It is a great feeling to welcome a puppy into your home but it can be a bit scary for some new dog owners. Caring for a young canine can be challenging and stressful if your puppy has health problems and you are not sure what to do. Even if you provide good quality food to your puppy he/she can still have tummy problems and may react poorly to some of the ingredients. We will attempt to help you prepare for cases when your paw partner has diarrhea.
Diarrhea in dogs is a common health problem and sometimes it can be a symphony of an illness but more often than not it is a one-time event. Pay close attention to your puppy and how he/she behaves. If your canine appears happy, joyful, alert, eats well, and drinks water regularly after he/she had diarrhea then the event was incidental and nothing more.
However, if your canine continues to have diarrhea and you notice that your paw friend is lethargic, stops drinking water and eating, or he/she has low energy and vomiting then it is best that you call a veterinarian. In most cases, the condition can be treated at home.
Diet — puppies have sensitive stomachs and the best way to prevent health problems associated with the digestive system is to work with your veterinarian. Please keep in mind that dogs of all ages love to explore the world through their noses and mouths. This means your canine may try to eat something that they are not supposed to eat. Food leftovers in your trash may seem very appealing to your dog but the discarded food may be mixed with inedible materials which will cause problems for your dog’s stomach. Fortunately, in these cases, dogs go through a brief intestinal distress episode and recover quickly. When you are outside with a puppy/young dog please make sure they do not ingest feces as some dogs may love to do that. There is a term for this proclivity and it is called – coprophagia.
Stress — can affect a dog’s appetite, energy levels, and the digestive system just like in humans. Most puppies feel stressed when they enter a new home and are separated from their litter. Try to give your new puppy time to explore his/her new living space and use a loving tone when you speak to him/her. Dogs can exhibit diarrhea when there are sudden changes in their home like the welcoming of a baby, new tenants moving in, and their toys missing. If your dog is pacing around, whining, seems overly alert, and has diarrhea try to play with them more and make them feel loved.
Infections and Viruses —young dogs are more vulnerable to infections and viruses as their immune system needs time to develop and adapt to the environment. Parvovirus and distemper are common reasons for diarrhea in puppies and often are accompanied by fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite. If you notice that your four-legged friend is lethargic, does not eat, and has diarrhea please call your veterinarian and do a full health check.
Parasites — puppies can be born with many kinds of worms which are transmitted from the mother before the dogs are born. In some cases, the parasites can be transmitted via the mother’s milk. Please be warned that these parasites may infect humans too. The parasites that can move from an animal to a human are classified as “zoonotic”. Hookworms, Whipworms, Tapeworms, and Roundworms can be found in dog feces and easily be transmitted to other pets like cats. You may want to check the help page on the topic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You can help soothe your canine in a few ways when he/she is having a diarrhea episode. Keep your dog hydrated. Make sure your dog has clean water and you might use ice cubes for him/her to lick. In the past, fasting for 8, 12, and 24 hours was something veterinarians recommended in attempts to deal with diarrhea. However, withholding food is no longer recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association since nutrition is important to regulate the immune system and the metabolizing of drugs (medicine). Also, do not give your pet antibiotics if he/she is having diarrhea straight away. Please consult your veterinarian in advance.
Many vets recommend using a Bland Diet when our dog is not feeling well. This means you should give your pet foods like white rice, boiled chicken, and vegetable broth. The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (a part of Tufts University in Boston) has a webpage where they discuss what a “bland diet” is and how it works. We also recommend using fiber-rich foods like cooked sweet potato and pumpkin puree (do not use pumpkin pie mix) to bring your dog’s stomach back to normal.
Adding probiotics to your dog’s food serving can have a positive effect too. We want to underline that we need more studies on the digestive system in canines to understand the impact of probiotics and other supplements. Studies like this one from October 2021 and this one from March 2022 suggest that probiotics have a positive influence on the gut microbiome in dogs.
Hopefully, this article has been of use and you are better prepared for cases where your paw friend is having digestive problems. Please, check our blog for more helpful tips and information on dog training and canine health.