When it comes to our beloved canine companions, their health and well-being are of utmost importance. As responsible pet parents, we want to make informed decisions about their healthcare, including the prescribed medications. One commonly used drug for treating various gastrointestinal issues in dogs is metronidazole. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into metronidazole, its uses, potential side effects, and natural alternatives that might be safer for your dogs and cats.

Understanding Metronidazole:

Metronidazole, commonly known as Flagyl, is an antibiotic that is often prescribed to dogs to treat conditions like diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and certain bacterial infections. While it can provide relief from these issues, it’s essential to be aware of its potential side effects and consider safer alternatives to ensure your dog and cat’s long-term health.

The Effectiveness of Metronidazole:

Metronidazole works by targeting anaerobic bacteria and parasites, making it effective for treating conditions like Giardia and Clostridial overgrowth. However, its extensive use has raised concerns about antibiotic resistance, especially in cases of Giardia infections. Research has shown that metronidazole is no longer as effective due to the development of resistant strains, emphasizing the need for safer and more sustainable treatment options.

Potential Side Effects of Metronidazole:

While metronidazole can provide quick relief, it comes with potential side effects that can impact your pet’s overall health.

These side effects of metronidazole may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive salivation
  • Nervous system issues like nystagmus, head tilting, loss of balance, and seizures.

Furthermore, metronidazole can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, leading to long-lasting gut health issues and even health issues unrelated to gut problems.

Natural Alternatives for Treating Pet Gastrointestinal Issues:

1. Probiotics

Introducing beneficial bacteria through probiotics can help restore the balance of the gut microbiome. Specific strains like Saccharomyces boulardii have been shown to reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and promote gut health.

  • Saccharomyces boulardii: This probiotic is known for its ability to prevent and treat diarrhea in pets. It works by restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut and supporting the immune system. Start with 1/2 capsule for a small dog/cat, 1 capsule medium dog, and 2 capsules for a larger dog.
  • Broad-spectrum probiotics can be helpful to modulate the immune system and provide anti-inflammatory properties. Brands like Bark & Whiskers Probiotics, Adored Beast, and Ferapets Probiotics + Prebiotics are great options to try.

2. Prebiotics

Prebiotic-rich foods such as inulin, psyllium husk, chicory root, and dandelion greens can nourish the beneficial bacteria in the gut, supporting overall digestive health. Many natural pet health care products will have prebiotics already in them to support the gut health and the microbiome.

3. Slippery Elm and Marshmallow Root

These natural mucilage herbs can soothe and coat the inflamed gut lining, reducing inflammation and promoting healing.

  • Slippery Elm: Slippery elm is an herbal remedy that can soothe and protect the digestive tract. You can give your pet slippery elm in capsule form or mix the powder with water to create a paste. Start with 1/4 tbsp mixed in 1/4 cup broth or water and give 2-3 times a day to help soothe the inflamed digestive tract.
  • Brands that contain these natural mucilage herbs include: Dr. Harvey’s Runs Be Done, Animal Essentials Colon Rescue

4. Coptis Herbal Remedy

An herbal remedy from Chinese medicine, coptis contains berberine, a compound known for its antibacterial properties. It can be effective against conditions like Clostridial overgrowth and damp heat diarrhea, which shows up as bloody diarrhea usually with mucus.

  • Coptis Teapills: Coptis teapills are a traditional Chinese herbal remedy that can help treat diarrhea in pets. You can give your pet one tea pill per 10 pounds of body weight for 5-10 days at most, depending on the severity of their symptoms. This is a very cooling remedy meant only to be used short term.

5. Dietary Adjustments

Providing a bland diet of cooked white fish, turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin can help soothe the digestive system and aid in resolving acute cases of diarrhea. We’re not fans of chicken and white rice diets, since many pets we treat are sensitive to starches and chicken is energetically hot from a Chinese food therapy perspective. White fish and turkey are both cooling energetically and many pets are not sensitive to these types of bland proteins.

Bone broth can also be added into the food for additional nourishment and moisture.  A 12-24 hour bone-broth fast is ok to do with a dog to rest the GI tract if a pet is experiencing diarrhea.  Bone broth is rich in collagen and glycine to nourish and soothe an inflamed GI lining.

Here are a few brands that can be helpful: Native Pet Bone Broth, SmallBatch Bone Broth, Primal Bone Broth

6. Other Natural Pet Supplements for Diarrhea

Using whole food supplements can provide extra nourishment and support for the long term as you figure out how to find the root imbalance if your pet is consistently experiencing diarrhea.

Standard Process is a company that uses whole food ingredients and glandulars that can support and improve deficiencies in your pet’s body when there is diarrhea or GI upset.  Canine Enteric Support and Feline Enteric Support are helpful additions to the suggestions above and can be used daily like a whole food vitamin for the gut.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is metronidazole safe for my dog?

While metronidazole can be effective in the short term, its potential side effects and antibiotic resistance concerns make it less desirable. Safer and more natural alternatives, such as probiotics, prebiotics, and herbal remedies, can provide similar benefits without the risks.

2. Can natural alternatives effectively treat my dog’s diarrhea?

Yes, natural alternatives have been proven effective in promoting gut health, reducing inflammation, and resolving gastrointestinal issues. Research suggests that herbs like coptis and slippery elm, along with dietary adjustments, can provide relief without compromising the gut microbiome.

3. Are there situations when metronidazole is still recommended?

In cases where metronidazole might be the only option, such as severe infections, your veterinarian may prescribe it. However, it’s crucial to consider the potential risks and discuss safer alternatives, especially for chronic conditions like IBD and recurrent diarrhea.


As responsible pet parents, our dogs and cats’ health is a top priority. While metronidazole has been a commonly prescribed medication for gastrointestinal issues in dogs, it’s essential to be aware of its potential side effects and limitations. Natural alternatives offer a safer approach to managing these conditions, providing effective relief while promoting long-term gut health. By exploring these natural options and working closely with your integrative veterinarian to find the root cause, you can make informed decisions that support your pet’s overall well-being and help them thrive naturally.

Need Additional Holistic Veterinary Support?

If you are looking for additional support and guidance in caring for your pet’s health, consider reaching out to a holistic veterinarian. Holistic veterinarians take a whole-body approach to pet health, considering not only physical symptoms but also emotional and environmental factors that may be affecting your pet’s well-being.

If you are interested in learning more about holistic pet care, our Healthy Holistic Pet For Life Blueprint may be a helpful resource for you. This comprehensive program provides step-by-step guidance on how to support your pet’s health naturally, using a combination of nutrition, supplements, herbs, and lifestyle modifications with the support and mentorship of Dr. Katie Woodley, a holistic veterinarian, through a private, supportive community and weekly Q&A’s.

The Healthy Holistic Pet For Life Blueprint includes:

  • A step-by-step guide to healing the root cause of your pet’s health condition following our Five Pillars of Health frameworks
  • Guidance on selecting high-quality supplements and herbs to support your pet’s health for maintaining optimal health and/or healing disease
  • Strategies for managing common pet health issues such as allergies, arthritis, and digestive problems
  • Tips for creating a pet-friendly and toxin-free home environment while safely supporting detoxification
  • Guidance on using energy healing techniques to support your pet’s emotional and mental well-being
  • And much more!

If you are interested in learning more about our Healthy Holistic Pet For Life Blueprint, make sure to watch our free masterclass or apply for an interview to learn if this program is what you’re looking for to take your pet’s care to the next level. We are here to support you in providing the best possible care for your furry friend.

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*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. The information contained in is strictly for educational purposes. Therefore, if you wish to apply ideas contained in, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. Please consult your veterinarian for medical advice for your own pets. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet’s medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.  Links in the blog are typically affiliate links that let you help support us.

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