Published: March 2021 | Updated: April 2023
Eww! What is that smell? Let’s just say that if your new puppy has diarrhea, you will know, and you will know quickly. But what should you do, and how can you help?
If you find yourself in this all-too-real situation, don’t fret. We’ve got your back and can help with a solution to get your puppy (and yourself) out of trouble.
Cause of Diarrhea in Puppies
To start, it’s important to know what causes diarrhea in puppies. Diarrhea is defined as frequent, loose stools with mucus or blood, often accompanied by vomiting.
A few common causes of diarrhea in puppies include:
- Ingestion of toxins, garbage, or foreign bodies
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Change of diet or food intolerance
- Developing GI tract
Let’s discuss each of these causes individually and how to get your puppy’s digestive system back on track.
Your Puppy Ate What?
Puppies are notorious for eating things that they shouldn’t. Things puppies shouldn’t eat (but could easily get into) include chocolate, grapes, gum (especially sugar-free gum that includes Xylitol), cleaning products, fertilizers, automobile fluids, essential oils, and batteries.
All of these household toxins can affect your puppy's metabolic, gastrointestinal (GI), musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems.
Garbage should not be ingested by puppies for many reasons. There is the chance that spoiled food will have an adverse effect on a puppy's gastrointestinal system and may include other toxic items or foreign bodies.
Foreign bodies are objects that should not be eaten by puppies because they can get stuck in their digestive tract. This includes anything from socks, to soap bars, to jewelry, chicken bones, etc.
In addition, some plants, flowers, and vegetation can be poisonous for dogs. You can find more information about these in the links below.
Of course, you will do your best to prevent all of this, but in the event that your puppy has ingested something they shouldn’t have, it is important to call your vet immediately. If it seems like there is a lack of time, call an emergency vet so they can walk you through the appropriate at-home procedures. Or, if you can’t get a hold of the veterinarian, call the Pet Poison Hotline to determine what to do.
Puppies and parasites seem to be attracted to each other. Puppies can contract parasites in utero or from their environment. Examples of some common parasites in puppies include:
- Roundworms: Roundworm eggs are shed in feces, which can contaminate soil and spread to other animals through contact with contaminated soil. Roundworms live in the intestines of puppies and are transmitted by eating contaminated food or water.
- Hookworms: Hookworms can affect dogs of all ages, but they're especially dangerous for young pups. The worms enter a dog's body through their skin or nose, and then attach themselves to the walls of the intestines. There, they feed on nutrients provided by digested food that passes through the intestines. They're passed from dog to dog through contact with feces from an infected animal.
- Whipworms: Whipworm eggs are shed in the feces of infected animals. The eggs hatch into larvae, which can live in soil for up to 2 weeks. The larvae then become infective after they enter the body through the mouth or nose. Once inside an animal's body, they travel through the bloodstream to the small intestine where they mature into adults and reproduce.
- Coccidia: Coccidiosis is a highly infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites called coccidia. The severity of symptoms depends on the amount of damage the parasites do to your puppy's intestines. Coccidiosis can be treated with antibiotics, but puppies who are already sick will need additional care until they have recovered from illness.
- Giardia: Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes diarrhea in puppies. It can infect humans, too. Puppies can get giardia from their mother's milk or from contact with infected feces from another animal. They can also get it by drinking contaminated water or eating food that has been contaminated with giardia cysts (the hard shell that forms when the parasite reproduces).
These are all serious infestations that require veterinary attention.
Bacterial and Viral Infections
Puppies’ immune systems are still developing, which means that they are more susceptible to getting infections. Examples of some bacterial infections include Salmonella, E. coli, and Clostridium. Some common viral infections include parvovirus, distemper virus, and coronavirus.
Any of these infections requires veterinarian attention. Some infections can be milder than others, but if your puppy has a bacterial or viral infection, they will usually have more symptoms beyond diarrhea, including vomiting, bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, and general lethargy.
Change of Diet or Food Intolerance
Changes in diet can cause a puppy to have diarrhea, which is why it is always recommended to slowly change your puppy’s food over a one-week period. Start low and go slow. Exchange small amounts of new food with the old food, and if it appears you’re moving too quickly, move slower.
Puppies can also have food allergies or intolerances. If your puppy’s diarrhea started after a change in diet, your veterinarian may recommend a diet test to help rule out which ingredients are causing a problem for the puppy’s GI tract.
Are you stressed about having a new puppy? Remember that your puppy is likely stressed too, especially after moving to a new home away from their safe place, also known as their mother.
An upset stomach due to stress can lead to diarrhea in puppies, just like it can in humans. In this case, it is important to monitor your puppy and provide supportive supplements. It is likely not an emergency unless it does not resolve and the puppy becomes dehydrated. If your puppy experiences diarrhea for more than 24 hours, or stops drinking, contact a veterinarian to determine what steps to take next.
A Developing GI Tract
The simple fact that puppies’ digestive systems are still developing makes them more susceptible to gastrointestinal irritation. They are born with a naive gut and rely on their mother’s colostrum to gain maternal antibodies that help fight infections. They do not have the immunity or tolerance that adult dogs do and may be more sensitive until they mature.
Since a puppy's GI tract is still developing, they also cannot digest nutrients as efficiently as adult dogs and may develop diarrhea. When puppies are fed too much food that is not easily digested, such as bones or large amounts of hard treats, they can develop diarrhea because their intestines cannot handle it all.
That’s partially why puppies should be fed more frequently than adult dogs. Smaller amounts of food, fed more often, can be easier on your puppy’s body.
Prevent Puppy Diarrhea With Probiotics
Help your puppy and their developing gastrointestinal tract start life off strong by providing them with probiotics. A good, healthy gut early in life can help prevent and treat cases of puppy diarrhea.
FullBucket is the first company to create an all-natural, veterinarian-approved probiotic for puppies at high risk for digestive disease, diarrhea, parvovirus, and general stomach upset.
This probiotic paste for puppies was specially designed to support the balance of beneficial bacteria in the puppy's digestive tract and aid in immune defense, as it includes parvovirus antibodies and the yeast-based powerhouse, Saccharomyces boulardii.
Administer this probiotic paste in 2-4 cc increments twice daily for 4–8 days, or as recommended by your veterinarian, and your puppy’s diarrhea will be gone in no time!