• Why Does my Dog or Cat Have Diarrhea?

    Drum roll please..........-cartoon-poop-jpg

    Diarrhea and soft stools are very commonly experienced by many pet owners. Sudden onset of diarrhea when the stool is normally firm, is a huge cause for concern.

    Although diarrhea in new puppies and kittens is extremely common, and can be life threatening. Although, many times it is treatable either at home, or with your vet.

    Below we will discuss the most common reasons for diarrhea. Please note, you should always consult with your veterinarian, have a physical exam and stool sample checked, when trying to narrow down diarrhea problems. Please be warned, will be discussing "consistency" of stool throughout this article.

    1. Food Frenzy!!!

    Diarrhea will usually have to do with food. Having a dog means you will now be schooled in canine nutrition, because so many different factors regarding food can be the reason your new pup has the squirts. Here are 4 different food problems that are common amongst new puppy owners, thus, the "food frenzy"....

    Over feeding: Many pets can have very sensitive digestive systems. While they act as though you are depriving your pup of food with those sad puppy dog eyes, and sniffing the ground for more at each feeding, many owners think they may not be giving their pup enough food. Giving them even "a little more", or more than they can digest and absorb, will actually cause "soft serve" poop.

    If your puppy is experiencing "soft serve ice cream" style poop, you are possibly giving them too much food. The consistency may resemble dog food that has been put in a blender. Since I realized the possibility of over feeding being a problem with soft stools, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have been contacted by puppy owners about this. Usually they have been to the vet numerous times, been tested for everything, and still have the problem. After reducing the food by a small portion for a few days, all is well. Their frustration is understandable, because they tell me their vet never even mentioned this as a possibility! If reducing the amount of food doesn't show any improvement in poop consistency within a few days, then it is likely not the culprit.

    Changing dog food: When bringing home your new pet, it is extremely important that you find out what kind of food they are currently eating. Many breeders will provide you with some food, but if they do not, be sure to get the EXACT same brand, down to the protein/formula they are using.

    Many new pet owners either don't know what food their pet is used to, or decide to make a change to a better brand or one they are familiar with using in the past.

    What many new owners do not realize, is that an abrupt change in your puppy's or kitten's diet can bring on a bout of diarrhea and upset tummy.

    Even if your puppy or kitten was being fed a low quality commercial chow, a sudden change to a high quality diet can temporarily upset the digestive system and cause loose stools.

    Changes to your dog's diet, no matter their age, should be gradual preferably over a ten day period, and sometimes longer, depending on each individual pet. Remember also, if your pet is currently being fed a low grade diet, and you place them on a much higher rated food, it may take them longer to adjust. Keep in mind that during a food switch, your pet may experience softer stool and (horrific!) gas. This should improve as they become accustomed to the new diet.

    If you accidentally changed your pets food without doing a slow switch, don't worry! It is a very common mistake. Consult with your vet about doing a bland diet (boiled hamburger or chicken with rice) to help stabilize their digestive system. You can also heavily reduce the amount of food given for a day or two to help settle the tummy, or feed several times a day in very small portions.

    Days 1-3 1/4 new food, 3/4 old food or 25% new, 75% old
    Days 4-6 1/2 new food, 1/2 cup old food or 50/50
    Days 7-10 1/4 old food, 3/4 new food or 75% old, 25% new
    Leftover old food You may continue to add a small portion of old food until it is gone.

    Allergy to food ingredient: Most breeds of dogs can handle any type of dog food. Some dogs and cats, however, can be much more sensitive to poor ingredients. Food allergies in dogs and cats are extremely common, so if all else fails, changing your pets food to a different protein or brand may make all the difference in the world.

    Trick.... or Treat? I bet you bought a cabinet full of fun treats for your new fur-kid! You are such an awesome pet parent, I love you already! Except there is a problem with this spoiling though (sorry for the bad news!) Many treats are made from the most poor ingredients, and could actually be the source of your pet's tummy woes. Since you have signed up for pet parenting, one thing you are going to have to learn a little bit more about is food ingredients. Gone are the days of everyone buying cheap processed pet food, animal lovers throughout the world are discovering that these poorly made foods are killing our pets.

    Time for some homework:


    #2. Creepy, crawly, squirmy, things!

    Worms and intestinal parasites are extremely common in puppies.

    Fortunately, worm infestations are easily cured medically, so get your pet to their vet soon, so they can first rule out any parasite as the cause of their diarrhea. Especially if you have not been over feeding, or changed their food. In the meantime, make sure to keep your pet hydrated, as dehydration is the most immediate concern for any pet with diarrhea.

    Your pet can be born with intestinal worms or acquire them from their mother's milk. Even though a mother of a litter is worm-free and well taken care of, if she ever had worms during her life, some of the larvae may have migrated to muscles, where they will encyst and stay dormant until hormone changes often associated with pregnancy reanimate them and they become viable once more, ready to infect a litter of puppies or kittens.

    Some of the most common organisms causing diarrhea in puppies and kittens are hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms.

    Once your pet has been medically dewormed, discuss with your veterinarian some safe, natural options for keeping future intestinal invaders in check. Once your pet is dewormed, it is almost always necessary to be dewormed again due to the worm/egg life cycle.

    Drum roll please..........-roundworm-jpg
    Above photo of the egg and adult worm cycle. After the initial de-worming is done, another deworming needs to be done after the existing eggs have hatched, but before they reach mature egg laying age. Otherwise the cycle starts all over again.

    Other types of pests that can cause diarrhea in your pet are protozoan parasites. These are a bit more nasty, harder to cure, and are also contagious to humans. These are single celled organisms, the most common of which are Coccidia (Coccidiosis) and Giardia.

    If your pet is carrying a protozoan parasite in their intestinal tract, their diarrhea will typically be watery and very smelly. You might see blood or mucus in the stool, and your pup will generally have other symptoms like vomiting, loss of appetite or fatigue. Their poop may not just be "soft serve", but more like an explosion (cannon butt) because it has so much gas accompanying it.

    It's important to get your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible if you think parasites are causing their diarrhea, as medical management may be necessary to get rid of the problem.

    Unfortunately, the drugs used to treat these types of parasites have side effects and aren't always entirely effective. Repeat vet visits and fecal tests will be needed to make sure it is 100% clear. If it is not, it will spread again and reinfect your pup.

    Again don't delay treatment, and make sure to keep your pet hydrated in the meantime.

    Be aware that Giardia and coccidia are easily transmitted to other pets and human family members as well. Eliminating the parasites from your environment and good personal hygiene are musts in order to avoid spreading the problem around.

    NEVER take your infected puppy or kitten to a public area to use the bathroom where other pets and humans frequent!

    The most common ways to get these types of parasites are from dirty puddles or stagnant water.

    #3. What goes in, must come out!

    Probably not as common in kittens, but having a new puppy in the house, you may not have been prepared for them to want to vacuum up and eat everything that lands on the floor. Even your socks, underwear, and shoes are at high risk!

    Puppies are incredibly curious about everything they encounter in their environment, and the way they explore new things is usually with their mouths.

    You might think all your pup is doing is chewing something they shouldn't which is problem enough but whatever they are chewing will get swallowed if it isn't removed from their mouth.

    Kittens and puppies can get into all sorts of things. Foreign objects, including several people foods, plants, and flowers, can do more than cause a case of diarrhea.

    Your pet can also be poisoned, or suffer a complete blockage in the GI tract if they swallow the wrong thing.

    For a number of reasons, including the potential for ingesting a non-food, toxic or other foreign object, your puppy should never be left roaming unattended in your home or yard not even for a minute.

    If you suspect your pet has swallowed something that they shouldn't have, call their veterinarian or an animal emergency clinic immediately.

    Signs of an obstruction:
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Lethargy
    • Refusal to eat/drink

    For more information about possible obstruction, read the following article on English Bulldog News:

    #4. Serious Infection or Illness

    Diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of several canine and feline viral infections, the most serious of which is parvovirus, also referred to as CPV or simply parvo.

    Parvovirus is highly contagious and is passed through exposure to the feces of an infected dog/cat/animal. The virus invades the lining of the small intestine and causes foul-smelling, bloody diarrhea, as well as vomiting, lethargy, depression and severe dehydration. Older dogs and cats usually recover from parvo, but the virus is often fatal in infected puppies and kittens.

    If your pet is showing signs of a viral infection, time is of the essence. If you can't get in to see your veterinarian right away, I recommend you take your pet to an animal emergency clinic. Many illnesses can cause dehydration including a virus or something as severe as pneumonia.

    If your pet is experiencing any of the following symptoms along with the diarrhea, take them to the vet immediately!

    • Lethargy
    • Refuses food
    • Refuses water
    • Overtired
    • Vomiting
    • Fever

    #5. I'm adorable and little! Everyone loves me!
    Why would I be STRESSED OUT?!

    Both people and animals can get diarrhea as a result of stress.

    Think about it. A puppy or kitten new to your family has undergone tremendous changes in a short period of time.

    Your pet has just been removed from their mother and litter mates. This was their whole world, and you have basically rocked it, especially if your pet was not socialized much with humans during their first 8-10 weeks of life.

    Your pet has been physically relocated from the only environment they have ever known to a new, unfamiliar one. There was probably some travel involved, even if only a short drive in the car.

    The sights, sounds, smells and temptations in their world have changed overnight!!

    Your pet is no longer one of several, but the only pet in the household. If your family is like most, your new little fur friend is overwhelmed with attention being handled, talked to and played with more than ever before.

    Any change can be stressful, even a change for the better. When you consider the inexperience of your puppy/kitten and the major adjustments they must make during their first few months of life, it's really not surprising if their GI tract reacts to the stress.

    If your pet's diarrhea is stress related, it should resolve within a few days of bringing them home. Make sure to keep clean, fresh water available for your puppy at all times, and if necessary, encourage them to drink.


    As you can see, there is many possible reasons for diarrhea in your pet. These are just the most common reasons for diarrhea, but there are many, many more possibilities. If your pet's diarrhea is persistent and doesn't resolve within a few days, or is accompanied by any other symptoms, please seek out professional care as soon as possible.
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