Puppy Diarrhea: Causes, Symptoms And How To Stop It

Here's how to help a puppy with diarrhea, according to a vet.

No one likes having a case of diarrhea — not even your puppy.

But your puppy can’t tell you if anything hurts or feels bad, which is why it’s up to you to keep an eye on your pup when a case of diarrhea comes on. Other symptoms accompanying diarrhea may point to a big problem.

To get to the bottom of why your puppy has diarrhea and how you can make your pup feel better, The Dodo talked to Dr. Brian Evans, a medical director at the 24/7 online veterinary care site Dutch, who broke down the symptoms and signs of when puppy diarrhea may be more than just a bad day.

Why does my puppy have diarrhea?

First things first: What’s going on in your puppy’s gut that’s causing him to have diarrhea? The answer to this question can go one of two ways. It can be as simple as stress or be a sign that something more problematic is going on.

“Diarrhea is very common in puppies and can occur from the first day you bring them home as the stress of the travel and/or transition can cause loose stools,” Dr. Evans told The Dodo.
Other causes of your puppy’s diarrhea could be linked to:

  • A change in his diet
  • Eating something he shouldn’t have
  • An intestinal parasite
  • An infection, either bacterial or viral

The seriousness of the diagnosis all depends on what other symptoms he may be experiencing.

Diarrhea symptoms to look out for

Because diarrhea could be a one-time reaction to something minor or point to more serious issues, it’s important for pet parents to keep an eye out for other symptoms that can be associated with diarrhea.

“Depending on the cause and severity of the diarrhea, some puppies will be otherwise unaffected and act completely normal,” Dr. Evans said. A puppy who seems to be unaffected by his diarrhea is definitely the best-case scenario.

“However, diarrhea can cause abdominal pain, lethargy, dehydration, lack of appetite, and can also be associated with vomiting,” he continued. And these diarrhea symptoms are the ones that raise red flags.

Puppy has bloody diarrhea

If you notice small amounts of blood, or blood streaking, in your puppy’s diarrhea, Dr. Evans noted that this can sometimes be a sign that your puppy is suffering from colitis (aka. a chronic digestive disease that causes an inflammatory reaction in the colon).

“If there is a lot of blood in the stool, it can signal more serious [affliction], such as eating rat bait, and may be a medical emergency,” Dr. Evans said.

Contact your vet in either situation and do so immediately if your puppy is experiencing extreme lethargy, lack of appetite or appears to be in pain while also having bloody diarrhea.

Puppy is vomiting and has diarrhea

“If they are also vomiting, I do tend to get more concerned that a serious problem is underlying the diarrhea, such as parvovirus or an intestinal foreign body, that will require intensive medical and/or surgical care,” Dr. Evans said.

Again, the combination of vomiting and diarrhea should be brought to your vet’s attention immediately.

Puppy diarrhea is mucusy

Dr. Evans said that diarrhea that is streaked with blood or that is mucusy could point to a colitis diagnosis, so make an appointment with your vet to get a proper diagnosis.

What does it mean if my puppy has diarrhea but is still playful?

“That is great news!” Dr. Evans said. “While we want to get the stools firmed up so they don't become dehydrated, we typically don't need to undergo major diagnostics and treatments.”

Make sure your puppy has access to plenty of water, and try feeding him bland foods like boneless, skinless chicken breast or rice if he isn’t interested in his regular puppy food. A playful puppy with diarrhea may be dealing with a bit of stress, especially if he’s in a new home, and may just need some time to settle into a new routine.

“You should work with your vet to make sure they don't have intestinal parasites and may need an easily digestible diet for a period of time as well as probiotics,” Dr. Evans suggested.

How to stop diarrhea

If your puppy’s not experiencing any of the more serious symptoms mentioned, then there are a few remedies for a mild case of puppy diarrhea.

“Depending on the cause, most mild, uncomplicated cases of diarrhea will resolve on their own in a few days,” Dr. Evans said. “Easily digestible diets that are made for dogs with diarrhea can be very helpful.” Your vet may even recommend you try giving your puppy a dog food tailored to sensitive stomachs in the interim.

“A high-quality, medical-grade probiotic can also be helpful,” Dr. Evans said, adding, “Beware that many OTC probiotics do not consistently provide the live bacterial cultures that may be on the label, so work with your vet to get their best recommendation.”

As always, if you have any concerns or questions about your puppy having diarrhea, never hesitate to contact your vet. They can properly diagnose and treat your puppy and give you peace of mind.