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German Shepherd Diarrhea: 6 Reasons Why & How To Help

Most GSDs will have a run-in with diarrhea at some point throughout their lives. A sudden case of diarrhea can leave us scratching our heads, not knowing how to offer our pups relief. So how can you help your German Shepherd with diarrhea?


Is Diarrhea Common In German Shepherds?

Dietary issues or consuming rotten or toxic foods are the main causes of diarrhea in German Shepherds. The best way to help your GSD is with a temporary fast (if appropriate) before following a bland food diet.

Bouts of diarrhea will certainly happen to most German Shepherds throughout their life, at least a handful of times.

Diarrhea is a standard reaction to sudden changes in their GI health or even reactions to stress in the world around them.

A change in your German Shepherd’s stool should not cause too much alarm but does require appropriate care on our part. 

6 Reasons Behind Diarrhea In German Shepherds

Understanding the cause of your German Shepherd’s diarrhea is the best way to offer them relief. Each cause requires a different treatment approach, making it essential to get to the bottom of their troubles!

1. Dietary Issues

German Shepherds are extremely curious, meaning they often try to eat anything that may seem edible. Not only do they scarf up any food that crosses their path, but they can get their paws on human food as well. 

Dietary issues in dogs refer to eating anything outside of their normal diet. This can include getting into the trash, eating a greasy piece of bacon, or even eating something rotten found outside. 

When a dog eats something outside of their normal kibble, this can cause a sudden shift in the bacteria in their gut and intestines. This is made much worse by any high-fat content that could be in the food, along with any dangerous bacteria that could be present as well. 

2. Change of Diet

We might need to switch up our Shepherd’s diet from time to time. Whether your vet suggests a new food or your pup no longer likes their kibble, an occasional diet is sometimes needed. However, you should always change your dog’s diet over a 1 week period. 

As we mentioned above, a dog’s gut contains balanced intestinal flora. A sudden change in diet can cause a shift in this balance, leading to GI irritation. A change of diet that is not done over a gradual period will likely lead to diarrhea, and even vomiting in some cases. 

3. Stress

Just like you and I, our German Shepherds can experience stress and in severe cases, even depression. While they may have different triggers than humans, their struggles are just as real. Dogs can react to this stress in multiple ways, one of which being diarrhea. 

There are many factors that can cause a GSD to become stressed. They may react to changes in their normal routine, new people in the home, the sudden absence of someone they love, or any other change that impacts their life. 

This is extremely common in dogs that are boarded while their owners are away, so much so that kennel owners know to be on the lookout for any sign of diarrhea. 

4. Bacterial Infections

Our German Shepherds are exposed to different types of bacteria all the time. Bacteria live in the soil they touch, the bowls they drink out of, and even some of the toys they play with.

Because of this, dogs can fall victim to bacterial infections that cause an upset stomach. Most dogs with a bacterial infection will experience diarrhea, vomiting, change of appetite, abdominal pain, and more. 

Bacterial infections often require veterinary care, as most pups will need antibiotics to get them back on track.

5. Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are foreign invaders that cause serious GI upset in our German Shepherd friends. Once these parasites make their way into a dog’s digestive tract, our pups can experience an array of uncomfortable symptoms. 

Shepherds with intestinal parasites may experience diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, distended abdomens, and more. You may even see these parasites in your dog’s stool, as some adult worms can become quite large. 

The best way to prevent intestinal parasites is to have your pup dewormed from the moment you adopt them, and then offer them monthly heartworm prevention. Most heartworm prevention contains ingredients that stop worms in their tracks. 

6. Serious Illness

Diarrhea can be a symptom of serious illness in German Shepherds. Many health complications can not only disrupt a dog’s digestive health, but they can lead to stress as well. 

This combination can cause diarrhea for many dogs, especially if it is a GI illness in particular. If you think your German Shepherd’s diarrhea is a complication due to other illnesses, it’s best to see your vet for further advice. 

Be sure to keep a log of all the symptoms your dog is currently experiencing, so you can help your vet make an accurate diagnosis.

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How To Help Your German Shepherd With Diarrhea

When your German Shepherd starts having diarrhea, there are a few ways to help them feel better.

While any diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours should be seen by a vet, there are a few at-home options to try. 

1. Withholding Food

Withholding food for 12-24 hours is an option that can be practiced in certain dogs. If you know that your dog is having diarrhea due to something they ate, this can be a successful way to let their stomach calm down. 

Fasting should only be practiced in healthy adult dogs, and when approved by your veterinarian. You should never fast a German Shepherd puppy or senior dog, as this can lead to more complications. 

2. Switch To a Bland Diet

Switching to a bland diet is one of the most successful ways to combat diarrhea in your canine companion. When a dog is experiencing an upset stomach, it can be challenging to properly digest their normal food. 

A bland diet allows your dog’s stomach to have a bit of a break and can help to firm their stool in the process. The most popular bland diet option is boiled chicken breast and white rice, but you can also purchase a bland diet from your veterinarian. 

3. Antidiarrheal Medications

If you cannot resolve your dog’s diarrhea with fasting or by offering a bland diet, it may be time for antidiarrheals. Antidiarrheals can work with a bland diet to firm your dog’s stool and hopefully settle their stomach in the process. 

Some vets do approve pro-pectalin for use at home, but this should always be approved before giving it to your furry friend. Your vet can also prescribe antibiotics that help with diarrhea, along with medication to firm their stool. 

4. Probiotics

Probiotics can be a wonderful way to promote balance in your German Shepherd’s digestive tract. Diarrhea is often a result of some type of irritation in the GI tract, making probiotics useful in many cases. 

Probiotics are packed with beneficial bacteria that helps to promote digestive health. Adding daily probiotics to a bland diet can help your pup get back on track. You can find probiotics at your local pet store, as well as your vet’s office. 

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Preventing Diarrhea In German Shepherds

So how can you prevent diarrhea in the future? This is especially important for German Shepherds with sensitive stomachs, as they may be easily triggered by certain changes. 

The best ways to prevent GI upset in your canine companion includes:

  • Avoiding any abrupt diet changes
  • Preventing dietary indiscretion
  • Not offering any table scraps or greasy food
  • Staying on top of their preventative care
  • Preventing stress as much as possible
  • Not allowing them to play with any unvaccinated dogs
  • Only offering quality food that is approved by your vet

When To See A Vet 

If your German Shepherd is having diarrhea, you may wonder when it is time to throw in the towel at home and seek veterinary care.

The general rule is to always seek help if their diarrhea does not resolve within 24 hours. 

However, there are a few special circumstances that require veterinary care much sooner.

If your German Shepherd is a puppy, a senior, has other GI symptoms, or has any other medical conditions, it’s best to have them seen at the first sign of diarrhea.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, German Shepherds can experience diarrhea due to multiple causes. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can help your pup at the next sign of diarrhea. 

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.