If your cocker spaniel suddenly experiences a bout of diarrhea it can be worrying and difficult to know what to do.
This article highlights the main causes of diarrhea in cocker spaniels and explains the best steps to take next. Let’s get started!
7 Reasons Why Cocker Spaniels Get Diarrhea
Let’s run through the seven most common causes of diarrhea in cocker spaniels. It’s almost certain that your cocker spaniel’s diarrhea is caused by at least one of the following.
Cocker spaniels get diarrhea mostly from having eaten rotten food or table scraps. Additional causes include a change of kibble, dehydration, stress, medications, or underlying health issues.
It can be hard to diagnose the root cause, which is why it’s essential to think about where your spaniel has been on walks, as well as the recent events leading up to this point. Consider her diet , treats, lifestyle, routine, and recent behavior.
1. Digestive upset
This makes up for most cases of diarrhea. Digestive upset can be caused by various things including table scraps, too many treats, or consuming rotten or spoiled food from the trash or when out on walks.
When it comes to tidbits and table scraps, we often think “oh well, it’s only a little bit, what harm can it do”… Unfortunately, even a tiny amount of the wrong food can cause a serious upset stomach.
The truth is that human food is far too rich and contains a high amount of salt, spices, and flavorings, which are often too much for a dog’s digestive system to handle.
In addition to table scraps, it’s crucial to keep an eye on where your cocker spaniel wanders on her walks. It only takes a second to rummage through a bush and eat something foul… It happens all the time, and often without us noticing.
Although it’s great to let our dogs run off the leash, it’s important to keep them in your sight so you know what they are doing (or eating!).
2. Switching kibble, diet or treats
Something else that’s notorious for causing upset stomachs and diarrhea, is when we change kibbles or treats. If diarrhea comes shortly after you try something new, whether it be a small treat or their main diet, this is likely the cause.
There can be two things that happen…
Either the new food or treat just isn’t destined to work well with your cocker spaniel. Perhaps there are ingredients in the formula that your spaniel doesn’t tolerate very well. In these cases, the food will continue to cause upset stomachs and diarrhea.
The other potential scenario is that the new food or treat was introduced too quickly. Sometimes, a new kibble may actually work out well, but if the change is too abrupt, it can stress the digestive system and result in diarrhea.
Whenever introduced a new food or treat, it should be done slowly and gradually over the course of 1-2 weeks. This allows their digestive system to get used to it without shocking it.
3. Dehydration & heatstroke
Dehydration is a particularly common cause of diarrhea during the summer or for those that live in hot climates year-round.
The main problem with dehydration and diarrhea is that it creates a vicious circle that gets progressively worse… The dehydration causes diarrhea, and diarrhea leads to further dehydration.
During the summer it’s absolutely crucial to keep our pooches sufficiently hydrated. The problem is that most dogs don’t drink as much as they should be.
We can encourage more drinking by having multiple water bowls, replacing the water frequently, or even throwing in a few ice cubes to make a fun rehydrating game.
4. Stress and anxiety
Our dogs can get stressed and anxious just like we can, and it can affect their bodies in many negative ways, diarrhea being just one outcome.
Stress can be caused by many things, mostly to do with their lifestyle, routine, and environment. Anything from spending too much time alone, to being understimulated, exercised, or living in a loud noisy place can heighten your cocker spaniel’s stress levels.
As so many things can cause stress and anxiety it’s admittedly difficult trying to diagnose it. This really does involve taking a step back to consider your cocker spaniel’s overall life, routine, and well-being.
Parasites are another well-known cause of diarrhea, although, in general, this is a rarer cause compared to the other reasons listed.
Parasites happen if your spaniel consumes an infected flea, or the eggs in contaminated soil or feces. Parasites may also be passed on from mothers to their offspring (which is why deworming medication is always mandatory for puppies).
If your cocker spaniel has parasites, you’ll likely see visible worms in the diarrhea, or it will also contain some blood. In most cases, parasites come with additional symptoms like general lethargy, weakness, vomiting, and nausea.
6. Bacterial infections
Another common cause of diarrhea is a bacterial infection. While this is more common than having parasites, it’s still less likely than the other causes listed.
Bacterial infections can be caused by a wide range of things. Most items your cocker spaniel will come into contact with on a day-to-day have bacteria on them… From their food bowl, water bowl, toys, their bed, and all other items inside and outside of the house…
If the bacteria is well-developed and strong, it could make your cocker spaniel sick, and cause diarrhea. Just like with parasites, if your spaniel has a bacterial infection, there will be other symptoms like lethargy, food refusal, nausea, vomiting, and unusual behavior.
Bacterial infections nearly always require veterinary help and medication to resolve it.
7. Medication or underlying health issues
Lastly, if your cocker spaniel has underlying health issues, or is taking medication for existing problems, it could be causing diarrhea.
If your cocker spaniel is already on medication for something then it’s important to always speak to your veterinarian the moment things like diarrhea or vomiting happen.
When it comes to underlying health issues yet to be diagnosed, it’s all about observing your cocker spaniel, and acting upon unusual behavior or additional symptoms. I’ll explain below when it’s important to seek veterinary help.
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When To See a Vet
Sometimes, the best course of action is to visit your veterinarian before you do anything else. Knowing whether to do this depends on a few things.
When to call your veterinarian:
- Your cocker spaniel is already taking some kind of medication for an existing health issue
- Diarrhea is accompanied with other symptoms like vomiting, nausea, lethargy, unusual behavior
- It’s already been a few days and you’ve tried various things with no improvement of the diarrhea
If you find any of those situations relevant to you, then it’s best to call your veterinarian for further advice and guidance. If your cocker spaniel seems otherwise fine and the diarrhea has only just started, then you can try some of the following methods below.
4 Ways To Resolve Diarrhea In Cocker Spaniels
The following steps to resolve diarrhea are often the same methods that veterinarians often suggest. There are some exceptions when it comes to fasting, which I will highlight in the section.
1. Fasting (withholding food)
Withholding food for 24 hours is usually the first step to take for most cocker spaniels. Fasting allows the digestive system and stomach to rest, recover, and heal before taking in more food. Having to digest food puts a lot of stress on the digestive system, and in times of sickness, this alone can prove too much and prolong diarrhea.
In most cases, fasting for 24 hours will result in a significant improvement of most diarrhea cases. It’s only recommended to fast for 24 hours maximum, and ensure your spaniel keeps consuming plenty of water.
When fasting isn’t appropriate:
- If your cocker spaniel is a puppy (under 8 months) or a senior (over 9 years old)
- If your cocker spaniel is already taking medication for an underlying health issue
- If the diarrhea is likely to be caused by medication or stress and anxiety
- If the diarrhea is caused by dehydration
Fasting is most appropriate when the diarrhea is caused by food, treats, table scraps, or ingesting something foul.
2. Bland food diet
If fasting is appropriate for your cocker spaniel then that should be the first step. If it isn’t then the bland food diet is what to do next. Just like fasting, following a bland food diet is what veterinarians will suggest to resolve diarrhea.
The bland food diet means providing 3 small meals per day of plain boiled turkey breast with plain white rice. The whole point of this diet is so your cocker spaniel continues to receive essential nutrients while they recover. As these ingredients are easily digestible, they will not impact recovery.
While there are many different foods considered “bland food” the easiest and most effective is simply turkey and white rice. Ensure there are no spices, flavorings, or salt. You can use chicken, but due to it being a common allergen, turkey is generally a safer option.
Veterinarians recommend following the bland food diet until diarrhea improves. Although this diet does not provide a full spectrum of nutrients, it is perfectly safe for 1-2 weeks. When diarrhea has improved, you can slowly introduce kibble or their old diet back in.
If your cocker spaniel fasts and moves to a bland food diet then probiotics may not even be necessary, but they are an extra option.
Probiotics help to restore balance and strength in the stomach, digestive system, and immune system. As diarrhea is mostly gut-related, giving some probiotics could help quite a bit.
Probiotics could be considered something to offer before resorting to anti-diarrheal medication.
4. Antidiarrheal medication
If your cocker spaniel is having a hard time getting over diarrhea, your veterinarian might prescribe an antidiarrheal medication.
In some situations, your veterinarians may suggest medication as the first step. All cases are different and depend on your spaniel’s age, health, and cause of diarrhea.
Pro-Pectalin is an example of a common over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication. While you can buy this in most pet stores, it’s important to consult with your veterinarians first before giving your spaniel medication.
Preventing Diarrhea In The Future
While we can’t prevent all cases of diarrhea, if we follow some good habits and healthy practices, we can avoid some of them. And that’s certainly better than none!
- Cut out all table scraps and tidbits
- Always change food/treats slowly over 1-2 weeks
- Make trashcans completely unaccessable
- Keep food in unreachable areas
- Observe where your spaniel goes on walks
- Avoid letting your spaniel play with unvaccinated dogs
- Schedule bi-yearly or yearly health check ups
- Reduce stress and anxiety as much as possible (being left alone)
- Ensure your spaniel’s daily needs are sufficiently met
- Wash toys, food bowls, and bed regularly
If these healthy habits are followed, bouts of diarrhea will rarely happen.
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