It’s not uncommon for puppies to have a bout of diarrhoea. For many pet owners, it can be difficult to know what to do to help your puppy, and when to get veterinary advice.
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What causes diarrhoea in puppies?
There are a whole host of causes of diarrhoea in puppies, some more serious than others. First off, let’s talk about diet. Puppies will often have some loose or watery stools just because of a change in diet. This is pretty common because owners will often give them a new type of food when they get them home. But it might also be because the puppy is a monkey; they might like to scavenge bits of scrap food and other things that he shouldn’t be eating. Another cause of mild diarrhoea can be stress. Some pets are more anxious than others, and big life changes like a new home can also provoke a tummy upset.
Gastrointestinal worms are a common, but very important cause of diarrhoea in puppies. Left untreated, they can not only cause diarrhoea and vomiting but even obstructions in the intestine. This is why we always recommend regular worming. In addition, sometimes diarrhoea can be a sign of potentially more severe problems like infections (such as parvovirus), gastrointestinal obstruction caused by a foreign object or intussusception (where one part of the intestine folds into another), or even malformations (including portosystemic shunts where there are abnormal vessels allowing blood to bypass the liver).
When is diarrhoea a worry?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Generally speaking, if your puppy is bright, well, eating, and only has loose stools, it may well be down to something trivial like a change in diet; and it may resolve without any treatment. If he isn’t interested in food, is vomiting, depressed, or is passing several bouts of watery, bloody, or black diarrhoea, it’s definitely time to get him checked out by your veterinarian. Puppies only have limited reserves of water and fat. And they’re quickly depleted, meaning that they can alter dramatically in as little as one day. It’s important to keep a close eye on any puppy with diarrhoea. Even a puppy who seems well can go downhill quickly if he doesn’t stay really well hydrated.
What should you do if your puppy has diarrhoea?
Any puppy with diarrhoea needs to stay well hydrated. So making sure he always has plenty of water available is key. It might be helpful to give him small, light meals to eat, like plain boiled rice or chicken. That is, unless he’s vomiting as well, in which case it’s best to see the vet. It can also be really helpful to try and get a sample of your puppy’s poo if he ends up needing to see the vet; they can look at it and test for certain infections if necessary. If your puppy’s diarrhoea doesn’t resolve by the next day, he seems otherwise unwell, is vomiting, bloated, or has any blood in the poo or vomit, then ring your vets for an appointment to make sure it’s not more serious than just a bit of an upset tummy.
On a separate note, make sure to clean up, disinfect and dry out the area, after your puppy has a bout of diarrhoea. This is particularly important in case it turns out to be something infectious.
How can you prevent your puppy from getting diarrhoea?
The short answer is, you can’t really. Puppies tend to investigate everything with their mouths and don’t seem to have such well-developed immune systems. This means they’re more susceptible to infections and worms. Keeping him up to date with worming and vaccinations will certainly help. As will minimising any access to inappropriate foods or objects.
If you have changed your puppy onto a new food, it may well be the cause. It’s always advisable to mix the two foods gradually, putting decreasing amounts of the old one with increasing amounts of the new. This should help his gastrointestinal system adapt and prevent tummy upsets.