Diarrhea is a symptom and not a disease. When your dog has any type of diarrhea, a bland diet and fasting for 24-hours is always the best next step. Often a vet appointment is necessary if you see blood in your dog’s stool or your buddy is lethargic and just not acting like himself. Gastrointestinal upset will happen to your dog at some point in his lifetime, so you want to prepare by knowing what type of bland diet to feed your dog.
All Dogs Get Diarrhea!
All adult dogs eventually suffer from diarrhea, and sometimes puppies may have loose stool too. There are several reasons why and you can manage diarrhea with a bland diet, or it may mean a trip (don’t walk but run) to the vet.
Common Causes of GI Upset
Food allergies are always at the top of the shortlist of common reasons dogs have GI upset. However, the holidays are also when pet parents enjoy feeding their dog table scraps, and Thanksgiving is an expected time of year when dogs get episodes of diarrhea. With that in mind, there are a handful of common reasons GI issues occur resulting in diarrhea:
- Viral and bacterial infections
- Sudden change in diet
- Foreign body
- Senior dogs may have sensitive stomachs
A bland diet always requires limited ingredients, including chicken and white rice.
3 Common Gastrointestinal Diseases
There are GI diseases pet owners need to know about, and these are all diseases where inflammation (words that end with ‘itis’ are diseases related to some type of inflammation) plays a role. A vet will do lab work to diagnose these diseases and rule out what may be causing your dog to feel sick.
Dr. Karen Becker explains the ins and outs of doggy diarrhea.
When To Contact Your Vet
Most cases of diarrhea may be treated at home. Yet, there are times when you need to see a vet, and the type of diarrhea may determine whether or not there is an emergency. Any diarrhea that persists for more than 24-hours, bloody diarrhea, or diarrhea accompanied by vomiting and lethargy shouldn’t be allowed to continue. Contact your vet immediately or head to your local emergency hospital. Also, chronic diarrhea may cause extreme dehydration, so make sure fresh water is always available.
Different Types Of Diarrhea
Small intestine inflammation is different than inflammation lower down in the colon. If there is inflammation and bleeding in the upper part of the small intestine, near the stomach, the bowel movement will be very dark or black from digested blood. This dog will probably not show any straining when passing stool.
When the inflammation is lower down in the colon, the diarrhea tends to ‘shoot out’ of the rectum with force and straining. It’s important to share this information with your vet if you end up needing to make an appointment.
Benefits Of A Bland Diet For Dogs
The immediate benefits? A bland diet is easy for your dog to digest and will help your dog’s gut return to normal.
- Low-fat meals are helpful for any dog suffering from GI upset.
- A limited ingredient diet is meant to be fed over the course of two to three days until your dog’s stool is back to normal.
- The goal is to help reduce inflammation in the colon or small intestine.
Consider Fasting Your Dog First
A 12-hour fast may sound absurd to you, and your dog may act ‘hungry,’ which makes this a little more complicated. Even if you must listen to a few whines, you need to withhold food for at least 12 hours. This technique allows your dog’s GI system an opportunity to rest. Always have access to water! Ice cubes are also acceptable for your dog to lick.
Feed a Bland Diet To Your Dog With Limited Ingredients
An easily digestible diet that doesn’t contain any fat is the best meal for your dog. Diets may contain boiled hamburger or chicken. Cottage cheese and soft-boiled eggs will also work, but I find chicken to be the best protein, and I’ve never had an issue with it when my dogs have episodes of diarrhea. Chicken is low in fat and high in protein. For grains, white rice is the second ingredient.
It’s best to continue the diet for at least three days until you see a normal bowel movement. Then you can slowly transition back to your dog’s regular meals. A day or two without any stools is OK and not a cause for alarm. A bland diet for dogs consists of highly digestible food.
2 Bland Diet Recipes For Dogs
Chicken and rice recipe is the go-to in our house when there is any episode of GI upset.
Author Rick Woodford (a.k.a the dog food dude) wrote “Feed Your Best Friend Better,” and pet parents may find the detailed chapter about bland recipes to feed your dog helpful. The following two recipes are from this book, and if you enjoy cooking for your pets, you should check out the recipes as many are designed for dogs with varying illnesses. Always check with your vet before transitioning your dog to a new diet suffering from any health issue like kidney disease or heart failure.
1. Chicken Stock and Rice
Boiled chicken breasts are the main ingredient
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup of medium-grain white rice
- 1 cup of diced boiled chicken breast
- Bring the stock, water, and rice to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Decrease the heat to low and adjust the lid to allow steam to escape.
- Simmer for 30-minutes or until the rice is creamy and thick. Serve at room temperature!
2. Rice and Eggs
Eggs are an excellent ingredient for a bland diet so this second option is another meal your dog may find palatable.
- 8 cups of water
- 4 cups of medium-grain white rice
- 12 large eggs
- Combine the water and rice in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 30-minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
- Remove from the heat and let the rice stand covered for 5-minutes.
- Eggs: Separate 6 of the eggs, reserving the whites and discarding the yolks.
- In a medium bowl, add the remaining 6 whole eggs to the egg whites and beat lightly.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.
- Add the eggs and stir gently for 5-minutes until the eggs are dry. Remove and allow the eggs to cool. Mix the eggs and the rice to combine.
Feed Small, More Frequent Meals
This diet needs to be fed throughout the day. Therefore, I always provide my dogs with three to four small meals, and typically these tiny meals are no more than 1/4 cup each. My dogs are small to medium-sized.
The first meal should be 1/3 of your dog’s regular meal size, as tolerated.
Foods To Avoid
Always avoid cheese and milk. Lactose may cause additional GI upset. I use cottage cheese if that’s all I have in the fridge but use this cautiously as it may cause issues. My dogs seem to do fine with low-fat cottage cheese.
We use Betonite clay at the first sign of diarrhea.
Integrative or holistic vets may help you navigate the number of herbs available that also help with cases of diarrhea. So what herbs do you need?
- Slippery elm bark: This is a safe herb and acts as a natural Pepto-Bismol for dogs.
- Bentonite clay: This has the consistency of dirt and helps detoxify the body.
- Add a pre and probiotic: Always add pre and probiotics to your dog’s bland diet. You can ask your vet about what they carry, or you can order whatever they recommend online.
What About Canned Pumpkin?
My dog, Walter enjoying a tablespoon of canned pumpkin with every meal
Pumpkin is an essential ingredient in many bland diet recipes. Pureed pumpkin is a wonderful addition to a bland diet, and you can add two or three tablespoons.
What About Baby Food?
Baby food is an excellent option if you need something more palatable. Unfortunately, some dogs are picky, and even chicken doesn’t work!
Will Bland Prescription Diets Work?
Yes! Ask your vet if they have any bland prescription diets at the clinic you can take home and feed instead of making a bland diet at home. There are kibble and canned options for both puppies and adult dogs. Neither option is as palatable as a home-cooked diet, but these are more convenient for busy pet owners.
How To Transition Slowly Back to A Normal Diet
Transition slowly back to kibble.
Never transition back to a regular diet rapidly. Take at least one week and start by adding 25 percent of the normal diet to 75 percent of the bland diet and feed that combination for two days. If stools look OK, then continue substituting the regular diet in 25 percent increments and providing the combination in two-day intervals until the diet is 100 percent regular food. Hold treats this entire week!
Dogs Are Scavengers
My dog Walter suffers from IBD, so I have a lot of practice with bland diets
Dogs will inevitably get into something that causes diarrhea. It is always better to be prepared with a plan when this happens and then to monitor.
All of these recipes are not long-term diets! If you were to feed this ongoing, you’d need to add supplements. Work with your vet on the transition plan if you need to feed your dog a bland diet over more than one week. Good luck!