What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs When Boarding?

Updated on February 18, 2016
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

You and your dog are so happy to be reunited after boarding! Here is how to prevent the diarrhea that can happen afterwards.
You and your dog are so happy to be reunited after boarding! Here is how to prevent the diarrhea that can happen afterwards.

If your dog developed diarrhea while boarding, you may be upset and wonder what happened. Did your dog catch some sort of virus? Did he get too stressed? Perhaps the water given was not clean? If you're using a pet sitter, you may think she fed him something that didn't agree with his stomach. It's easy to blame the kennel for the mishap, but there may be other causes, and it might not be entirely the kennel's fault.

Why Dogs Get Diarrhea When Boarding

As tempting as it may be to just let the diarrhea run its course and forget about the mishap, it is best to figure out what happened to prevent it from happening next time. You may never know exactly what happened, but your vet may give some clues and so may the kennel. Also, the duration and severity of the diarrhea can be clues as well. Get ready to put on your investigative hat and ask several questions.

  • Your dog got stressed. Many dogs get stressed at the kennel. There are two types of stress: the stress from being in the kennel in the first place, and the stress of going home. When I worked for a kennel, I was impressed by the number of dogs that developed diarrhea, often within the first hours of being there. These dogs were clearly stressed. Being kenneled is not easy on the dog. He is in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by barking dogs and unfamiliar smells and noises. Some dogs may appear to care less about these changes, but several inevitably get visibly stressed and get the doggy version of nervous diarrhea.
  • Some dogs have solid stools at the kennel and then develop diarrhea the moment they are sent home. All the excitement of seeing mom and dad after their absence and being home again may have an effect on the dog's gastric system. I remember that while working at the vet that we had to read the discharge instructions out loud. They clearly said to withhold food and water for the first couple of hours, as excited dogs will gulp these down and get a bout of doggie upset stomach.
  • Your dog underwent dietary changes. Did you provide the boarding center with your own food? If not, this may be the culprit. If your dog was boarded for just a few days, his stomach may not be agreeing with the new food. This is why many food brands advise introducing any new food gradually over the course of a week or so. Failure to do that may result in an upset stomach. Many kennels now ask for owners to bring their own food. Those who don't may sometimes feed a food that is very bland and easy on the stomach, such as kibble with lamb and rice. Others may just feed cheap food. If your dog is in the home with a pet sitter, ask her if she fed anything such as table scraps or some new type of treats. If your dog swallows anything in sight, it could be he got into something he shouldn't have. Keep an eye on him for signs of an intestinal blockage. In some cases, dogs with sensitive tummies may get stomach upset just from changing water.
  • Your dog has an underlying condition. A health issue that becomes evident only when your dog is stressed and his immune system is at its most vulnerable state may be to blame. It may seem like a coincidence that you just boarded your dog and your dog gets a bout of diarrhea. All those emotions and changes may awaken some conditions which could have otherwise remained silent for a bit.
  • Examples of underlying conditions include some types of parasites like coccidia, or conditions such as pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, skin conditions, and diabetes. It's common for coccidia to flare up when puppies change homes, are weaned, shipped, or kenneled. In some cases, the emotional stress of being boarded weakens the dog's immune system. I the dog carries the bacterium clostridium perfringes in their intestines, or is exposed to it in the kennel, it could lead to watery diarrhea with mucous and blood.
  • Your dog caught something at the kennel. Kennels should try their best to screen for diseases. They should ask for proof of vaccination and should clean the premises with special disinfectants that kill germs. At my cageless board and training facility, I like to clean my quarters with Top Performance 256, which is used by veterinary clinics and is known for providing area control of staph, salmonella, E. coli, bordetella bronchiseptica, adenovirus, canine distemper, HIV-1, rabies, herpes, streptococcus, and canine parvovirus. Unfortunately though, kennels are often the canine equivalent of a childcare daycare center. Things can spread despite many precautions. Whether it's parasites, protozoans, bacteria, or viruses, sometimes it's just bad luck. However, before planning to sue for unsanitary conditions and get reimbursed for an expensive vet bill due to terrible diarrhea right after kenneling, consider that some conditions have long incubation periods. For instance, if your dog stayed at the kennel for three days and came home with diarrhea, consider that the incubation period for giardia from the time of exposure to the time of onset of the illness is around 7 to 10 days. On the other hand, the incubation period for coccidia from the time of exposure to the onset of the illness is about 13 days. Parvo has an incubation period of 7 to 14 days according to Pet Education, however, some websites claim it can be as short as three days. The same goes for many parasites (worms) that need to time to evolve from larvae to adults before causing visible problems.

Checking With Your Kennel

Should your dog get sick after being kenneled it's a good idea to call the kennel and ask questions.

  1. Did the dog have diarrhea during his stay?
  2. Was his food changed?
  3. Any chances he could have gotten a hold of something?
  4. Are there any other owners facing the same problem?

Also, if you see the vet and you got a diagnosis, make the kennel aware of it, should the vet find a transmittable disease and believes there may be chances the dog got it at the kennel. This will help the kennel control the spread of the condition. Some kennels may also reimburse part of your stay or refund you part of the vet bills.

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    • profile image

      Andrea Brown 6 months ago

      I am dog sitting for my friend until Wednesday. Her 6 month old yorkie pooped in the house within hours of coming to me. Then went outside and had explosive diarrhea. Dogs stress out. His only change was houses and his mom left. Next time I think I'll stay at her house. Lol

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      LaurenD 10 months ago

      The first day back home I noticed that my puppy appeared to be constipated. We fed him his regular moist dog food and allowed him to drink water (he seemed very thirsty). That second evening back is when he could not control is bowel and defecated on the floor. This is the third day and he is at it again. We have not fed him starting the 2nd day and gave him some Kaopectate (1 level tablespoon).

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 13 months ago from USA

      I don't understand this. I hear many stories like this. Why are so many kennels running out of food early? Are they not feeding correctly? Are they using a larger cup? If your trip was only 6 days even if they did, you still would have had some. May they are using the food for another dog? Very suspicious

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      Rob 13 months ago

      Just got ours back from 6 days away overseas. We gave them enough food for three EXTRA days (just in case of flight cancellations/delays, etc), yet the staff told us they ran out of food TWO days early and had to feed them their "house" dog food.

      Needless to say I will never be using them again.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Poor dog! Some dogs are so well potty trained they won't pee in the kennel and will hold it for a long time. At other times, they're just stressed and shut down. Many dogs do very poorly when kenneled:(

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 4 years ago

      Interesting hub. My doggie actually didn't even pee, when boarded. Pour guy didn't eat anything, and didn't go to the bathroom at all for 2 days. He peed the second he saw me, picking him up. We never boarded him again.