The Best Food for a Dog with Diarrhea: Pumpkin and Turkey to the Rescue
The boiled hamburger and rice bland diet you may turn to any time your pup has diarrhea isn’t actually the best thing for you to be feeding them. Why not? What should you feed a dog with diarrhea instead of rice? Read on for more information on what to give a dog with diarrhea.
Understanding Dog Poop: Loose Stool Vs Diarrhea
While many people use “loose stool” and “diarrhea” interchangeably, there is actually a difference between the two terms. Symptoms of loose stools include:
•Mushy or soft poop
•Mucous or film surrounds the feces
The occasional loose stool is nothing to worry about, and loose stools aren’t classified as diarrhea unless they happen 3 or more times per day. If your dog’s loose stool doesn’t clear up after 3 days on a pumpkin and turkey bland diet, you should contact their veterinarian.
Even though diarrhea and loose stools aren’t exactly the same things, we’re using the term “diarrhea” in this blog because it’s what most people are familiar with.
Recognizing Diarrhea as a Medical Emergency
Not all diarrhea requires a trip to the vet, but it’s important for you to know whether you can treat your pet’s diarrhea at home with a diet change or whether you should make an urgent vet appointment.
Call the vet if your dog has any of the following symptoms along with their diarrhea:
•Diarrhea that’s bloody or looks like coffee grounds
•Loss of appetite
•Rough or dull coat
•Acting extremely weak or tired
•Signs of dehydration, such as dry or pale gums and skin that doesn’t snap back into place after you pinch it
•Signs of abdominal pain, like groaning, bloating, not wanting to be touched, panting rapidly, or spending a lot of time in the “prayer position” with their front legs and head on the floor and butt in the air
You should also contact your vet if your dog:
•Is a puppy or senior dog
•Isn’t fully vaccinated
•May have eaten something poisonous
•Is on a new medication
•Has a preexisting condition
The First Response: Fasting
The first thing to do when your dog starts having diarrhea is to withhold all food, treats, bones, and other edibles (except water) for 12-24 hours. This lets your dog’s intestines clear everything out and then rest. While withholding food, always make sure your dog still has plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
The Best Food for Dog with Diarrhea: Pumpkin and Turkey Diet
Once you’ve given your dog’s digestive system a chance to rest, you can introduce a diet of 100% pure canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) and boiled fat-free turkey. Mix the pumpkin and turkey in a 50/50 mixture and feed small amounts throughout the day. This is much easier on your dog’s digestive tract than trying to process a large meal all at once.
Hopefully, fasting your dog and then giving them this bland diet will clear up their diarrhea within a day or two and you can gradually transition your dog back to their normal diet. If your pup is still having diarrhea after 48 hours, or if other symptoms show up, it’s time for a trip to the vet.
The Importance of Fiber: Why Pumpkin for Dogs with Diarrhea?
For years, vets have recommended rice and hamburger or chicken for dogs with diarrhea. Why switch from rice to pumpkin? It’s all about fiber. There are actually many different types of fiber, and each has a different impact on your dog’s gut.
Let’s take a closer look at the many different types of fiber and why pumpkin is a better source of fiber for dogs with diarrhea than rice.
Dietary Vs Functional Fiber
Dietary fiber naturally occurs in foods and includes cellulose, hemicellulose, beta-glucans, lignins, and resistant starches (found in legumes and green bananas).
Functional fiber is added to foods and dietary supplements and includes inulin, pectins, oligofructose, and plant gums.
Viscous Vs Non-Viscous Fiber
Fiber that gels in water, like psyllium, beta-glucans, pectins, and some gums, is classified as viscous and can lower cholesterol, slow gastric emptying time, and delay the absorption of certain nutrients (including sugars) in the small intestine.
Soluble Vs Insoluble Fiber
Soluble fiber, like gums, beta-glucans, psyllium, and most pectins, easily disperses when mixed with water. Insoluble fibers like lignin and cellulose don’t dissolve in water.
One benefit of soluble fiber is that it binds with fatty acids and slows digestion, which can stabilize a pet’s blood sugar levels.
Insoluble fiber is what you might consider “roughage” and helps bulk up stool and move waste products through the intestine, preventing constipation. Many people think all fiber has this same laxative effect, but some types of fiber (like the pectins found in bananas) actually draw water out of feces and put it back in the body, resulting in firmer stools. Adding a small amount of mashed banana to your dog’s pumpkin and turkey bland diet can help stop diarrhea.
Fermentable, Partially Fermentable, and Nonfermentable Fiber
Fermentable fiber sources like oligofructose, inulin, guar gum, beta-glucans, and pectins provide a food source for the billions of beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut, helping the good bacteria thrive so they can assist with returning your dog’s digestive system to normal.
Generally, fruit and vegetable fibers (like what you would find in pumpkin) are fermentable and have this benefit.
Lignin, cellulose, and some other fiber sources are nonfermentable and typically come from grains (like rice).
Fiber: Pumpkin Vs Rice
100% pure canned pumpkin puree contains a whopping 7 grams of soluble fiber per cup, while cooked white rice only contains 1.2 grams of fiber per cup. Since soluble fiber slows down GI transit times and coats and soothes irritated bowels, you can start to see why pumpkin is better than rice for diarrhea.
Additionally, dogs with diarrhea are at risk for dehydration due to the loss of important electrolytes, like potassium. Pumpkin contains a whopping 505 mg of potassium per cup, giving it another leg up over rice.
Finally, grains like rice aren’t species-appropriate for carnivores like dogs and cats. Beyond that, white rice may contain concerning levels of arsenic and often passes into dogs’ stool undigested.
As you can see, canned pumpkin makes much more sense as part of a bland diet for dogs to treat diarrhea.
The Role of Fat: Why Turkey Over Beef?
While you may be more likely to have extra hamburger meat in your freezer than ground turkey, beef is much higher in fat that doesn’t necessarily boil away, and fat can worsen an upset stomach. Ground turkey is the leanest meat you can easily find, making it the optimal choice for your pup’s bland diet.
Boiling the meat is the safest cooking method to remove all the fat without the harmful advanced glycation end products that baking or broiling meat at high temperatures can produce.
Other Options for Pets With Food Intolerances or Preferences
If your dog is allergic to turkey, doesn’t like pumpkin, or has some other problem with a 50/50 pumpkin and turkey bland diet, you can substitute skinless mashed yams, sweet potatoes, or white potatoes for the pumpkin or cooked codfish, fat-free pork, or chicken breast for the turkey.
Transitioning Back to Your Dog’s Normal Food
Assuming the bland diet resolves your dog’s diarrhea within 48 hours, you should transition them slowly back to their normal diet starting 24 hours after their poop has returned to normal. Gradually add in more of their normal diet to each bland meal for a couple of days until they’re fully back on their regular food.
A bland diet is not nutritionally complete and isn’t OK for long-term use, so if your dog’s diarrhea doesn’t resolve within 48 hours (or sooner if they start to show other symptoms), then it’s time for a trip to the vet to discover and treat the cause of their diarrhea.
The Healthiest Diet for Dogs: Preventing Diarrhea
While most dogs will experience diarrhea from time to time, there are some things you can do to help reduce the likelihood or frequency of diarrhea, such as:
•Never give your dog spicy food or table scraps
•Don’t let your pet eat rocks, sticks, or cooked bones
•Give your dog plenty of exercise and keep them at a healthy weight
•Have your pet’s stool routinely checked for parasites
•Feed a well-balanced diet
Conclusion: Choosing the Right Food for Your Dog's Health
We Feed Raw is nutritionally complete and balanced, so you should be able to feed it as-is for your dog to have firm stools. You may also choose to add some canned pumpkin or a fermented superfood topper like Gussy’s Gut to achieve those perfect poops.
If your pup isn’t already on We Feed Raw, take the quiz now to see how much it would cost to start your dog on our species-appropriate, highly nutritious food.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should I feed my dog if it has diarrhea?
If your dog has diarrhea, you might be tempted to turn to a bland diet of boiled hamburger and rice. However, current studies have shown that the best food for a dog with diarrhea is actually a 50/50 mix of pure canned pumpkin and boiled turkey. The pumpkin is packed with soluble fiber and electrolytes that can help soothe the digestive tract and restore hydration, while the turkey is a lean, easy-to-digest protein source.
Can I give my dog pumpkin to help with diarrhea?
Yes, pumpkin is one of the best foods you can give a dog with diarrhea. Not only does it contain high levels of soluble fiber, which can soothe the gut and slow down transit times, but it also contains a significant amount of potassium, which can help combat dehydration. Remember to only use 100% pure canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which contains added sugars and spices.
How does a diet of pumpkin and turkey help dogs with diarrhea?
Mixing pumpkin and turkey in a 50/50 ratio provides a gentle, high-fiber diet that is much easier on a dog's digestive tract than other foods. The pumpkin helps to slow down the transit times in the gut and soothes irritated bowels, while the turkey offers lean protein that's easy to digest. This combination can help clear up your dog’s diarrhea quickly, without straining their system.
Is pumpkin a good alternative to the traditional rice-based bland diet for treating dog diarrhea?
Yes, pumpkin is a great alternative to rice for treating dog diarrhea, and it's actually more beneficial due to its high fiber content. It contains 7 grams of soluble fiber per cup compared to the 1.2 grams in cooked white rice, which can help slow down GI transit times and coat and soothe irritated bowels. It also has a high level of potassium, which is crucial in preventing dehydration in dogs with diarrhea.
What should I do if my dog’s condition does not improve after feeding them pumpkin and turkey?
If your dog's diarrhea doesn't go away after three days on a diet of pumpkin and turkey, or if they develop additional symptoms such as vomiting, fever, or appetite loss, it's important to contact your vet. Diarrhea can be a symptom of more serious underlying conditions, and prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous for dogs.
Are there other options for dogs with food intolerances or preferences?
Yes, if your dog doesn't like pumpkin or is allergic to turkey, you can replace the pumpkin with mashed yams, sweet potatoes, or white potatoes, and the turkey can be replaced with cooked codfish, fat-free pork, or chicken breast. The important thing is to maintain a 50/50 mix of fibrous, watery vegetables and lean, easy-to-digest proteins.
How can I transition my dog back to their regular diet after their diarrhea clears up?
After your dog's diarrhea has resolved, you can gradually transition them back to their regular diet by slowly adding more of it back in over a couple of days. The bland diet of pumpkin and turkey isn't nutritionally complete for long-term use, so it should be progressively replaced with the dog's balanced regular food.
How can I prevent my dog from getting diarrhea again?
There are some steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood of your dog getting diarrhea again. This includes not giving your dog spicy food or table scraps; ensuring your dog doesn't eat rocks, sticks, or cooked bones; providing consistent exercise and maintaining a healthy weight; having routine checks for parasites; and feeding a well-balanced diet.
Is it true that pumpkin has more benefits for dogs with diarrhea than rice?
Yes, pumpkin is a better source of fiber for dogs with diarrhea than rice. With 7 grams of soluble fiber per cup, pumpkin can help slow gastrointestinal transit times and coat irritated bowels. Plus, pumpkin contains more potassium than rice, which is important for maintaining hydration in dogs with diarrhea.