did not remove the skin or fat, just dumped the contents into the pot. Later, after cooking, I removed the larger pieces with tongs, smaller pieces were removed via straining. Fat was skimmed off the top once the broth cooled.)
Add your choice of bones into a large pot or crock pot. Cover (just cover) the bones with cold water; or 2 cups of water per 1 pound of bones. Add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar per 1 pound of bones Let stand for one hour.
Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 6 to 48 hours for chicken bones (bones will become soft when touched by a fork); 12 to 72 hours for beef bones. Strain broth through a colander or sieve lined with cheesecloth (or paper towel). Discard bones (do NOT feed these bones to your pet). You can also cook bone broth in a crock-pot. Low heat.
Broth can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for several months.
It is recommended to feed your pet the broth at non-meal times (at least thirty minutes prior to or one hour after)."
And if you're short on time, but want a reliable product that you can keep in your freezer until your pet needs it, check out Primal Pet Foods' Bone Broth. Primal is a company we've trusted for years, and is great alternative to cooking.
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons
Of course we hope you rarely have to use these recipes, but it’s still good to stock your pet’s first-aid closet with supplements, ingredients, and know-how that could bring them relief.
Wishing you tame tummies and tasty treats!
~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger
Note: Always check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt, always ask a vet.