It seems that dogs have a penchant for choosing the middle of the night or the middle of the living room carpet to be seized with an upset stomach.
Whether your dog has a sensitive stomach, they like to eat weird things at the dog park, or they come down with a virus, you might be tempted to reach for that trusty bottle of pink Pepto-Bismol when your dog has a bout of diarrhea.
If you want to treat your dog for an upset stomach or vomiting, Pepto-Bismol seems like a viable treatment option. It’s easily accessible, you probably have some in your cabinet, and it’s effective.
Before you pull that bottle out, however, you should consult with your veterinarian. Pepto-Bismol is safe for dogs, but there are a few things to take into consideration first.
Is Pepto-Bismol Safe for My Dog?
Pepto-Bismol consists of bismuth subsalicylate, a drug known for quelling vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea in humans. In the veterinary world, it’s sometimes used to treat minor diarrhea or to help dogs with Helicobacter infections.
Used short-term, Pepto-Bismol is safe for dogs. However, the longer your dog takes the drug, the more likely it is they’ll see some negative side effects. Pregnant and nursing dogs should not take Pepto-Bismol because of the likelihood of it affecting her puppies.
Typical side effects are oddly colored stools (such as gray or green tinted), constipation, and blood in the stool. While these aren’t uncommon, they aren’t normal, so you should discontinue the Pepto-Bismol regimen and call your vet for further guidance.
Never give Pepto-Bismol to dogs with an aspirin sensitivity, bleeding disorders, or in combination with steroids or NSAID pain medication.
Dogs that have a history of internal bleeding (including ulcers) should not be given Pepto-Bismol unless your vet has given you the specific directions for administration. If they develop a black, tarry stool at any point, stop the Pepto-Bismol immediately and get them to your vet. This is indicative of a bleed somewhere high in the digestive tract, usually the stomach. Dogs taking oral tetracycline or on aspirin therapy should not take Pepto-Bismol because it has been shown to interfere with the absorption of these two medications.
How Much Pepto-Bismol Can I Give My Dog?
The proper dog dosage varies from the appropriate human dosage. The liquid form of Pepto-Bismol comes in a concentration of 1.75 percent, which translates to 17.5 mg/mL. This is the typical concentration of bismuth subsalicylate in both human and veterinary medicine.
Vets recommend a dosage of 0.12 mL/lb every four to six hours for acute diarrhea lasting less than 24 hours. The dosage can be higher depending on the severity of the diarrhea and the overall condition of the dog, but this should be decided by a veterinarian, not the owner.
The maximum suggested dose is 0.9 mL/lb every six to eight hours, but it’s unlikely your vet will want you to give your dog this high of a dosage.
When Should I Seek Veterinary Treatment for My Dog’s Diarrhea
Dogs get an upset stomach for a variety of reasons. While some of these reasons aren’t necessarily dangerous for your dog, some of them can be incredibly dangerous, if not deadly, to them. It’s generally accepted that dogs suffering from diarrhea for less than 24 hours don’t need to see a veterinarian.
If an upset stomach lasts longer than 24 hours, that means there’s probably an underlying cause that should be treated by a veterinarian. Even if it’s just a minor virus that needs to run its course, over 24 hours of vomiting or diarrhea will make them dehydrated.
When your dog has an upset stomach, there are a few signs to watch out for. If any of these appear at any point, then you should call your veterinarian. The biggest worry with diarrhea is dehydration. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry gums and nose, extreme lethargy, and decreased skin turgor.
Skin turgor is how quickly your dog’s skin goes back to normal after you tent it between your fingers. When you pull up on their skin, it should immediately go back to normal. If it remains tented, that means they’re pretty dehydrated and you need to get them to a veterinarian.
While gross, you should examine the stool. Diarrhea with a lot of mucus in it should be mentioned to your veterinarian. Sometimes the mucus is simply a sign of irritation in the intestine, but it can also be a sign of a parasitic infection called giardia, which is only eliminated with the antibiotic metronidazole (Flagyl).
Blood in the diarrhea may or may not be acceptable. Very small amounts of bright red blood simply means the intestines or anus are irritated from all of the action, but more than a few spots means something else is going on.
A significant amount of blood is an indication of HGE, or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. This should only be treated in a veterinary clinic with IV fluids, antibiotics, and general supportive care.
What Can I Give My Dog for Diarrhea?
Minor diarrhea can be treated at home without medication. Dog’s digestive tracts move quickly, so if they ate something non-toxic that is simply giving them digestive troubles, it’s usually eliminated within 24 hours. If your vet hasn’t seen anything concerning in your dog’s specific case, then using home remedies is perfectly acceptable.
The first step is putting them on a temporary fast. Six to eight hours is typically recommended and gives their digestive system time to shuttle out the offending food. Once the fast has been completed, you’ll want to put them on a bland diet for the next 72 hours.
A bland diet consists of boiled rice and a boiled protein, usually chicken or ground beef (no added seasonings, please). You can give them probiotics in the form of plain yogurt to help the gut recover, and canned pumpkin (not the pie filling) will absorb the excess water in the intestine to firm the stool back up.
Probiotic capsules are fine, too, and will put good bacteria back into the intestine. There’s a product called Proviable-KP that firms up the stool quickly and also contains probiotics and is easily administered because it’s a paste.
Diarrhea is usually nothing serious in dogs, but they should see the vet just in case it is something serious, like a bacterial infection. Taking an hour out of your day to have a vet examine your dog is the best way to ensure they stay healthy and live a long, healthy life.