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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Help For Diarrhea In Canine Cancer Patients

Updated: January 4th, 2019

I was recently asked by a client about what over the counter product could be used for diarrhea in veterinary patients.

There are a number of different items that can be used.  Some have interactions with other meds, or possibly side effects that would not be desirable. I told her about one that you might want to know about too.

I would like to share with you one of the old time options that can help significantly-

slippery elm.

This is one of those that I have learned from experience, as opposed to scientific literature.  There is very little “scientific” literature on safety and efficacy of slippery elm used for dogs with cancer (Pubmed does discuss its use in cats with digestive issues, however).

So, for those who are interested in knowledge passed down from empirical evidence and the old days, read on.  Since data can be obtained from various sources in full-spectrum veterinary care, I am offering this to you here.

Slippery elm is actually a tree, and the active ingredient is harvested from the inner surface of the bark.

Slippery elm contains mucilage, some fiber, a little glucose, some tannins, and may contain antioxidants.  The one we are most interested in is mucilage.

Mucilage is a substance that adheres to irritated spots on the lining of the stomach or the intestine.  It binds together, forming a coat or a patch.

Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful information for your dog with cancer

In clinical medicine, we use a drugs like Pepto Bismol or Carafate for similar purposes.

The coat or patch has the effect of sealing the defect in the stomach or intestinal lining, which lessens the fluid accumulation within the stool. It also promotes more rapid healing of these structures.

Herbologists will also use slippery elm for cough due to an irritated windpipe ( like tracheobronchitis), or for conditions causing irritation of the bladder lining (for example, urinary infections).

Since both diarrhea as well as hemorrhagic cystitis (with bladder lining irritation)  are conditions frequently seen in patients receiving chemotherapy, slippery elm is a nice option.

It is recognized as very safe by those who use the herb frequently.

It may reduce the absorption of certain drugs taken by mouth, so it should not be given within 6 hours of critical oral medications.

To learn more on chemotherapy side effects, get a copy of this informative webinar

I do not recommend its use for more than about 3-5 days at a time in dog cancer patients due to the glucose content (sugar is bad for cancer patients). Similarly, depending on the chemo drug being used, there may be a (slight) theoretical concern of lowered chemo efficacy due to the possible antioxidants in slipppery elm.

So don’t use in on an ongoing basis, but it usually is fine for short term use as needed, in my opinion.

The dose for dogs is about 1 teaspoon full per 60 lbs body weight, given 1 to 2 times daily, for 3-5 days in cancer patients.

This dose can be mixed in food, or dissolved in warm water with some low sodium broth added for flavor.  This liquid can be administered with a turkey baster or using a plastic oral dosing syringe from your veterinarian.

Discuss the use of slippery elm with your veterinarian before using in your dog.

All my best

Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Mary on May 27, 2021 at 4:14 am

    I just found out my boxer/mix has lung cancer. The doctor put her on a steroid and her appetite has increased immensely but she has the diarrhea . Where can I find this product and how well does it work? What kind of nourishment can I give her now?

  2. love wrinkles on January 14, 2010 at 3:52 am

    To prevent my dog from getting diarrehea I gave him 1 eat spoon of pumpkin puree once a day (with his food) (cooked, and made puree and frozen in ice cubes)

    I also give him a supplement to protect his intestinal,and green herbs.
    And probitotics.

    Although we lost him in december, he never had diarrea from all the chemo’s!

  3. Linda B on July 13, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Just search the web. You can find it online in many places. Personally, I’m checking locally first to see if I can find the slippery elm in my small town, and if that doesn’t work, then I’ll order online.

  4. marilyn on June 19, 2009 at 6:09 am

    Where do you purchase slippery elm?

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