Treating Diarrhea in Puppies

Our vet expert explains the causes and solutions for a common problem in young dogs and puppies.

Q: I adopted a puppy from the shelter, we think he is about 3-4 months old, he has continual diarrhea, what’s wrong and how do I stop it.
 
A: Diarrhea is one of those conditions that most dog owners would like to correct quickly. Unfortunately, there often are no quick solutions, but based on what is the most likely cause, the following steps should be taken in a young dog:

1. Intestinal parasites are by far the most common cause of diarrhea in otherwise healthy puppies. Submit a fecal sample to your veterinarian, and have your puppy dewormed with a prescription deworming medicine. Most over-the-counter and pet store medications are not strong enough to effectively kill all intestinal worms. Your puppy should be dewormed every 3 weeks, and then started on year round heartworm medication at 5-6 months of age. Heartworm medication helps control intestinal parasites as well as heartworms. If your dog is acting sick, vomiting or not eating, immediately have him tested by your veterinarian for canine parvovirus, another cause of diarrhea, but a potentially deadly one.

2. If your vet determines your puppy is in good health, but diarrhea still continues, try a hypoallergenic dog food. Many young dogs are born with a genetic predisposition to food allergies. Hypoallergenic dog food does not contain many of the ingredients that dogs are allergic to.

3. Give your dog a probiotic every morning. Although these are available to sprinkle on dog food, you can also use 1-2 teaspoons of plain, active culture dog food. Probiotics help restore the normal bacterial balance in the intestines.

4. If diarrhea still continues, consult with your veterinarian about getting a prescription of Flagyl, also known as metronidazole. This will kill infections often not detected in a fecal exam, as well as reduce inflammation in the intestines. Antibiotic treatment may need to be repeated every 3-6 months in some dogs to treat recurring diarrhea.

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