Diarrhea & Gas in Dogs & Cats

When the absorption of nutrients from digested food is impaired or interrupted your pet can suffer from the frequent, watery stools of diarrhea. Other signs include: straining when trying to defecate but only passing gas, stools that are soft, soft stools of an abnormal color or odor, and "cow pie" type stools. Generally, diarrhea is a symptom, not a disease in itself.

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If your pet is afflicted by diarrhea take note of: fecal volume; frequency of bowel movements; appearance of feces; presence of blood, mucus, or worms in feces; vomiting; loss of appetite; weight loss; or length of illness.

As in humans, a small degree of flatulence in cats and dogs is not unusual, but excessive gas can be signs of an underlying issue. Gas is produced when the bacteria in the digestive track work to break down food. This flatulence may or may not be related to or accompanied by other digestive problems like diarrhea. The most common cause of gas is swallowed air.

Causes of Diarrhea & Gas in Dogs and Cats

Diarrhea can either be acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea starts suddenly and lasts anywhere between a few days to a week or two. It is usually a healthy, healing process, which occurs when an animal purges toxins from the system that may include garbage or spoiled food, feces, or other indigestible objects. Chronic diarrhea can be either constant or intermittent, allowing your pet some good days and some bad. Some animals' behavior may be altered while others will act the same. As the problem persists, dogs and cats can lose weight, the quality of their coats can diminish, and they can suffer from a lack of energy and general disinterest in life.

Beyond being caused by digesting problematic foods (or non-foods) in the case of diarrhea, and swallowing excessive air in the case of gas, both conditions can be caused by:

  • bacterial infections (Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli)
  • viral infections (Parvovirus in dogs, Coronavirus in cats)
  • giardia, worms, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease
  • antibiotic responsive diarrhea
  • cancer
  • poisoning
  • stress
  • drugs (including antibiotics)
  • hyperthyroidism (in cats)