What could be better than the sound of little paws eagerly scampering across floor? A puppy is something wonderful, and you can expect an exciting time with your faithful companion. Of course, you will have taken your new family member straight to your heart and will want him or her to grow up healthy and lively. But what do you do if your puppy suddenly gets diarrhoea? Although not always a cause for concern, thin stools can sometimes be an indication of a serious illness. Diarrhoea in puppies is not something to be taken lightly. In this article, we will not only show you some possible causes of your puppy’s diarrhoea, but also advise you on what to do in an emergency.
Determining the cause: why does my puppy have diarrhoea?
The most common cause of diarrhoea in puppies is their digestive system being out of balance for some reason. Therefore, in most cases, thin stools are caused by a young dog eating something unsuitable. Puppies are very curious and like to investigate things. That’s why they bite into all kinds of objects. This can lead to something getting into their stomachs, which eventually disturbs their digestion. The dog’s body may use diarrhoea and vomiting to try and get rid of the foreign body.
Your puppy should not eat the following things:
- Food that has gone off
- Wet food that is too cold
- Leftovers or table scraps
- Human food
- Too much feed
- Extremely fatty foods
- Fish bones
- Unclean drinking water
f your dog has not yet learned what they are allowed to eat and what they are not allowed to eat, they will probably consider almost everything to be edible at first. This can lead to your four-legged friend eating leftovers or spoiled food that is not good for them and may eventually cause diarrhoea.
As long as your puppy does not ingest anything poisonous or sharp-edged, this should be a harmless gastrointestinal upset. The situation is different if your dog accidentally eats food that is harmful to them (e.g. chocolate, medicines, cleaning agents or poisonous bait). As soon as you notice this, you should take your pet to the vet immediately, as there is an acute danger to their life.
Checklist: Possible accompanying symptoms and causes of diarrhoea
Parasites (e.g. tapeworms, threadworms, flushing worms)
Transmission occurs by sniffing foreign dog faeces or grassy areas or plants where worm eggs or larvae are found. Transmission can also occur by eating mice. These parasites are detected by a faecal sample. The problem is then solved by a suitable treatment.
The symptoms include weakness and fatigue, tenesmus due to itching, skin irritation and eczema, weight loss, blood in the diarrhoea, vomiting, and typically a bloated stomach in puppies.
These microscopically small parasites are very contagious and massively disturb the digestion. They cannot be treated with a normal worming cure.
Giardia manifest themselves as mushy, slushy diarrhoea that often has a yellowish colour. It often makes young dogs very ill and requires intensive treatment. Adult dogs can cope better with it and will remain fit, but their weight will drop steadily
Many new impressions and experiences can overwhelm puppies. Sensitive dogs are particularly susceptible.
Stress can express itself both positively (e.g. through excessive joy) and negatively (e.g. through unfounded nervousness/anxiety).
Medicines for four-legged friends can have side effects, which often include diarrhoea and vomiting (e.g. deworming tablets).
A worming treatment can cause diarrhoea and vomiting in puppies, as the preparation fights the infestation. The worms are killed off and the body tries to get rid of them as quickly as possible. The symptoms should only be temporary.
Viruses, bacteria and fungi may settle in a puppy’s digestive system. The dog’s immune system will still be weak, which is why infections can occur.
In addition to diarrhoea, other symptoms of an infection include a need for sleep and vomiting.
Serious diseases such as inflammation of the pancreas, cancer or liver disease.
If digestive organs are diseased, diarrhoea occurs in adult dogs as well as in puppies. Other diseases can also affect the digestive system because they affect the entire body.
Normally, behavioural changes such as nervousness, restlessness, faintness, drowsiness are seen. In addition, some diseases cause vomiting and/or blood in the faeces (“black diarrhoea”). In the case of colitis, mucus appears in the faeces.
Time to visit the vet? When to seek medical advice
If your puppy has diarrhoea, you do not have to go to the vet immediately. Always pay attention to your dog’s general condition. If your pet seems tired and weak, go straight to the vet. If your puppy seems fit and happy, in many cases you can get the symptoms under control yourself with the help of a fasting period or a light diet. However, if your puppy continues to defecate for several days, you should take him/her to a veterinary practice or clinic to determine the cause. If possible, you should take a faecal sample with you to help identify the trigger. Your puppy’s diarrhoea does not necessarily have to have a serious cause. Nevertheless, a visit to the vet is also recommended because a young dog’s body will not be taking in any nutrients if everything is being excreted too quickly. Your puppy will also be losing a lot of water (due to thin stools) and running the risk of dehydration. This condition can become life-threatening for young dogs.
How diet and diarrhoea in puppies are connected
If your puppy has diarrhoea, their food may also play a role as his/her digestive system will be relatively sensitive. If you feed your puppy too much variety, it can irritate the gastrointestinal system. For this reason, you should always change the feed you use gradually and not suddenly. A rapid change of food can also cause constipation, flatulence or a lack of appetite in dogs. Our recommendation: allow at least one week to switch to a new dog food, changing the variety of feed gradually. In the first few days, replace about a quarter of the previous feed with the new one. Increase the proportion over the following days until the meal consists entirely of the new feed. If your dog is very sensitive and has difficulties with this, extend the changeover phase. At first, add only a very small amount to the usual food and increase the amount very slowly. Click here for more information on switching your dog's feed.
Change your dog's food step by step.
It is important to change the food gradually, especially if you want to switch from wet to dry food or vice versa. The reason is obvious: a puppy's body needs time to adjust to a completely different diet.
Is your current feed unsuitable for your young dog?
Nutritional sensitivities such as intolerances and allergies can also occur in dogs. These can cause diarrhoea, ear infections, or skin rashes in puppies. One measure for nutritional sensitivities can be to use a hypoallergenic dog food. As a general rule, you should consult a vet if your puppy has diarrhoea for a long period of time. If it turns out that your pet cannot tolerate certain ingredients or is allergic to them, you can then choose a suitable dog food
Diarrhoea may also occur if a puppy eats the following:
- Spoiled food that has been left in the heat for too long, for example.
- Wet food or raw meat from the refrigerator that is still too cold.
- Table scraps or leftovers
- Human food (some of which can even be poisonous and life-threatening like chocolate, grapes, and sultanas)
- Excessive amounts of food
- Unclean drinking water, for example from a puddle
- Extremely fatty foods
- Fish bones
What can you do?
- If your dog is still fit, you can skip one or two meals. In contrast to a healthy adult dog, a puppy should not be subjected to a 24-hour fasting period.
- Make sure your puppy drinks plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- An alternative to water is diluted tea (e.g. camomile), which can also have a positive effect on digestion.
- After a day of reduced feeding, feed your puppy a gentle diet for the time being. Rice or potatoes are best. You can also feed him/her ripe bananas in small quantities, as they provide plenty of energy and can also have a regulating effect on the digestion. They also contain pectin, which may bind any toxins in the intestines.
- The puppy should be given this gentle diet for at least 3 days to prevent any further disturbances to the digestive system due to switching his/her diet too quickly.
- Give your four-legged friend small portions at first to test how they are tolerated.
- In general, you should observe your puppy closely when he/she has diarrhoea. This will help you to recognise changes in their behaviour much more quickly, which could be indications of illness (e.g. exhaustion).
- Do some research: if you have some idea about the possible triggers for your dog’s digestive disorder, you can decide more quickly whether a visit to the vet is necessary (e.g. missing shoes, chewed wood, an incident while walking).
You can also take steps to prevent diarrhoea in your puppy. First and foremost, it is important that you pay close attention to what he/she eats. In this context, you should teach your puppy only to take food when you allow it. This is also an important measure to protect your four-legged friend from lures and other dangers. Your little four-legged friend should learn and master the command “leave”. It is also advisable to check who, apart from you, might give your puppy something to eat: well-meaning friends and family members may feed your pet something that is unsuitable.
Author of the guide
“Surrounded by cool north wind, the stormy Baltic Sea and sleeping dogs, I live, blog and write in the Hanseatic city of Rostock. Since dogs and cats accompanied and fascinated me from a small age, I have specialised professionally in the dog and pet industry. As a “dog-copywriter” I fill the websites, blogs and social media accounts of animal companies with life. At the moment I am the proud owner of two male dogs, with whom I like to wander through the nature of Northern Germany.”