Puppies are adorable, but they’re also a lot of work. From providing healthy meals to ensuring their safety, training, and socialization, there is a never-ending list of responsibilities for puppy parents.
And as if all this wasn’t enough, a common challenge that can catch you off guard is the dreaded diarrhea. It’s a messy and concerning situation that requires immediate attention. But why does a puppy have diarrhea? Surprisingly, there can be many reasons for this, and in this article, we’ll uncover the most common ones.
Why do Puppies Get Diarrhea?
Below we have listed the 6 most common reasons why a puppy can get diarrhea and how you can help them:
1. Change in Diet
Puppies have a sensitive digestive system, and they can experience diarrhea due to any sudden change in the diet. That’s why it’s recommended to always introduce them to a new food gradually. This allows their body to adjust to the new change and reduces the risk of any digestive problems, such as diarrhea.
It’s also worth noting that diarrhea can also be a symptom of food allergies or intolerance. If you have recently introduced them to a new type of food and they are experiencing diarrhea with other symptoms like swelling, itchiness, vomiting, or sneezing, then they might be experiencing an allergic reaction.
What Should You Do?
If your puppy has diarrhea due to a change in their diet, then it will most likely go away on its own in a few days as they adapt to the new diet or once you switch back to their previous diet. But if the diarrhea is caused due to an allergic reaction to the new food, then you should consult with a veterinarian and discuss the cause of your puppy's allergies.
2. Bacterial Infection
A puppy is more susceptible to bacterial infection since they have an underdeveloped immune system that cannot always help them fight off dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, or Clostridium.
If your puppy gets exposed to these pathogens through contaminated food, water, or their environment, they could experience diarrhea as one of the symptoms. Some other symptoms that can confirm a bacterial infection include vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, increased irritability, abdominal pain, and restlessness.
What Should You Do?
If you suspect your puppy has a bacterial infection, you should consult with a veterinarian immediately. They can help your puppy by conducting a thorough examination and providing the necessary treatment as per their health condition.
3. Viral Infection
A young and unvaccinated puppy is more vulnerable to contracting a viral infection from other infected animals, contaminated surfaces, or contaminated food and water.
Some common viruses that can affect them include:
Parvovirus:It’s a highly contagious virus that primarily targets the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe and persistent diarrhea.
Rotavirus: This viral infection causes inflammation of the intestines, which can lead to diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset. It’s considered a self-limiting infection that can resolve on its own in a few days or a week. However, it’s still necessary to consult with a veterinarian, especially if you have a younger puppy.
Distemper:This is a fatal viral disease caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV). It’s often caused by direct contact with infected animals and can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including diarrhea.
Canine Coronavirus: It’s not the same as Covid-19, as it’s caused by different types of coronaviruses that primarily affect dogs and can cause gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea.
What Should You Do?
To identify a viral infection, you should keep a close eye on your puppy’s symptoms and note any changes in their behavior, appetite, or energy levels. In case of a viral infection, you’ll see symptoms like fever, coughing, vomiting, lethargy, dehydration, loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and seizures.
If you notice these signs in your puppy, take them to a veterinarian immediately.
Furthermore, to prevent a viral infection, you should make sure that your puppy receives proper vaccinations. These vaccines are highly effective in protecting them against deadly viral diseases. You should consider consulting a veterinarian to know more about the appropriate vaccines for your puppy and avoid dog parks until your puppy has had their vaccinations.
Puppies can also experience stress, anxiety, and emotional distress that can affect their bowel movements, leading to diarrhea. Some common stress-inducing situations for puppies can include:
Environmental changes like being exposed to unfamiliar surroundings or moving to a new home
Being separated from their mother or their primary caregiver
Meeting new animals or people
Sudden or unfamiliar loud noises like thunderstorms or fireworks
Sudden changes in daily routine like feeding times or exercise schedules
What Should You Do?
If your puppy is experiencing diarrhea due to stress, you can try to comfort them by creating a safe space to relax. If possible, you should also try to minimize their exposure to stressful stimuli, like by taking them away from the source of loud noises and chaotic environments.
If your puppy's stress persists, you might have to visit a veterinarian or a dog behaviorist to determine the cause of their distress.
5. Ingestion of Garbage or Foreign Objects
A puppy's natural instinct tells them to explore their environment with their mouths, which can often lead to accidental ingestion of potentially harmful objects. It’s a very common issue, and it can result in a range of problems, including intestinal blockage and diarrhea.
The severity of diarrhea and other symptoms would depend on what kind of object or toxic product they have eaten. For example, if your puppy has eaten toxic food from the garbage, you might notice signs of food poisoning, like vomiting, abdominal pain, and dehydration. Whereas if they have ingested a small object like a toy, you’ll notice signs of intestinal blockage like loss of appetite, constipation, and lethargy.
What Should You Do?
Ingestion of toxic human food from garbage or any foreign object can be a serious situation that requires immediate veterinary attention. It’s even dangerous if you don’t know what kind of food your puppy has eaten from the garbage because it can be anything toxic, from chocolate, onions, or grapes. These human foods can lead to various complications, including gastrointestinal upset, seizures, and organ damage.
Furthermore, the spoiled or molded food in the garbage can harbor bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli and parasites like roundworms or Giardia. Eating it would increase the risk of bacteria or parasite contamination for your puppy.
Parasites are common in puppies, and they can be acquired from various sources in their environment, like through other infected animals, contaminated soil, water, or feces. Some puppies are even born with parasites if their mother was infected.
Some common types of parasites that can affect your puppies include roundworms, hookworms, and Giardia. Once inside the body, these parasites often cause irritation and inflammation in your puppy’s intestines, leading to diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems.
What Should You Do?
Parasites often lead to a range of gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, abdominal pain, and pot belly accompanied by malnutrition, weight loss, lethargy, and dehydration. If you notice your puppy is showing any of these signs, you should consult with a veterinarian promptly. They’ll suggest the right treatments and deworming protocol as per your puppy's conditions.
When to Call the Vet?
If your puppy had a single episode of diarrhea without any other sign of illness, you might not have to visit a vet. You just need to monitor the situation closely and contact your veterinarian when you notice something unusual, like a change in their behavior or energy levels.
However, there are certain situations that require immediate veterinary help, such as:
The diarrhea is severe or frequent and has lasted for more than 12-24 hours
It’s accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite
There’s blood in your puppy's diarrhea
There are signs of dehydration, such as excessive thirst, dry gums, and reduced urine
Your puppy has a preexisting health condition or is on medications
You suspect that your puppy has eaten toxic human food or swallowed a foreign object
You suspect the diarrhea is caused due to bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection
Remember that a prompt veterinary visit in any of these cases will help prevent any unforeseen circumstances.
How to Prevent Diarrhea in Puppies
It isn’t possible to completely prevent diarrhea in puppies as it can be caused by various factors. However, the following measures can help you improve their overall digestive health and reduce the occurrence of diarrhea:
Provide them with a healthy and age-appropriate diet
When introducing them to a new food, do it gradually and keep an eye on an allergic reaction
Use positive reinforcement techniques like treats and praise while training your puppy
Create a safe, calm, and secure environment for your puppy to grow and thrive
Gradually expose them to new experiences, like meeting new people and other animals
Clean and disinfect your puppy’s living area, including their water bowls and toys
Talk to your veterinarian about adding probiotics and prebiotics to your puppy’s diet, as they can help the beneficial gut bacteria and promote digestive health
Puppy-proof your home by securing the garbage bins and storing the household chemicals and medications in a location that is inaccessible to your puppy
Provide them with chew toys to satisfy their natural chewing instincts and prevent them from ingesting something dangerous
Keep up with their vaccination schedule
Schedule regular veterinarian check-ups to monitor their overall health
Diarrhea in puppies can be caused due to various reasons, including a mild digestive upset to a more serious health condition. As a responsible puppy parent, you should monitor their situation, look out for other accompanying signs, and take appropriate measures.
If you suspect your puppy’s diarrhea is caused by a sudden change in their diet, then consider going back to the old diet and introducing the new food slowly and gradually. But if you suspect the cause of diarrhea to be a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection, take your puppy to a vet immediately.
Remember that every puppy is unique, and the causes of their health problems, including diarrhea, can vary depending on various factors. If you’re concerned about their overall health and well-being, you should consider consulting a veterinarian to determine what your puppy needs and how you can give them a happy and healthy life.
1. Why do puppies get diarrhea?
Puppies can experience diarrhea due to a variety of reasons, including bacterial infection, viral infection, stress, parasites, and ingestion of garbage or foreign objects. That’s why you should keep an eye out for the accompanying symptoms to determine the underlying problem.
However, when diarrhea persists for more than 12-24 hours or is accompanied by other symptoms, you should take your puppy to a veterinarian.
2. Is it normal for puppies to have diarrhea?
Puppies have a sensitive digestive system and an underdeveloped immune system that increases the chances of digestive problems. Thus, they can experience occasional diarrhea, but it should not be persistent or too frequent.
In case your puppy is experiencing a lot of diarrhea regularly, you should consult a veterinarian to identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.
3. What to do if my puppy has diarrhea?
If you have a young and unvaccinated puppy who is experiencing diarrhea, you should avoid any home remedies and consult a veterinarian immediately. However, if you have a slightly older puppy and they have experienced a single episode of diarrhea, you should monitor their conditions and keep an eye out for the accompanying symptoms.
You should consult with a veterinarian if your puppy is also experiencing additional symptoms that might indicate a bigger underlying health problem.
4. Why does my dog have diarrhea all the time?
If your puppy is experiencing diarrhea all the time, then it can be an indication of a bigger health problem, like an infection, parasites, or stress. In such cases, you should consult a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.
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