The ins and outs of Diarrhea

I don’t talk about this to many people because it’s a topic that is a little taboo, but it’s a very common problem for any animal that eats. Qwerty has had an issue with chronic diarrhea/loose stool. It’s been an on and off problem for about a year now. Diarrhea is an extremely frustrating problem because it is a symptom of many many different things and sometimes there is no, one, answer for why your pet has diarrhea.

I remember it really getting bad one day at the dog park, Qwerty pooped multiple times, each time liquid, the last few times it had blood in it. We had just been traveling and Qwerty had gotten into somethings he shouldn’t have eaten. I called work and got some medication for him, thinking it was just a simple episode of diarrhea. His stool never really got better, I knew something needed to be done. Diagnostics were the next best step.

Where did I start? I started with a stool analysis. This tests looks at the stool itself, checking for intestinal parasites and bacterial balance. Qwerty did have a bacterial inbalance so we did treat with some antibiotics. This worked for a little while, but once he was off antibiotics the diarrhea started again. I knew at this point it was time to move on and try other things.

Diet can be a huge factor in chronic Diarrhea. It was time for a diet change. I typically do not recommend 100% grain free diets (unless the dog has been physically diagnosed with a grain allergy – this allergy is very rare in dogs). A good rule of thumb is to change manufacturers and change up the top 3-5 ingredients. I tried multiple over the counter diets and when those did not make a difference (after a minimum of 6 weeks soley on each diet) I did a prescription diet trial. I used Hill’s Z/D which is a hydrolyzed protein diet (meaning the proteins are broken down very small to make the body less likely to react with them). Each diet yielded the exact same stool quality.

Blood work was my next step. I needed to make sure there wasn’t a problem with Qwerty’s internal organs. I did a complete blood count to check red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A chemistry profile looking at liver, kidneys, blood sugar, and electrolytes. Then I also checked his digestive enzymes (TLI, Cobalamin, Folate) to make sure his body is able to digest his food. All of that came back normal. The last blood work I checked was bile acids to make sure there wasn’t a liver shunt. All came back normal, thank goodness! Qwerty has normal organs, I didn’t have an answer, but we did rule out a large number of other issues, which in my mind is awesome news!

I have a huge benefit being a technician, I have multiple doctors at my finger tips (all of them have examined Qwerty and know him and his issues well). I consulted with the 3 doctors I work with. It was recommended to me to discuss Qwerty’s case with the Ultrasound Veterinarian who comes to our clinic to do our ultrasounds, she is an internal medicine guru (not officially board certified, but many years working with internal medicine hands on). She had me try some other medications. Both an antibiotic (different than one I had tried already) and a steroid (helps with inflammation). I started the antibiotic, that seemed to help, then I tried the steroid, which did not help.

At this time it was safe to assume something was wrong with the bacteria in Q’s gut. Antibiotics were the only thing that helped. I really did not want to keep Qwerty on antibiotics long term, but what other options did I have? One new (but not really new) treatment is a fecal transplant. This is exactly what it sounds like, you take fecal matter from an animal with healthy stool and transfer it into the animal with problems. I spent my free time researching fecal transplants in dogs and found that it was actually a fairly easy and harmless procedure. Using my boss’s dog as a donor I went ahead with this. All I did was mix the donor stool in some saline and administered via enema into Qwerty. I repeated this once a week for 3 weeks and each time I noticed an improvement! Finally I was seeing normal solid stool! It was amazing!

Now, the fecal transplant was mostly successful, but we are still seeing some looser stool (not NEARLY as often as we used to see it!). I would always recommend talking with your veterinarian about this, and many veterinarians are not doing this procedure regularly, but there are no known side effects of this, the only downfall is it may not work for your pet.

Chronic diarrhea is an extremely frustrating symptom, but if you work closely with your vet you can find a cause and treatment that works best for you and your pet!

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