remember that the information in this article cannot cover
every situation and this article only provides a general
overview of a limited number of causes and treatments of
Each situation is different and your dog's care must
always be based on his exact situation. YOU and
your veterinarian are always the ones that know your pet
best and it is ALWAYS up to you to provide proper
veterinary care when necessary. You should never
dismiss symptoms of illness in your dog based on an
internet article or on statements made by an outside,
third party. Additionally, the decision to treat your dog
yourself is always a serious matter and carries the risk
of failure - death - so do not take on this
responsibility unless you are prepared to live with the
bred and raised Cockers for over 20 years, I've had to
deal with a number of health issues in puppies.
One of the most common (and most dangerous) health
issues in puppies is diarrhea. Some cases of puppy
diarrhea are simple and will resolve with little or no
treatment. Other cases may be due to serious
illness and could require prompt veterinary treatment to
save the puppy's life. To avoid
serious health complications, puppy buyers and breeders
should watch their puppy or puppies constantly for signs of
illness and loose stools.
Diarrhea is not a disease in itself, but is an easily
recognized symptom of a problem within the intestinal
system. Diarrhea is a "catch-all" term for a
number of changes that can be seen in bowel movements.
These changes can include one or more of the following:
increase in frequency of defecation.
Changes in fluid content of the stools (sometimes
causing a loose consistency).
Changes in the volume of feces produced. This
change can include increased water content and the
presence of undigested dietary fiber or unabsorbed
nutrients in the stool.
owner may notice a variety of changes in the appearance
of their dog's stool during a bout of diarrhea.
Stools may be of a soft, unformed consistency, may be
watery, may contain mucus or blood and the color of the
stool can range from brown, to yellow, to black, to
green, to gray or bright red. The stool may
be very smelly or normally smelly or may have little or
no odor at all. It's important
to note that the stool can still be formed and may not
always appear soft or loose. A dog with diarrhea
may also have bad breath, flatulence, abdominal pain,
bloating and grumbling guts (intestinal bubbling due to
Your puppy's stool should be firm, formed, generally
brown and should not stink excessively.
Because changes in bowel movements can be the first
indication of serious illness or disease, and
because puppy's can dehydrate very quickly (posing a serious risk
of death for young dogs), owners should continuously monitor their puppy's bowel movements.
This doesn't mean you need to check stool samples under
a microscope, but it does mean that you need to know
what is "normal" for your puppy. The term "normal"
means that you should know several facts about your
puppy's regular bowel movements. These facts will
Frequency of BMs
Consistency of BMs
Color of BMs
in some instances, the odor associated with his BMs.
(Some serious illnesses are characterized by a
particularly foul, smelly stool, so knowing that your
dog's stool doesn't smell "normal" can be important.)
Knowing what constitutes a normal bowel movement and
bowel schedule for your puppy can help you spot bowel
changes or problems as soon as they start.
Hopefully this will be before they are a serious health
threat to your puppy.
in mind that if you are seeing foreign objects in your
puppy's stool (bits of plastic or rubber, strings, etc)
your dog is definitely in need of closer supervision!
You may need to check your puppy's toy box for old,
deteriorated toys, the children's rooms for chewed up
toys and/or other areas around the house that may have
items inappropriate for your puppy to have access to.
are learning and monitoring your puppy's normal bowel
habits, you will also need to learn and monitor several
other indicators of your puppy's health. You will need to know his "normal" eating
and drinking habits, general daily activity level and
routine, and his basic physical
and mental condition (weight, alertness, temperament).
You should also be familiar with your puppy's normal
temperature. (A healthy puppy should
have a temperature of 1010 to 1020.)
Another item to become familiar with is your puppy's
"color". This means his gum color.
Check your healthy dog's mouth occasionally so you will
know what color his gums usually are. That way you
will be able to determine if he is "pale" during an
illness. While checking the mouth, press a finger
on an area of the gum, above the upper teeth, with a
finger. The pressure will blanche the area and
then it will refill with blood after pressure is
removed. You want to be familiar with a normal
refill rate for your healthy puppy's gums. If your puppy should become ill, knowing
what is "normal" for your puppy in the areas
I've specified above will help you recognize changes
that could indicate a health problem.
Basically, if your puppy has a normal
temperature and stool, is eating and drinking normally
and is participating and interacting in normal
activities with you and your family, then chances are he's a pretty healthy
puppy. This isn't an ironclad rule, of
course, but these indicators are generally a good way to
evaluate your pup's current health status.
If you notice any changes in your puppy's temperature,
behavior, stool and/or eating and drinking habits, then
you should begin to monitor the puppy for further
changes or problems. Keep in mind that
changes in any one of the above areas can indicate a
serious problem that needs veterinary attention.
Additionally, simultaneous changes in more than one of
the areas listed above should be viewed as a red flag
and should prompt you to immediately call your vet for
medical advice regarding the puppy. Needless to
say, if your puppy is lethargic, has a fever, is not
eating or drinking, is vomiting and has diarrhea, you
should RUN, not walk, to the nearest veterinary clinic!!
At this point you should know how to evaluate your
puppy's general "health" and you should have a picture
of what is "normal" for your puppy. From here,
let's address how to know if your dog's stool indicates
that there is a serious
threat to his health. The
first step in identifying a problem stool is to know the
types of stools you may see. Certain types of
stools can be indicative of specific diseases or
illnesses and can help pinpoint the internal location of
the disorder (large intestine or small intestine) so if your dog is ill and needs medical
attention, it will be important that you correctly
identify the type of stool your puppy has been having.
most commonly seen bowel problem.
Soft stools are not necessarily runny or watery, but
will have a consistency similar to soft ice cream.
There will generally be little if any real form to the
stool. Soft stools may be a result of
over-eating, excessive fat intake, ingestion of
trash, changes in food, food allergy, stress,
parasites, over-heating or over-excitement or may be
the first sign of serious disease. This type
of stool is due to a problem in the small intestine.
can quickly become a serious
health risk. Do not ignore this situation.
Prompt treatment is important to prevent dehydration. If your
dog has watery diarrhea for more than
24 hours, despite supportive care and treatment, you
will need to take the dog to your veterinarian.
Your puppy will also need to go to the vet's if it will not drink
or cannot keep food and/or water down. In serious
cases, the pup may need to go on IV fluids and/or
receive other medical treatment. Watery, brown
diarrhea may be due to ingestion of trash, disease
or bacterial infection and is indicative of a
problem in the small intestine.
type of diarrhea can be the result of eating trash,
changes in diet, internal parasites, and/or
disease - parvo or corona virus, inflammatory bowel
disease, etc. A mucous stool may be
formed with a mucus sheath or the stool may be
watery and stringy with mucous and possibly blood.
This type of stool can be an indication of serious
disease. You should seek prompt veterinary
care for your dog if you see mucous diarrhea.
This type of diarrhea is generally associated with
bacterial enteritis or viral infections but may also
be seen with other intestinal issues. This
type of stool requires careful monitoring and may be
indicative of the need for immediate veterinary
puppy develops diarrhea with blood in it, you
contact your veterinarian immediately. Most pet
owners are not knowledgeable enough to differentiate
between "emergency" bloody diarrhea and bloody diarrhea
that can be monitored for further developments, so
please seek expert advice as soon as possible for this
one or two stools with a small amount of blood are
probably not an immediate health emergency (if the puppy
is normally active, eating and drinking), this CAN be an
indicator of a serious illness, disease or injury.
Depending on the age, condition and general health of a
sick puppy, some instances of severe bloody diarrhea
could result in a puppy becoming dehydrated within 12 to
48 hours. Dehydrated puppies can die in a matter
of hours, so it's always best to take a case of bloody
diarrhea can be the result of internal injuries,
bacterial enteritis (intestinal infections), ingestion
of foreign objects (especially sharp objects),
intestinal upset due to stress or changes in diet,
parasitic infection (worms, Giardia, Coccidia) or
diseases such as Parvovirus. Stools with
blood may be due to conditions which cause bleeding
from either the small or large intestine.
black, tarry stool is the result of blood in the
small intestine (upper gastrointestinal tract). The black color
is the result of the blood being "digested" as it
moves through the intestines. This type of
stool can be seen with intestinal damage from
disease, ingestion of foreign objects, cancer or any other
disease or injury that results in hemorrhage into
the small intestine. You should seek immediate
veterinary care if your puppy has a black, tarry
Gray, greasy stools are often the result of excess fat in the
feces. This is most often the result of
excessive amounts of fat in the dog's diet. This type of stool may be particularly
foul smelling and so greasy that it will leave an oily spot on
paper. This type of stool may also be due to
a disorder that causes mal-digestion or mal-absorption of food.
normally formed stool with fresh blood is also
considered a health emergency. This type of
stool is seen when there is bleeding from the large
intestine or anal glands. Bleeding may be due to damage from
a foreign object, rectal cancer or ulceration of the
colon or rectum.
Puppies are notorious for constantly getting into and
eating or chewing everything. This behavior often
leads to stomach upset and other intestinal problems,
which can result in diarrhea. Ingestion of trash,
poison, grass, plants, pieces of chewed items or other
foreign objects can all trigger diarrhea. Puppies
have been known to swallow jewelry, balls, children's
toys, safety pins, paper clips, pens......just about
anything they can get in their mouth! If your
puppy is a scavenger, be aware that larger items that
are ingested can cause full or partial intestinal
blockage, which can cause various stool changes in your
dog and which are major medical emergencies. Your
puppy could also suffer intestinal damage from a sharp
foreign body in the stool (undigested bone fragments, a
sewing needle or sharp fragments of chewed plastic
items) and this damage will cause changes in the dog's
stools and will most likely require a trip to the veterinarian's.
Puppies may develop diarrhea from several different
types of food issues. These can include food
poisoning, eating foods that are too rich or too fatty
and, in nursing puppies, mother's milk that has become
infected or tainted due to infection or chemicals,
medications or poison that the bitch has been exposed
to. Remember that the dam may not have to
ingest a poison or chemical for the puppies to be
exposed to harmful products that could cause diarrhea.
Pesticides and other lawn treatments may get on the
dam's nipples, feet and hair if she lays or rolls in the
yard while outside going to the bathroom. Once
back with the puppies, these chemicals could be ingested
or absorbed through the skin as the puppies nurse and
crawl on mom. Additionally, flea and tick
preventatives, shampoos or sprays that are used on a
nursing mother could cause problems for nursing puppies.
You should never use any chemicals around your house,
yard or on your bitch without first checking with your
veterinarian and/or checking all manufacturers
Recurring episodes of diarrhea may be due to a specific
diet. It is always possible that your puppy is
sensitive to one or more ingredients in a specific food.
A change in diet may help alleviate recurring cases of
diarrhea. However, you must avoid sudden
changes in your puppy's diet. Abrupt changes in food
or water can also trigger diarrhea.
Be sure and check with your breeder about the type of
food your new puppy is eating. Stock up on this
brand and formula BEFORE bringing the puppy home.
If you are unable to stock up before the puppy comes
home, your breeder should be willing to give you a small
amount of food to last you until you can get to the pet
store. You should never switch brands or
formulas of food overnight or during times of stress
(such as when a puppy is adjusting to a new home).
Changes in food should only be made when the puppy is
settled and if he is not showing any signs of illness,
stress or other upset or trauma.
change foods or formulas, you should begin by
substituting a small portion of the regular food (1/4 or
less of the normal ration) with an equal portion of the
new food. After 2 or 3 days of this mixture,
reduce the old food by another 1/4 of the ration and
increase the amount of the new food accordingly.
Keep doing this every few days until you are only
feeding the new food.
Another food related cause of diarrhea is over-feeding.
While it's rare for young puppies in a normal
environment to actually over-eat, some puppies can be
sensitive to certain ingredients and increased
consumption of these certain ingredients can cause a
digestive problem. An example of this would
be cow's milk. Many puppies and dogs have an
intolerance for cow's milk and may develop diarrhea if
they are given even small amounts of this product.
Another food ingredient that commonly causes this type of problem is fat.
Too much fat in the diet often results in chronically
loose stools. Puppies or
dogs that tend to gulp their food or gorge themselves
when feeding may also be prone to diarrhea. This
type of behavior may require owners to limit food intake
and to devise methods to slow feeding.
Remember that new types of treats, feeding of people
food (the canine vacuum cleaner routine around young
kids!) or ingestion of cat food or your older dog's
food, can all lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.
New items (food, treats) in your puppy's diet must be
added gradually, in small amounts, over a number of days
and you must monitor your puppy constantly to make sure
he doesn't sneak into the cat's food (or the real
favorite - the litterbox!!! YUCK!) or any other sources
of inappropriate food.
can also trigger diarrhea in your puppy. Leaving
the only home he has ever known and suddenly being in a
new home, with a new schedule, new people, new
activities and having to adjust to an entirely new world
is traumatic for any puppy (or dog for that matter!).
This type of stress often leads to diarrhea.
Stress diarrhea can also be caused by more minor
occurrences such as a trip to the groomer's or the
veterinarian's or by visitors coming to the home.
Visits by children that over-excite and encourage a
dramatic increase in your puppy's physical activity are
Unfortunately, stress can also allow things
GIARDIA, (small, normally occurring
protozoa in the gut) to suddenly over-run the puppy's
natural defenses and multiply unchecked. (Click on
the links above for further information on these
parasites.) This unchecked increase of parasites
in the intestines can further compromise the puppy's
immune system and normally occurring bacteria may
also begin to multiply unchecked. The resulting
bacterial and parasitic "infection" from this stress
reaction often results in bloody, mucusy diarrhea and
often requires veterinary
medical attention to resolve. (Giardia is
usually treated with Metronidazole, while cases of
Coccidia are generally treated with Albon. Other
antibiotics could also be necessary if the puppy
develops a bacterial infection associated with a
Coccidia or Giardia infection.)
last, but certainly not least, illness and disease are
major culprits in many cases of diarrhea.
Bacterial diseases that can trigger diarrhea include
Escherichia coli, Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella.
Like Coccidia and Giardia, many of these bacteria are
routinely present within the dog, but do not create a
problem unless the animal is stressed or the immune
system is weakened by another health issue.
Parvovirus, Corona virus, Rotavirus and Distemper are
some of the viral diseases that can cause puppy
diarrhea. Most of these diseases are potentially
deadly to young puppies, but most are also diseases that
can be prevented with appropriate vaccinations.
Distemper and Parvo are notoriously deadly to
unvaccinated young dogs, while Corona and Rota viruses
produce less serious disease and do not have such a high
mortality rate. (Most veterinarians do not
recommend Corona virus vaccine because the disease is
not especially life-threatening and the vaccine carries
some risk of reaction.)
and diseases of the pancreas or thyroid can also
cause diarrhea. As with the diseases above, it's vitally
important that your puppy receives prompt and
appropriate veterinary care. Some of these
diseases have very quick, deadly consequences, so you
cannot hesitate to secure veterinary assistance.
If you have a dog that develops
diarrhea, it will be important that you follow the
Keep fresh water available at all times unless advised
otherwise by your veterinarian.
If your dog
cannot or will not drink, be prepared to offer
supportive therapy (subcutaneous fluids) and/or
alternative fluid intake (pedialyte) and/or to seek
veterinary care (IV therapy). Your dog
should not be allowed to go more than a few hours
without drinking. A dog that does not drink can
dehydrate very quickly, especially if the dog is
suffering from diarrhea.
Monitor your dog's diet as
instructed by your veterinarian. This will
usually mean limiting or eliminating high fat foods or
treats and people food and will include guarding
against raids in the trash can, the cat's food bowl,
the kitchen/dining room floor, etc. Your
veterinarian may even recommend not
giving your dog any food for 24 hours. Many
cases of common and severe diarrhea will improve if
the gut is allowed to rest. Don't think that
your vet is being mean or that Buffy is going to
starve if she doesn't get her normal meals. Withholding food
from your pet for one day will not hurt her.
Complete dosing of all
prescribed medications as instructed by your
veterinarian. Successful treatment of diarrhea
will depend on giving the correct dose of medication
at the correct
Monitor your dog for signs
of relapse, failure to improve or abnormal behavior.
If your dog does not respond to treatment in the
appropriate time-frame, contact your veterinarian
immediately for further instructions.
soft stools are a sign that you should
monitor your dog's situation closely, but
a serious case of diarrhea - blood
in the stool, black, tarry appearance of the stool,
diarrhea that is accompanied by vomiting, lethargy,
anorexia - means you should seek veterinary attention
Do not stop supportive therapy until the dog has firm,
formed, normal stools. In addition, keep in mind
that young puppies with severe cases of diarrhea may
dehydrate quickly. Immediate treatment of young
dogs is crucial to avoid serious complications. To
be sure that you know when to seek veterinary help,
owners should learn the signs of dehydration.
The first step in recognizing a lack of hydration in
your dog is to know the normal elasticity of your
healthy dog's skin. A hydrated dog's skin will be
loose on the back, shoulder and neck areas. You
should be able to easily "lift" this skin away from the
body structure. This loose skin should quickly
smooth itself and snap back into position if a fold is
lightly pinched between the thumb and forefinger and is
lifted slightly away from the body. If it's hard
to pinch up a fold of skin on your dog's neck or
shoulders and/or if a raised fold doesn't immediately
resume a smooth appearance when released, then your dog
your dog becomes dehydrated, you will need to re-hydrate
him as quickly as possible. This can be done with
oral, subcutaneous or IV administration of fluids.
The severity of the dog's condition will determine which
type of fluid treatment is needed. If the dog is
not seriously ill or dehydrated and is willing to drink,
an available source of fresh, clean water may be all
that's required. If the dog 's situation is more
serious (on-going diarrhea or illness) you may need to
offer or administer a fluid/electrolyte supplement.
You can purchase unflavored Pedialyte in the baby section of
any grocery store for this purpose. If the puppy
is not willing to
drink this by itself, you can try adding canned chicken
broth (available in the soup section of the grocery
store). Many pet stores also carry a product
called Rebound that is specifically designed to re-hydrate sick animals.
puppy still refuses to drink despite your best efforts, try using a dropper or
syringe to force-feed the solution into the dog's mouth.
The easiest method to administer liquids orally is to
pull the corner of the mouth forward and out (with the
nose/chin tilted up) to form a "pouch" in the cheek.
Slowly administer the necessary amount of medication or
liquid into the "pouch" as the dog swallows. Don't
administer the liquid too quickly or the dog could get
fluid into the lungs. The amount of fluids
needed to re-hydrate or prevent dehydration will vary by
age, weight and condition of the dog. Symptoms of
illness (vomiting or diarrhea) will also impact the
amount of fluids needed.
administration of sub-cu or IV fluids is beyond the
scope of this article, so I will not address these
options other than to say either treatment may be
necessary for a moderate to severely dehydrated puppy or
for a puppy that is suffering from on-going diarrhea
and/or vomiting. Personally, I think all breeders
should learn how to administer sub-cu fluids as this can
mean the difference between life and death for sick or
I know some of you will say
your vet will do whatever needs to be done if you have
sick puppies, but I have to say I've never seen a vet or
vet tech willing to put as much time and effort into my
puppies as I do. Additionally, these people may
not be immediately available in an emergency situation
and time is of the essence when treating a dehydrated
animal, especially a puppy that has very limited
reserves anyway. I think anyone that takes on the
responsibility of breeding a litter should have the
knowledge and be prepared and able to immediately assist
sick or weak puppies.
Supportive therapy for mild to moderate diarrhea may
include Immodium AD (dosed by weight), Pepto Bismol or
Kaopectate (again dosed by weight) and plenty of fresh,
clean water. Some people also recommend:
for a dog with moderate to severe diarrhea may require veterinary treatment
and/or home care that includes some of the above as well
Giving a little canned pumpkin.
Medicating with Probios (source of "good bacteria" for
the gut, especially beneficial after antibiotics have
Giving NutriCal (concentrated, high-calorie,
low-volume nutritional supplement).
Giving Rebound, chicken broth and/or unflavored Pedialyte -
mixed or individually.
Withholding food for 24 hours
Cutting normal diet to 1/2 of regular intake OR
Switching to a
bland diet for a day or two. Bland diets may
Baby food/cottage cheese/plain yogurt mixture.
The following recipe can be used to make your
own bland diet at home:
- 1 cup cooked,
meat - chicken or you may boil hamburger to remove the fat
- 2 cups bland grain
- Cottage Cheese
- White Rice
- Cooked oatmeal
- 2-4 tablespoons
boiled Sweet Potato
- 1-3 tablespoons Yogurt
- Add appropriate
dosage of Probios
- DO NOT add any oils or fats to the diet
feeding a bland diet for 1-2 days after stools return to normal.
your puppy shows any of the following signs in
conjunction with diarrhea, it's probably time to see
The dog is acting very sick or unusual.
The dog has repeated episodes of
vomiting or is vomiting blood.
The dog's rectal temperature is above 103 degrees F.
The dog is lethargic and shows no interest in food,
water or activities that would normally elicit an
excited response (toys, balls, etc.).
The dog appears dehydrated.
The dog appears "shocky" - may seem dazed, the gums
may feel tacky or dry and/or may appear pale.
Or the gums may be slow to return to pink when a
finger is pressed on the gum tissue and then
dog appears unsteady on its feet and/or is having
other motor-skill problems.
The dog appears bloated and/or is showing signs of
The dog has tried repeatedly to defecate, seems to
be straining significantly, but nothing is coming
out or there are only small amounts of blood coming
The dog is passing significant amounts of blood in
your puppy is suffering from diarrhea, I would suggest
postponing any unnecessary events that might cause
further stress. This would include scheduled visits to the
groomer or the veterinarian and any activity that might
over-heat or over-stimulate the dog. If you should
need to have the dog seen by your veterinarian for the
diarrhea, be sure and post-pone any vaccinations (even
if they are due!) or any other procedure that might
further tax the dog's immune system.
remember that the information in this article is
not intended as a substitute for veterinary care.
This article does not discuss or address all of the
possible causes of diarrhea nor does it cover all of the
treatments that may be appropriate for diarrhea.
The purpose of this article is to share information that
I have found useful with my own dogs. You should always consult your
veterinarian if your puppy is showing symptoms of