Puppy Diarrhea: Causes, Treatment and Symptoms
What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea, which is a common occurrence with puppies, is the release of loose or unformed stools in increased frequency and/or amount. It’s caused by the fecal material traveling through the intestine quicker than normal due to a decreased amount of nutrients, water and electrolytes.
It can be the result of a serious illness or disease or something as simple as eating too much of the wrong food type. Although diarrhea may be a symptom of a disease, it’s not a disease on its own. Simple cases of diarrhea may be treated at home or even left untreated for a bit but, cases that extend for days should be treated or they can become deadly for a puppy.
Why Do Puppies Get Diarrhea?
Puppies can get diarrhea for many reasons, especially when you consider the variety of things they chew and consume. They can get diarrhea from intestinal parasites like hookworms, protozoa or whipworms. Most puppies get some worms the first couple months of their lives, which is why vets recommend worming pups as early as two weeks after birth. Certain types of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella can also cause diarrhea. Puppies can also develop diarrhea from these reasons.
- Eating too much
- Being separated from their parents
- Stress of going to a new home or traveling
- New diet
- Eating out of the garbage
- Organ dysfunction
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Inflammatory intestinal disease
Viruses and Infections
Puppies are more likely to develop viral or bacterial infections than adult dogs because their immune systems are not yet fully developed. Whether it’s viral or bacterial, they can be dangerous to puppies and should be addressed as soon as possible. In addition to bacterial infections like E. coli and salmonella, pups can also get distemper, parvovirus and coronavirus if they’re not vaccinated. These viruses and infections will not only cause diarrhea but can also kill the puppy.
All or most puppies have some type of worms. In fact, many puppies are born with certain parasites like giardia and roundworms. When a breeder sells puppies, it’s almost standard policy to worm the puppies at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age because it’s so common for them to have worms, and they want to be assured they’re selling puppies that are free from parasites. There are various types of parasites and worms that puppies can pick up when they spend a lot of time outdoors, most of which can cause diarrhea. If left untreated, they can cause serious problems for the pup.
Because puppies always appear to be happy and playful, it’s often hard to picture them as being stressed but, but stress in puppies is more common than one might think. In fact, it doesn’t take much to stress out a puppy on some level, and stress can cause a pup to get diarrhea. Several things can cause stress in a puppy, including a new diet, new schedule, strange smells or sounds, new pets in the house, getting accustomed to a new home and leaving the parents. Puppies, especially puppies in a new home, should be kept as calm as possible for the first few days to give them a chance to adapt to new surroundings.
Diet is probably one of the main reasons why a puppy, or even an adult dog, will develop diarrhea. The digestive systems of puppies take a while to fully develop and, because of this, they may have a hard time dealing with different types and brands of dog food. There are so many brands and types of dog and puppy foods on the market today, it’s hard for puppy owners to know what type of food to feed their puppy.
New puppy owners should consult with their vets to see what type of food the puppy needs based on size, breed and nutritional needs. When a puppy is coming to a new home, the new owner should continue to feed the pup the food the breeder was feeding him. Changing to a new food quickly will almost always cause diarrhea. Some pups may also develop food allergies, which can also lead to diarrhea.
There are few things a puppy will not put in the mouth and chew or eat, so they should be watched carefully. Table scraps can also cause diarrhea because the food is too “rich” for the pup’s digestive system to handle. A puppy’s diet should consist of only puppy food. The fewer things a puppy eats, the easier it will be to determine what might be causing diarrhea.
If your pup is sick and diarrhea is the main symptom, it can be something simple like a new food, stress or intestinal infections like worms. If diarrhea is one of several other symptoms, the puppy should be seen by a veterinarian. Additionally, the puppy should be seen by a vet immediately if the diarrhea is black with the consistency of tar, contains blood, smells extremely foul or is accompanied with vomiting, lethargy, pain, loss of appetite, fever or extreme discomfort.
Before a vet can treat a puppy for diarrhea, he must first determine the cause. Some types of intestinal parasites can be difficult to detect and may require a couple of types of tests. It can also take a week or two to get all the results back on the tests. In the meantime, it’s important to keep the puppy hydrated. They should either not get any food for a day or two or have a bland diet. Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol can be helpful to puppies when given in real small doses.
How to Prevent Diarrhea in Puppies
While it’s almost impossible for a puppy to go through his or her entire life without ever getting diarrhea, there are several things a puppy owner can do to prevent puppy diarrhea. Seldom does a perfectly healthy puppy get diarrhea, and the best way to prevent diarrhea is to ensure the puppy has a healthy lifestyle. This includes the following.
- A balanced diet of healthy food
- Daily exercise
- A stress-free environment
- Clean and fresh water at all times
- Sufficient rest
- Annual checkups
- Keeping up with vaccinations