Top 5 Causes of Puppy Diarrhea

puppy diarrhea

Having a new puppy in your home is an exciting time for your family. But then the dreaded puppy diarrhea strikes … and you’ll want to figure out what caused it. 

What Does Puppy Diarrhea Look Like?

Here’s what you may see if your puppy has loose stool or diarrhea:

  • Soggy and loses shape when picked up
  • Forms in piles (consistency of soft serve ice cream)
  • Piles or spots without shape
  • Watery, flat puddles

Top 5 Causes Of Puppy Diarrhea

These are the main situations that can cause diarrhea in puppies. 


Your puppy has left his littermates and mother … the only family he’s known for his entire life so far. The stress of this can show up as diarrhea. Stress hormones can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Stress can also cause your puppy’s colon to become inflamed and stop absorbing water, so it just passes through as loose stools. Too much play and excitement might also lead to diarrhea.

Change In Diet 

A new puppy is weaned from his mother’s milk, switched to his breeder’s diet and then can come home to another change in diet. It can be hard to make all those switches in a short period of time … though puppies who were weaned onto a varied diet will transition more easily to a new food. 

Plus, a puppy is always on the hunt for anything to eat. Puppies explore with their mouths, so he might eat poop, plants, sticks, socks or whatever else he can find. He could also get food poisoning from getting into contaminated food. Your puppy has an immature immune system and diarrhea can be the result of these adventures. Situations like this usually resolve in a day or two. 

Vet Treatments

Many first-time puppy owners take their new family member for his first vet appointment. Any vaccines, dewormers or medications he gets can disrupt his gut bacteria and upset his digestive system. Diarrhea is often the result. 

RELATED: Here’s why you should avoid antibiotics for dogs …


Puppies’ immature immune systems can make them susceptible to worms and other parasites like giardia or coccidia. Fortunately there are natural ways to treat these parasites so you don’t have to resort to harsh dewormers or anti-parasitic meds. 

RELATED: Read about the best dewormers for dogs …


Parvovirus is quite a common viral disease that can infect puppies … and diarrhea is often the first thing you’ll notice. The hallmark of parvo is bloody diarrhea with a distinctive metallic smell. Other signs of parvo include vomiting, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. If you suspect parvo, act fast and get a fecal sample to your vet for analysis.

The Danger Of Parvo

Puppies are most susceptible to parvo between 6 and 20 weeks old. The main danger from parvo is from dehydration. If your puppy tests positive for parvo, he’ll need urgent treatment, including IV or subcutaneous fluids, either at the vet clinic … or (only if you’re willing to care for him round the clock), at home with your holistic vet’s help. Don’t try to treat parvo on your own – it’s a very serious condition that needs veterinary guidance.

RELATED: How to manage parvo at home …

Ways To Manage Puppy Diarrhea + 2 Warnings

A mild case of diarrhea will usually clear up in a day or two without help. You might need to do more. But you can’t always treat a puppy with remedies you’d give a mature dog. So here are things you can do at home for your puppy.

  • Feed bland food like boiled chicken in a mushy consistency to give the digestive system a break. It’s easier to digest so some of the nutrients may be absorbed better. 
  • Increase the fiber in your puppy’s food to help absorb the excess water to create a more solid stool. Add plain pumpkin (not pie filling) a half teaspoon at a time and monitor the results. Within a day or two you should notice an improvement.
  • Make sure your puppy gets plenty of water. Give him bone broth for added nutrients.
  • Slowly return your puppy to solid food. Give him minimal solids to allow his digestive system to heal. 
  • Start rebuilding your puppy’s gut health with a natural probiotic food like fermented veggies. It’s best to wait to add supplements until he’s older. 

RELATED: How to stop diarrhea in adult dogs …

2 Warnings About Puppy Diarrhea

Puppies are growing and building an immune system, so they need special care. Here’s what you need to know. 

  • Dehydration is a serious concern. All that watery poop removes liquids from his system so you need to be sure your puppy gets plenty to drink. In some cases he may need subcutaneous fluids, which your vet can provide you to give at home.
  • Never fast a puppy under 7 months of age. Feed him small meals of bland, mushy food with lots of liquid.

When To See Your Vet For Puppy Diarrhea

When diarrhea goes on for more than a day or two, and gets worse rather than better, it’s time to contact your vet. Here are some serious symptoms to watch for. 

  • Bloody diarrhea or other signs of parvo as noted earlier
  • Loss of appetite
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Pale or dry, tacky gums
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced or no urination
  • Tarry and black stool
  • Change in disposition
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Obvious discomfort or pain (you may hear your puppy whining)
  • Lack of movement that can suggest pain
  • Diarrhea for more than a day or two, or that gets worse
  • Getting into something toxic or swallowing an non-edible object

Most cases of diarrhea in puppies can be easily managed. But watch for anything out of the ordinary in your puppy’s activity and demeanor. It could be a sign that there’s a more serious problem than a simple case of diet-related diarrhea.


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