Managing Weaning Diarrhea in Puppies
A new puppy may be just as much work as a new baby—or more! There are a lot of difficult moments to navigate with a new, adorable little dog in your home. One of the things you may not have learned or thought much about when you brought that precious little puppy into your house was how to handle weaning diarrhea.
Just as with older dogs, watching your puppy’s poop is imperative. Inspect their poop every time they go to ensure there are no issues such as blood, worms, mucous, or other foreign objects. Puppies will likely have lighter-colored poop while they’re only nursing, but it shouldn’t be too soft or runny—if it is, you may be dealing with weaning diarrhea.
What Is Weaning Diarrhea in Puppies?
Puppies may get diarrhea for several reasons. For one thing, they may simply struggle to digest new, solid food after transitioning from their mother’s milk. In addition, many puppies are more susceptible to viruses and other diseases in their early weeks of life.
Milk from mother dogs gives puppies great antibodies to protect from illnesses and infections. However, those antibodies can also interfere with vaccines, which means puppies cannot usually get a vaccine immediately after weaning. The period of time in between weaning and vaccination is a space in which many puppies get more infections.
Though it is quite common, weaning diarrhea is a potentially dangerous issue, as too much diarrhea can lead to reduced weight gain and nutritional health in puppies. It can even lead to death in severe cases. Common illnesses that puppies may pick up during this time include:
- Giardia duodenalis (Giardia)
- Cryptosporidium parvum (Parvo)
- Toxocara canis (from roundworms)
- Cystoisospora ohioensis (Coccidia)
- Cystoisospora canis (Coccidia)
- Canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV2)
- Canine coronavirus (CCV)
If you notice diarrhea in your puppy, it’s a good idea to check in with the vet to make sure your pet gets any support that they may need.
Symptoms To Watch For
Some puppies may get multiple illnesses at once, so it can be hard to diagnose exactly what’s happening. In addition, you mustn’t forget that weaning could also lead to diarrhea as puppies work to get used to new food.
Take your puppy to the vet immediately if you notice severe symptoms such as:
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
- Dehydration (dry, non-elastic skin is a sign)
- Excessive panting
How To Avoid Weaning Diarrhea
While diarrhea is hardly in your control, there are things you can do to help avoid excessive weaning diarrhea and manage it if it does make an appearance. Here are a few steps you may want to consider:
- Begin weaning your puppy at 4 weeks of age. At this age, puppies begin to develop teeth which may irritate the mother’s teats when she is nursing. In addition, most puppies will need to be placed in a new home by 8 weeks, so they should be weaned by then.
- Feed at least 4 small meals a day. More frequent meals will help your puppy maintain nutrient absorption and eat less at a time to ease their digestion system into this new habit of digesting solid food.
- Provide plenty of water. At first, puppies will rely on mama’s milk for hydration. As they begin to wean, they will need more water to stay hydrated.
- Start with dog foods made for weaning puppies, most of which are easy to digest. You can blend it with a puppy milk replacer to ensure it is soft and easy to swallow. Be sure to get one that provides all the nutrition your puppy will need!
- Watch your puppy. You are the best judge of your puppy’s needs. If your puppy seems unhappy and is struggling with diarrhea and other symptoms, don’t be afraid to call a vet.
Feeding Your Weaning Puppy
To prevent serious digestive issues when weaning your puppy, it’s best to discuss their diet with a vet before you begin the weaning process. Feeding your puppy too much food can easily overwhelm their immature digestive system and lead to diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.
Start the puppy off with warm goat milk, then add some dry puppy food (ground up or pre-soaked and mashed) to the milk when the puppies reach about 4 or 5 weeks of age. As the puppies develop more teeth, you can reduce the amount of milk and increase the amount of food in their dish.
Eventually, you should be feeding your puppy more food than milk. At around 8 weeks of age, they should be weaned and ready to eat puppy food full-time. But be sure to follow the amount recommendations from your vet for each age group to prevent tummy upsets.
Feeding your puppy slowly and carefully should help you prevent weaning diarrhea. But don’t be surprised if you still notice a little loose stool during those first weeks. Watch for serious symptoms and try feeding your puppy a bit less at a time to see if that helps their digestive system catch up with this new diet. If not, reach out to a vet.
Managing Weaning Diarrhea
If your puppy does get diarrhea despite your best intentions, your goal should be to keep them comfortable and end the diarrhea as soon as possible. Too many days of diarrhea could lead to electrolyte imbalances and nutrient deficiencies that could be dangerous to a puppy.
If you notice no other symptoms, try feeding your puppy smaller quantities of food for at least 24 hours to give their digestive system a bit of a break.
If, after a day or two, the diarrhea hasn’t cleared up (or if you notice blood, worms, or mucus in the poop), you will want to call your vet to discuss testing your puppy for illness and potentially getting an antibiotic to help them recover more quickly.
Managing puppies can be a lot of hard work! If you don’t have the time to dedicate to scooping dog poop on a regular basis, we’re here to help with that! Our team would be happy to give you a break and scoop poop for you. Check out our services to learn more about how we can save you some precious time to spend with your new puppies!