When you welcome a new puppy into your life, you are so excited to see them grow and flourish. That’s why it can be extremely scary to see your puppy get sick! Diarrhea is a condition that can frighten dog owners, especially if they don’t know the cause.
Diarrhea can occur in dogs for a multitude of reasons, so it’s important to seek medical attention and find the root cause. Thankfully, most bouts of diarrhea in puppies will pass.
Causes of Diarrhea in Puppies
Diarrhea can happen for a variety of reasons. That’s why it’s best to visit the vet if your pup is experiencing persistent diarrhea. However, as a dog owner, it’s good to know the common causes of diarrhea so you can identify the culprit and make any necessary changes to stop diarrhea in its tracks.
A common affliction in young dogs, internal parasites like giardia or roundworm cause diarrhea. These can be acquired from the pup’s mother right after birth. Or, a curious puppy may pick these up outside by drinking standing water or even from the ground.
Diarrhea is one of the most common signs of an internal parasite. Only a vet can tell you if your pup has parasites or not. You should visit your vet and get a stool sample tested for parasites. A vet can diagnose and easily treat internal parasites.
Infections and Viruses
Like human children, a puppy’s immune system is weaker and has been exposed to less when compared to older dogs. This makes them more susceptible to viruses, such as kennel cough. In addition, depending on their age, some puppies have not had their full set of vaccinations yet, making them even more susceptible.
There is a range of viruses and infections that may have diarrhea as a side effect. Typically, viruses and infections come with other side effects too, such as fever, lethargy, changes in appetite, or cough. However, only a vet can test for these and rule them out. It’s always a good idea to have a vet examine your dog and see if a virus is a culprit.
Stress or Anxiety
A dog’s bowels can react to external stressors and anxiety. If you recently brought a puppy home and they were separated from their family for the first time, they are likely experiencing stress and anxiety! So, if your puppy is new to your home, provide them with lots of love and a consistent schedule. See if diarrhea clears after a day or so of letting them settle in.
Diet can cause diarrhea and upset stomach. This is even more common in young dogs, as their stomachs are still developing and they’re constantly trying new foods. For example, picking up your precious pup a delicious treat at a local dog store may seem like a good idea at the time, only to find out your dog was sensitive to its ingredients, resulting in a bout of diarrhea.
This can happen with dog kibble as well. Some dogs have allergies to certain ingredients, just like humans. If you’re feeding your pup food they have an allergy or sensitivity to, you can be sure that diarrhea and other upset stomach symptoms will come up frequently.
Another common instance of diet causing an upset stomach is switching food too quickly. When puppies age and need to move up to adult food, you should transition them slowly. Add only a little of the new formula, using mostly their regular formula at first. Slowly, day by day, you can increase the ratio of the new formula and decrease the ratio of the old formula. This gradual weaning will help to prevent an upset stomach that can be caused by an abrupt shift in food formula.
If diet might be at play, you can try an elimination diet or switch to a premium food formulated for sensitive stomachs. You can also visit your vet to get their recommendations or get allergy testing if you choose.
What Steps Should You Take if Your Puppy Has Diarrhea?
The first course of action is always to see a trusted veterinarian. A vet is your best resource for finding a diagnosis and treating the underlying condition. The way to treat diarrhea depends on what caused it.
If your puppy has had diarrhea for three days or more, is showing signs of dehydration, or is showing symptoms of general illness, it’s important to get them to a vet ASAP. This may mean visiting an emergency clinic or an on-call vet. However, it’s best to play it safe when it comes to diarrhea. The effects it can have on a puppy’s body are serious and harmful!
How to Help Manage and Resolve Diarrhea
After visiting the vet, you should be given a diagnosis as well as follow-up care. Be sure to read your follow-up care instructions. If a virus, infection, or parasite is involved, your vet will provide you will medications. It’s extremely important to follow the medication instructions.
Some other ways to help your puppy recover from diarrhea are:
Provide Lots of Water
With diarrhea, one of the biggest health threats to your puppy is dehydration. To combat this, hydrate them! A puppy with an upset stomach might not be interested in water. If this is the case, try ice cubes. Ice cubes pack lots of hydration into a small form and are a crunchy treat most pups love.
Feed a Bland Diet
We know it’s hard, but you’ll want to hold off on treats and goodies for the first few days of recovery. You’ll want to feed a bland diet, by offering your pup food like:
- White cooked rice (Make sure it is cooled before serving.)
- Boiled, unseasoned chicken (No bones, cut up into thin slices)
- Plain, reduced sugar yogurt (No flavors – this can be mixed in with the rice to make it yummier for a pup!)
If you think their kibble was the culprit that caused diarrhea, use this time to ‘reset’ and identify a new food that will work better.
Withholding food can be a very effective way to get diarrhea to stop quickly, but it should be used with caution.
For puppies under six months, it’s never recommended to withhold food for any period. Young puppies have fast metabolisms and need lots of nutrients to live. Withholding food could cause dangerous blood sugar drops (hypoglycemia) and other issues.
For puppies between six and 12 months of age, you can withhold food for up to 12 hours. It allows the stomach to rest and repair itself, which is needed. However, do not withhold food for over 12 hours, and make sure your puppy has lots of water (or ice cubes) throughout the withholding time.
By following your vet’s instructions and taking steps to help your pup rest and hydrate, you can speed up the recovery process and get your pup feeling better.
Diarrhea is a common condition in dogs, but it’s not normal, and should always be treated with urgency. The first step anyone should take when their dog is experiencing diarrhea is consulting a vet. Since diarrhea has so many causes, you need a vet to determine the cause of your dog’s diarrhea. By following your vet’s instructions and being sure to keep your dog hydrated and comfortable, you will get past your puppy’s diarrhea bout in no time.