Puppy Tips

Puppy Diarrhea: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments Explained

Diarrhea is the kind of dirty disaster almost every pet parent has to deal with at some point. Though it’s never enjoyable, it isn’t always a reason for too much concern.

Diarrhea can be caused by a huge array of ailments, from simple food sensitivities or increased stress to life-threatening diseases and parasites.

This wide range of causes could be scary for puppy parents, especially when we have so many other things to worry about. Our puppies need proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and protection from accidents and illness, as well as the right training, socialization, and plenty of love.

Raising a puppy is a big task, which is why we’re here to help. Today’s Spot Pet Insurance guide is all about puppy diarrhea. We’re covering why it may be happening and how you should move forward so that you can be prepared for any incident from start to finish.

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea in dogs can be compared to diarrhea in humans. Though it isn’t pleasant to think about, we need to be able to discern diarrhea from regular feces.

The main identifier for diarrhea is runny, loose, unformed stool. In contrast, normal poop is compact and holds its shape, although it shouldn’t be completely dry either.

Typically diarrhea also involves passing stool more than usual, both in terms of frequency and volume. If your pooch poops more than two or three times a day or shows an increase in their normal frequency of passing stool, an ailment is likely at hand.

Diarrhea in a one-off scenario likely isn’t cause for concern, but diarrhea lasting more than a day is usually a reason to call the vet immediately. Other signs of serious diarrhea include bloody stool, dark and tarry stool, pale gums, and more.

What causes puppy diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a symptom spanning many different ailments, from minor illnesses to severe conditions. For puppies and kittens, diarrhea can be especially scary since our young dogs have fragile health compared to their adult counterparts.

Thankfully, we can narrow down the most common causes of diarrhea to just a handful of categories.

While noting signs for yourself is essential, consulting a veterinary professional is ultimately the only way to get a reliable diagnosis. This is the best course of action if your dog has diarrhea.

Nonetheless, knowing the common causes of puppy diarrhea and how to interpret accompanying symptoms is valuable, so let’s look at those causes now!

Diarrhea cause #1: Diet

Gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea, is most often caused by something your dog ate, but even this could be for a variety of reasons.

Canine food allergies & sensitivities

One such reason could be a food allergy. Of the hypersensitivities affecting dogs, food-related ones are quite common. Along with diarrhea, you are likely to notice vomiting and itchiness. Behavior and personality changes might occur as well.

While allergies could play a hand, it’s more likely your pup is exhibiting a food sensitivity. Intolerances and allergies alike may not always show immediately. Your puppy could become sensitive to their dog food over time. Even if they’ve eaten a specific food before with any issues, that food might still be the culprit behind the upset tummy.

Diet changes & irregularities

Additionally, changing your dog’s diet could also reveal or lead to stomach issues. A consistent diet is the best approach, especially for puppies. You should always consult your veterinarian before changing your dog’s food or introducing something new to their stomach.

Dogs could also get sick from overeating. While puppies can generally eat to their heart’s content due to needing so many nutrients, there is still a limit.

Toxic foods for dogs

Another potential cause could be spoiled food or food your pup isn’t supposed to have, such as something out of the garbage or stolen from your plate when you weren’t looking.

If you suspect your dog may have gotten into toxic food, you should contact a veterinary professional or poison control service. Some such foods may be toxic and could be dangerous for your pup beyond the threat of diarrhea.

In general, puppies have specific nutrition needs at a young age, so feeding them human food isn’t the best idea. If they do get some human food, even if that food is normally fine for adult dogs, your puppy may not react well to it. Diarrhea could follow. Stick to specially formulated treats designed for dogs, as opposed to sharing your own food.

Diarrhea cause #2: Infection

Diarrhea could be caused by some type of infection ailing your dog. From bacterial infections to viral ones, there are many different types of infections, but almost all of them are potentially serious.

Dogs of all ages can be susceptible to these infections, but puppies are especially at risk since their immune systems are weak and still developing.

Most infections can be reliably prevented by vaccination, which is why it’s so essential for pet owners to keep up with their pup’s shots.

Vaccines often require multiple shots spread out over time, but the work is worth it to protect your puppy’s life.

Until full vaccination, pet parents should be careful of exposure to potential sources of infections such as parvo. Being around other dogs, especially unvaccinated ones, should be a big no for your pup until her shots are done.

Viral infection: Parvovirus in dogs

Canine parvovirus is a diagnosis no pet parent wants to hear, but knowing about this disease is your best tool in acting quickly should it arise. Also known as “parvo,” this bacterial infection attacks the bloodstream and immune system.

Symptoms of canine parvovirus include severe gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea), weight loss, lethargy, and fever. If you notice any combination of these signs, consult a veterinarian immediately.

Parvo can be lethal in any case, but the risks increase if treatment is delayed. Treatment options exist if parvo is the cause of your puppy’s diarrhea, typically involving hospitalization and intensive care. Still, vaccination is your best option since it can reliably prevent this terrible disease.

Viral infection: Distemper in dogs

Another viral disease seen in some dogs is distemper, or CDV (canine distemper virus). Unfortunately, distemper is often fatal, and no known cure exists at this time. It attacks several organs throughout the respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems.

Distemper is highly contagious, which is why it is so important to keep dogs away from other dogs showing symptoms of sickness. Wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, ferrets, and more can also transmit the virus, so you should keep your dog away from them too.

The danger of distemper once again highlights the importance of vaccines for your pup. The vaccination options for dogs against distemper are reliable and effective, given to puppies in the first months of their lives over three doses. Adult dogs also receive boosters throughout their life to protect against distemper.

Bacterial infections in dogs: Salmonella, e. Coli, and more

Infections aren’t limited to viruses. Bacterial infections from food or feces ingestion such as salmonella, e.coli, and clostridium can cause diarrhea.

You may be able to distinguish bacterial infections from other, less serious causes of diarrhea by blood within the stool. Additional symptoms include vomiting, fever, and reduced appetite. If you notice these signs, contact your vet immediately.

Bacterial infections can be more insidious than you might think. For example, if you are infected by salmonella, you could pass it to your dogs if you don’t wash your hands well enough after passing stool and wiping yourself. Even if you aren’t eating any food which might contain salmonella, someone else who has done so and doesn’t wash their hands sufficiently could pass it to you.

Proper hygiene and precaution are essential when eating certain foods that may contain salmonella, such as chicken, beef, eggs, mushrooms, onions, papayas, peaches, cut melon, and even some processed foods.

If you think you may be sick, especially with bacterial or viral infections, you should be careful about transmitting your illness to your dog. While some infections may not be a risk, others are, and these infections could cause diarrhea.

Diarrhea cause #3: Parasites

As nasty as it is to think about, worms and other parasites could get into your dog’s body and cause diarrhea, among other issues. While all dogs can suffer from parasites, puppies are especially susceptible.

Worms, especially intestinal worms, are the most common type of parasite found in puppies. Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms can infect the digestive system of your dog and cause diarrhea, among other symptoms.

These symptoms might include vomiting, lethargy, bloody stool, irritated bottom, weight loss, abdominal pain, poor coat quality, pot belly, excessive drinking, anemia, and difficulty passing stool.

Parasites always come from a contaminated source. In some cases, parasites could be passed to your puppy from their mother during birth. In others, your puppy might pick up a parasite from feces, either by licking it outside or by licking their paw after walking through feces. Wild animals could also transmit parasites to your pup. Birds, squirrels, mice, mosquitos, fleas, and even cockroaches may carry parasites.

Parasites in dogs should be treated by a medical professional. In most cases, medication is prescribed to be given over the course of a few weeks or months, depending on the type of parasite involved.

Over-the-counter remedies for parasites can be unpredictable, especially for young puppies, since each dog is unique, including unique needs and risks.

Diarrhea cause #4: Stress

Diarrhea isn’t always a sign of an illness or infection. Something as seemingly simple as increased, excessive stress could lead to digestive issues and diarrhea in your dog. This phenomenon is also seen in humans when we become especially stressed.

Intensive socialization, difficulty adapting to chaotic routines, or encounters with unfriendly animals could all be part of overwhelming stress for your puppy.

While we do everything we can to help our dogs feel calm and relaxed, some circumstances may be out of our control. With time and care, pups with stress-related diarrhea should return to normal without needing medical attention.

Treatments for dog diarrhea

The best way to approach diarrhea treatment varies as widely as the causes for it. Consulting a trusted veterinarian should be your first step, but your pup’s ailment may not always be cause for a vet visit.

In some cases, a vet may recommend certain home remedies for your puppy’s diarrhea. While adult dogs are often put on a short fast to ease their stomach issues, puppies need their nutrients to such an extent that this is almost never recommended.

Certain foods might relax a dog’s stomach as well, such as rice water or pumpkin puree. You should talk to your vet before giving these foods to your puppy since young doggy stomachs can be much more sensitive than their adult counterparts.

When diarrhea occurs for an extended time (more than one day) or accompanies other symptoms, especially those that could point to serious ailments, your pup may need treatment from a vet, in which case medication or other means of treatment are likely.

Hospitalization or surgery are rarely needed for cases of diarrhea. Still, always be aware of the more severe risks and give due respect to the symptoms you see.


  • Diarrhea in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital

  • Dog Diarrhea: Treatment, Causes & Remedies | American Kennel Club

  • Why Your Puppy Has Diarrhea & What To Do About It | Daily Paws

  • The Causes, Treatment, and Symptoms of Puppy Diarrhea | American Kennel Club

  • Food Allergies in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital

  • Good Dog, Bad Food: Foods for People That Are Bad for Your Dog | FDA

  • Canine Parvovirus | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

  • Distemper in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital

  • Salmonella and Food | CDC

  • Intestinal Worms In Dogs | Blue Cross

  • Can Dogs Get Sick from Humans? What the Research Says | Healthline

  • Anemia | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

  • Socializing your dog | Animal Humane Society

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