Puppy Diarrhea

Puppy diarrhea isn't always serious but when it is, it can be life-threatening. If your puppy has a bout of diarrhea it's important not to ignore it. Understand the difference between what's serious (and needs the immediate attention of your vet) and what's not so serious (and which can be treated by you). 

Diarrhea in Puppies

You'll soon know about it if your puppy has diarrhea, especially if he's not yet fully house-trained! 

Golden cocker spaniel puppy sleeping in a bed.

More often than not, there's usually nothing to worry about and he'll soon be back to normal in a day or two. However, it's always good to know what may have caused your puppy's diarrhea, when it's safe to simply monitor it and when it's imperative that you act immediately.

With cases of puppy diarrhea, the best advice I can give is this, don't ignore it and hope it will go away. 

Monitor your pup's behaviour and look for other symptoms, such as lethargy and/or vomiting.

If your puppy's diarrhea continues for more than a couple of days and you think he's behaving differently, or he seems poorly, take him to see his vet immediately. Don't hang about!

How Do I Know When Puppy Diarrhea Is Serious?

More often than not, your puppy's diarrhea won't be serious, however, it's not my call. 

If it lasts longer than a couple of days, your vet should always be consulted. At least call him and describe your pup's symptoms to allow him to decide whether or not a visit is necessary.

The following is a list of serious symptoms of puppy diarrhea;

  • your puppy's diarrhea shows traces of blood,
  • your puppy is vomiting,
  • he seems to be in pain or his tummy is tender,
  • his poop is very dark,
  • he has a fever,
  • his gums are pale.

Don't wait for all of these symptoms to present themselves; the first two are reason enough to rush your pup to the vets.

Reasons Your Puppy May Have Diarrhea

You've Changed His Diet Recently

A change of diet often causes puppy diarrhea so make sure you have a supply of food that the breeder used (and which your puppy's delicate little tummy is used to).

If you decide to change to another brand, it's best to do it gradually Decrease the old and gradually replace it with the new puppy food,otherwise you risk upsetting your puppy's digestive system. (It should take around 3 weeks.)  

Your Puppy Is Stressed

Yes, there is such a thing as puppy stress! 

It can be brought on by a change of environment, for example moving to his new home. Just think about it. Your puppy has left his mother, his brothers and sisters, and now finds himself in a strange environment where every sight, sound and smell is different.

This is certainly enough to add stress to OUR lives, imagine what it can do to a little puppy!  

Stress can also weaken your puppy's immune system. If stress is the cause of your puppy's diarrhea, hopefully, it will be better in a day or two when he begins to settle down in his new home. 

Your Puppy has Worms or Parasites

Did you know that puppies are often born with worms? Not so cute now, eh?

If the mother has picked up roundworm eggs, she can pass the worms onto her puppies before they're born. As soon as the pups are born and begin feeding, she can then go on to re-infect her puppies through her milk.

Another cause of your puppy's diarrhea could be something called Coccidia, which is a disease caused by tiny parasites that can affect stressed, or sick puppies. These parasites can be found in most dogs but a healthy immune system would normally keep them in check. If your puppy's diarrhea was caused by Coccidia, his poop would be very watery and there may be signs of blood and mucus.

If you have a pet with coccidia you should be aware that this is easily passed on to other pets.

The moral of this tale is to always worm your dogs and puppies.  

Your Puppy Has Eaten Something He Shouldn't Have!

Puppies are inquisitive and use their mouths to explore whatever they come across. Anything they can fit into their mouths is fair game! 

This often leads to their eating many things they shouldn't, such as rotting food, poisonous plants, socks, TV remotes, cat litter, and even cat or dog poop

You can help to keep your puppy safe by making sure your home is puppy-proof and that all items of temptation are out of reach.

A food allergy or an intolerance to certain ingredients in your pup's food can also cause your dog or puppy to have diarrhea. 

Your Puppy Has an Infection or an Illness

Puppies are susceptible to all sorts of illnesses and infections until they build up their immune system and they've had all their vaccinations. 

Bacterial infections, such as Salmonella or E. coli will attack young digestive systems and cause severe diarrhea in puppies.

Viral infections, such as Parvovirus is another cause of puppy diarrhea.

Parvovirus is very dangerous. It's highly contagious (picked up from other infected dog's poop) and if not recognized and treated by a vet, it can kill quickly.

That's why it's important for your pup to be vaccinated and kept away from public places until your vet give the all-clear.

If your puppy has diarrhea and hasn't yet been vaccinated, I recommend you take him to the vets immediately. Don't try any home remedies, don't hesitate....just get him to his vet.

Treatment for Mild Cases of Diarrhea in Puppies

Where his diarrhea is mild and your puppy is still lively and curious it's probably safe to treat puppy diarrhea at home, however, if you're worried, don't hesitate to telephone your vet for advice.

Keep Your Puppy Hydrated

Diarrhea in puppies often causes dehydration. 

Young puppies with diarrhea can become dangerously dehydrated within 24 hours so it's important to encourage them to drink water regularly. Make sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water every day.

Encourage your puppy to drink water every hour or so, if you can.

Stop Feeding Your Puppy

For a mild case of puppy diarrhea, you can starve him for 24 hours, but take care to watch him for signs of illness, or signs that his diarrhea is getting worse. 

Ensure he drinks plenty of water.

Tweak His Diet

If he's showing signs of improvement after withholding his food, you can try feeding him a little plain boiled white rice, no salt of course.

If your puppy is less than 4 months old, I don't recommend withholding food. Instead, change him over to the rice and chicken diet below.

If an improvement isn't seen within 24 hours, play it safe and take him to see his vet. 

If his diarrhea continues to improve, it's looking positive!

You can now add a little poached, chopped chicken breast to his rice and see how he goes. 

White fish or boiled, chopped egg, are good alternatives to chicken. 

Another alternative is a little chicken stock (you could make your own or if time it tight, a good quality bullion cube is okay) and perhaps some cubed cooked sweet potato.  

Take it slowly. Give his little tummy time to settle and recover. 

When your puppy is back to normal, you can then begin replacing the protein with his usual kibble.

Make sure he continues to drink lots of clean water.

However, if your puppy's diarrhea persists, scoop up a sample of his stool and take him to see his vet.

Make Him A Cup Of Tea!

Chamomile won't necessarily stop puppy diarrhea but it will have an anti-spasmodic and calming effect on your puppy's digestive system, which will help his little tummy to settle down.  

Place 3 to 4 chamomile teabags in a mug of boiling water. Let it stew and then allow it to cool.

Feed your puppy one tablespoon of this cooled mixture every couple of hours. 

Adding a level teaspoon of powdered slippery elm to the tea mixture will help to combat the diarrhea.

Keep the tea in the fridge and give your puppy one tablespoon three times a day.

Before my research, I'd never heard of slippery elm powder, but apparently it's an anti-inflammatory, an excellent source of fibre, and it also a very good food supplement.

It's good for diarrhea AND constipation and everything else in between in the world of digestion. If you're the inquisitive kind, you can read more about it here: Slippery Elm for Pets

Summary: Puppy Diarrhea

Where your pup's diarrhea is fairly mild and he's still his mischievous, playful self it's safe to stop his food and give him only water. This will help to clean him out and rid him of whatever it is that's causing the diarrhea.

To replenish all the liquid his body is losing, he will need to drink plenty of clean water.

Never attempt to diagnose the cause of puppy diarrhea, or treat it, in puppies younger than 7 or 8 weeks old. Consult your vet immediately.

Where puppy diarrhea lasts more than 24 to 48 hours, and none of the above is helping, a trip to the vet is definitely recommended. 

Where your puppy is showing signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, sickness, or he's generally unwell, don't try to treat it yourself. Just get your cocker spaniel to his vet as soon as possible.


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