Tricky diarrhea

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Active member
Jul 6, 2013
San Francisco
Hi all,

I’ve had experience with Giardia (mushy poops) on multiple occasions, but never diarrhea in a liquid state. One of my chins has had it for 4 days now, but here is the weird thing. It only seems to be a small quantity (from the amount I’ve had to spot clean in the cage) and it only happens in the late morning hours. By the time I check on him again in the evenings after work, his poop has solidified. Granted not as smooth textured as normal, but not mushy at all. This has been going on for 4 days now, taking him to the vet this weekend.

I feed him a healthy diet (no Charlie or VitaCrap) but have taken him off his Oxbow pellets for now, only hay. Usual treats are shredded wheat or cheerios... dried fruit just once a week. Our other chin is eating the same stuff and is free of any digestive problems. I ordered some pet pectillin but am still waiting for it to arrive. He seems in all other respects perfectly normal. Energy level, appetite, water intake, general behavior. He’s very alert and inquisitive and that hasn’t changed. I have a follow up vet appointment this Saturday.

I took him in for the same thing a couple of months ago, but after a battery of tests (fecal float, blood, urine and ultrasound) the vet ruled out giardia and parasites, but couldn’t find anything conclusive. And it seemed to pass on its own w/o medication. The only other thing the vet can think to check are his teeth and perhaps give him some antibiotics, but we’ll wait until she can see him in person.

I wouldn’t have guessed that diarrhea could be so fickle. I would have thought that it would be more of a constant state until recovery. Have any of you had a similar experience with your chin?

Thanks in advance for your input.
I hadn't thought to put my nose right down to it... :) But otherwise, while cleaning it out of the cage and cleaning it off of my chin, and getting it on my shirt in the process, I did not notice any odor at all.
Well the vet prescribed Metronidazole and I was happy to see that after only two doses his poo seemed to return to normal. In texture that is, instead of being jagged and irregular it had become smooth and rounded again. And for two days no observation of diarrhea. It then on the third day it came back, again in the late morning hours... amazingly consistent timing. Guess we need to give it more time 😐
The reason I asked about a smell, if the odor is bad usually it means infection. If no odor its dietary or stress. It seems the vet is treating for a parasite, so be careful because you can get it or it can be passed to other pets, practice good infection control.
I think I need further consultation with the vet. We've completed the 10 days of antibiotic treatment, and the diarrhea, although greatly improved, has not stopped completely. When Toby hasn't dropped a small leaky mess, his poo has been otherwise completely normal.

Thank you for your advice. I have kept him separated from his cagemate since he first started to exhibit symptoms. Also eliminated dried fruit treats which he received only once a week normally anyway, which leaves him with only the occasional Cheerio or shredded wheat 2X a week. Disinfecting everything appropriately. I'd be much more alarmed if he had been losing weight but it has remained constant throughout this entire episode. This bug or whatever he has sure is stubborn!
I would also nix the shredded wheat, there are some chins that have wheat intolerance that can cause misdiagnosis of digestive issues. I had a father/son who both had it along with the sisters.
If I may ask, what symptoms did your wheat-intolerant chins have? He did have one more episode of messy diarrhea and I wonder if it had something to do with the time I used a couple of cheerios to lure him out from under the bed? I did stop all treats just in case.

Other than this, Toby has made it through 7 days of Baytril (which was the vet's next solution) However I'm stopping because when I checked his weight this morning he had dropped 20 grams :-( I have been trying unsuccessfully to syringe feed him, but he struggles so much with me that I don't want to cause him any more stress.
If I may ask, what symptoms did your wheat-intolerant chins have? He did have one more episode of messy diarrhea and I wonder if it had something to do with the time I used a couple of cheerios to lure him out from under the bed? I did stop all treats just in case.
Oh man... just spent 20 minutes composing a reply and I lost connection to the server! Starting over, I'll try to keep it concise:
Thanks for the mention Dawn but Toby does not seem to have those symptoms. His poo is either normal, what I call "shaggy" or liquid, as in diarrhea. Can be all three in a single day. First antibiotic reduced occurrences of diarrhea but didn’t completely stop it (Flagyl). Second antibiotic was too hard on his appetite and energy level (Baytril) so I stopped after 7 days. He wouldn’t even take Critical Care and forcing him beyond a certain point was too stressful for both of us. Now I think the vet doesn’t know what else to do because she is suggesting he goes back on Flagyl or I go get a special consult from UC Davis (they have a veterinary college I think?)
Things I’ve done:
  1. Disinfect cage almost daily.
  2. Reduced amount of pellets, added probiotic powder, increased amount of hay.
  3. Cut out all treats a month ago.
  4. Kept him separate from his cage mate.

Next steps I’m considering, and if you all have opinions please do chime in:
  1. Insist on additional giardia tests? I’ve read that sometimes the chin’s poo needs to be tested multiple times. My vet did a single test to rule it out months ago.
  2. Combine Panacur with Flagyl? I’ve also read that sometimes it takes a combination to knock out the tougher bugs.
  3. Is there a different medication altogether I could inquire about?
  4. Change out his pellets. Currently Oxbow, I could go back to Mazuri but that would mean ordering online only as it’s not locally available. I used for the chin’s hay and just stopped ordering from them because the quality, although it was Oxbow, seemed like crap with a lot of broken down small pieces and brown patches.

Aside from this digestive tract drama, Toby seems very normal. Great energy, loves his out of cage play time, bright eyed and inquisitive, comes to me willingly, eats and drinks like a champ. But he is not putting back on any of the weight he has lost after months of being sick so I’m very worried about him.
What was the course of flagyl? Was it something like 5 days on, three off, 5 on?
Have they done any xrays or ultrasound of the gut yet?
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The Flagyl was prescribed for 7 days every 12 hours, a 0.3 mL dose
Toby’s tests included: fecal float for Giardia, blood & urine tests and an ultrasound.
I would go for the flagyl again, as long as the chin did ok on it, its worth a try that the original course was not long enough.
Thank you. I took Toby to the vet again and got the flagyl precribed for two weeks this time. The vet also added of 0.1ml Panacur once a day for 5 day’s. Fingers crossed this works!
Well I guess at this point, I'm just continuing this thread for posterity! And hoping to keep updated with useful information when I find any that may help the next poor chin/owner going through something similar. After FIVE months of almost daily diarrhea and various tests and antibiotics, my vet has officially given up on us and suggested I take Toby to the Veterinary Teaching Hosiptal at UC Davis. I'll have to take a vacation day to travel up there since it's a 2 or 3 hour drive, depending on traffic. I hope they'll be able to help, Toby has lost over 100g since this started :-(
One month later

Poor Toby is down to 490 grams still having daily episodes of diarrhea, second opinion vet did full body X-rays, another fecal float, even some preventive teeth trimming/filing because he saw some slight abnormalities. He talked to an internal medicine specialist who recommended a supplement called Young Again; said she amazing improvement in some rabbits that had similar problems. Two weeks on it and no effects so far, really.

On the plus side, he remains bright-eyed and energetic. Appetite and liquid intake is good/normal. Other than his daily attacks, he seems his completely normal self. He’s managed to stump two veterinarians now... my poor little boy with his mystery illness!
Two months later

The third round of Flagyl only helped intermittently, while Toby was on it. As soon as it was over his diarrhea came back with a vengeance. I finally was able to take time off from work and braved the four hour commute to take Toby up to UC Davis Veterinary Hospital. He is receiving excellent supportive care (more critical care than pellets/hay and sub-Q injections) and is gaining weight. He had dropped below 400 grams and I was panicking.

The vet did the whole spectrum of tests again. X-ray, ultrasound, urine, blood, etc. They even ruled out dental disease that may not have been picked up on his last x-ray, and also any heart disease.

Amazingly he has not had any more diarrhea, so even though they noticed a thickening of his intestinal wall, instead of a GI problem, they are now focusing on his kidneys and trying to understand whether the problem is acute, or chronic. They are going to wait until he is more hydrated and then re-test to see if the kidney values change.

I dropped him off on Monday, hopefully I can pick him up on Friday.
June follow up

So Toby was in the veterinary teaching hospital up at UC Davis for a total of FOUR days. Lucky that I have this resource nearby, even if traffic stretched a one way 90 minute drive to over three hours. His blood values show chronic kidney failure and they do not know which came first, the GI problems that infected the kidneys or the kidneys that sparked GI problems. Basically the vet told me he has probably only weeks to live.

I was sent home with Tramadol for pain, Nystatin (an antifungal for his gut yeast imbalance), Famotadine tablets cut into quarters, and Marbofloxacin (antibiotic). This medication routine along with the supportive care feeding instructions is quite intensive, and I only got through this first week by working from home for the first three days. He has gained about 30 grams since being home but that puts him only at 430. I'm going to take him to the local vet this Saturday for a follow up visit and probably more sub Q shots. I tried to increase his hydration at home by feeding him Critical Care, Emeraide, Romaine lettuce (apparently the only greens he likes) and mixing Pedialyte in his water.

After three days I took him off the Tramadol and his disposition improved by leaps and bounds. It is an opiate so pretty strong stuff, and made him quite drowsy. He is still very energetic, bright and active, always happy and excited to see me when I approach the cage, never lethargic or hiding in his hut. His poops are not 100% normal but at least he has not had diarrhea for the past week. This is so difficult! I know chins hide their symptoms extremely well, but my gut tells me it is not quite time to make the hard decision. People have told me, “he will let you know when he’s ready,” i.e. there will definitely be some obvious signs, but… I don’t know. For being such a sick boy, he’s handling it like it’s nothing! But I love him as much as I would any member of my family, so neither do I want him to suffer longer than necessary. :-(((