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The most common causes of diarrhea in puppies are:

1.    Coccidiosis

2.   Giardia

3.   Abruptly changing from one food to another or, giving a puppy store-bought treats or table         food. 

Diarrhea in puppies can be serious and life-threatening if the puppy becomes dehydrated. If you are making sure that the puppy is getting plenty of fluids by giving water through the syringe, we provide you with when you pick up your puppy and give the pup Fortical/Nutrical, then you can avoid a costly Emergency Room visit on the weekends. Your regular vet can do simple fecal tests to determine whether the pup has coccidia or giardia, and effectively treat the pup. A fecal should always be done at your first pup’s well visit. 

Coccidiosis

Coccidia is a protozoan that causes diarrhea in puppies and adults and occurs usually when they are stressed. We have seen it every now and then when we wean, and when puppies go to new homes, although with our preventative care program, it has become rare.

 

How do pups get Coccidia?
Puppies are born with a sterile gut, and their mother seeds their gut with good bacteria during cleaning and care. However, puppies can also get coccidia from their moms.  As a puppy age, he tends to develop a natural immunity to the effects of coccidia. As an adult, he may carry coccidia in his intestines and shed the cyst in the feces. About 60% of all puppies have coccidia parasite in their digestive systems. Many puppies are never physically affected by coccidia unless they are stressed because stress causes the immune system to decline.  For example, the stress of a pup leaving its littermates for a new home, air travel, climate change, vaccination, etc., can all lower the immune system which allows the coccidia to flourish, and lead to diarrhea. In extreme cases, the puppy can get severely dehydrated.   In our opinion, it is best to medicate preventively while our pups are here.

What are the Symptoms?
You will notice watery, mucous-like diarrhea that has a very distinctive odor. I would describe the odor as having a “sweet” smell.  As the condition progresses, the pup may exhibit bloody diarrhea with an inability to hold it, in addition to a weakened/lethargic state.  

Prevention:
I've seen references that indicate that ALL kennels have coccidia, which is why most breeders put in their contract that they are not responsible for coccidiosis. Like most people that raise puppies, and that have educated themselves, we treat preventively for coccidia because it is very hard to avoid having it on the property. It can be carried by bugs (especially flies), rabbits, mice, cats, dogs, and other animals. When dogs and puppies play in the yard, they can pick up the oocytes. Since we don't believe in keeping puppies inside 24 hours a day/7 day a week, we know they will be exposed. Yours will too, when you allow your pup to walk on grass in your yard or at parks. Because coccidia are always present in dogs and puppies, we take measures to prevent coccidia from ever becoming an issue. Our pups are also treated with Toltrazuril (Baycox), which effectively kills the coccidia.

Unfortunately, our FDA will NOT allow veterinarians to give Toltrazuril.  However, every farmer, rancher, and breeder use it.  Coccidiosis is not just a canine disease but is also found in goats, pigs, and other farm animals.  We purchase ours from Australia.  Toltrazuril is a liquid, and it is normally a one-time dose that will kill the coccidia.  Whereas, if you go to your vet, they can only give you a product called Albon.  Albon does not kill the coccidia.  It only interferes with the reproductive system of the coccidia, and it must be given for at least 10 days and maybe longer.  Unfortunately, coccidia has mutated and Albon is no longer as effective in treating it as it once was.  We will overnight a syringe of Baycox (based on the pup’s weight) to our owners when they tell us their puppy/adult dog has been diagnosed with coccidia.  If you are getting Baycox from a farmer, rancher, or breeder, the dose is 0.1 to 0.2 mls per pound. 

Giardia

Similar to the protozoan Coccidia, Giardia is a single-cell protozoan that typically affects pups, but it can also affect adult dogs.  And like coccidia, it most often appears during weaning or when puppies get to new homes. Giardia is harder to diagnose than coccidia in a fecal exam because infected pups pass the organism only intermittently, and a fresh stool sample may be negative even when giardia is present. Some dogs may not show signs of illness themselves yet are infected and spread the parasite. We are also seeing pups test positive for Giardia when pups are asymptomatic (without any symptoms). 

What are the Symptoms?
Pups will have diarrhea sometimes mixed with mucus and blood and a strong odor. The stool may also be soft and light-colored, and pups may appear bloated with a tummy swollen from gas. It’s impossible to tell the difference between Giardia and Coccidia without a fecal exam. 

 

How Do Pups Get Giardia?
The infective cyst stage of the organism lives in the environment, most usually in standing water. Pups tend to contract the parasite by drinking from mud puddles, standing water in potted plants, or other contaminated water sources. The disease is also spread through contact with infected feces.

 

Prevention and Treatment:
We treat our pups preventively at 6 weeks with three days of Safeguard (Fenbendazole), also known as Panacur.   

Metronidazole traditionally has been used to treat Giardia, but lately there has been resistance, and one study shows only a 60% efficacy. Safeguard (Fenbendazole) is 96% effective in treating giardia when used for 6 days in a row. Unfortunately, Giardia is also mutating like coccidia.  I read one article that stated that 60% of dogs in California harbor a strain of resistant Giardia.  A strain that is resistant to both Metronidazole and Safeguard.   Bathing is also important, as the giardia is sticky, and will stay on the hair, particularly the back legs. If you don’t bathe them, they will just re-infect themselves while grooming, making your treatment ineffective.

 

If your vet diagnoses your pup/adult with Giardia be aware that it now takes both Metronidazole and Safeguard given for 5-7 days to eliminate the Giardia.  Veterinarians are now successfully treating resistant strains of Giardia with Azithromycin.  Anytime your puppy/dog is on an antibiotic it is always good to give probiotics.  Antibiotics will kill off the bad bacteria in a dog’s gut, but also the good bacteria.  I like Mercola’s brand of probiotics, which can be purchased from either Amazon or Chewy.com. 

Dehydration

What Causes Dehydration?

If diarrhea lasts for more than a couple of days, the most common risk is dehydration. If your dog doesn’t drink enough fluids to replace what her body loses through watery stools or vomiting, he/she will become dehydrated.  Dehydration occurs because of any illness that causes diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, or heatstroke. In an adult dog if you suspect the problem is diet or something they ate, then Stopping diarrhea is usually as simple as fasting your dog and returning to a bland diet.  Most cases of adult dog diarrhea are self-limiting and will resolve on their own in a day or two. However, with puppies’ dehydration can happen much faster, and can be quite serious.   Young puppies should not fast.  It’s always important to see your vet if your puppy develops diarrhea.

Recognizing Dehydration:
The obvious sign of dehydration is a loss of skin elasticity. A pup’s skin normally fits like a comfortable coat, with some room to move particularly in the shoulders. If you grasp the skin over your pups’ neck and shoulders and gently lift; when normally hydrated, the skin will quickly spring back into place upon release. The skin will slowly retract when the dog is 7-10 % dehydrated. Dehydration of 10% or more is serious, and the skin will remain in a tent or ridge when retracted, and not spring back into place. Another measure of hydration is capillary refill. Gently press a finger against your pup’s gums. This briefly blocks blood flow, so the tissue turns white when the pressure is quickly released. When your pup’s hydration is normal, it takes less than two seconds for the white to return to normal pink pigment. 7-8% dehydration will delay the return time for 2-3 seconds. Longer than 4-5 seconds indicates severe dehydration. Pups will also exhibit sunken eyeballs, involuntary muscle twitches, and cold extremities.

Treatment:
Puppies suffering from moderate to severe dehydration require immediate veterinary attention if they are to survive. Fluid therapy will be required to rehydrate the puppy and return his electrolyte balance to normal. Your vet may show you how to administer fluid therapy to your puppy at home by giving subcutaneous (Under the skin) fluid. In mild cases where vomiting is not a problem, simply getting the dog to drink water will be helpful. When you pick up your puppy, we provide a 12-cc syringe that will be helpful in forcing water to rehydrate your pup should you ever need it. You can alternate water with Pedialyte, which also will provide lost minerals. In more mild cases, you can provide your dog with small amounts of water every few minutes.   important to not allow your dog to drink too much water at once as it could cause them to vomit, which will further dehydrate them.  Dehydrated pups lose the desire to drink water and will also not want to eat.  We suggest giving them Fortical to keep their blood sugars elevated.   Treatment will obviously also include treating the underlying cause of diarrhea.

Food/Treats

This is often another cause of puppy diarrhea.  When you first bring home a new puppy you need to remember that they have a “baby” stomach.  I always suggest you treat them like a newborn baby by introducing new foods one at a time.  If you try introducing them to several different foods and they start getting loose stools you will not know which food is the problem.  Often new owners also want to switch them over to a different food than what was sent home with them.  When switching to a different food you must always make the switch gradually.  For a few days just add a small amount of the new food to their meals.  If the stools are normal, you can then do a 50 50 mix of the new food with the old food.  Finally, you can do a mix of 1/3 old food with 2/3 new food.  We introduce all our pups to chicken and to Small Batch raw.  We purposefully do that so our owners can use chicken for treats. 

I do not believe in store-bought treats.  I get a message of at least one recall a week for store-bought treats that have killed dogs.  It is legal for companies to advertise that the treats are made in the USA.  However, they can be made in the USA with Chinese ingredients.  There are so many great human foods that you can give your puppy that is healthy and good for him/her, organic apples, blueberries, bananas, chicken, carrots, vegetables.  For puppies, you just must chop up any of those mentioned in small pieces so that they will not choke on them.  I do love Small Batch freeze-dried treats, as do my adult dogs.  Remember that miniature schnauzers have naturally high cholesterol and must always be fed low-fat foods.  Essentially, they need to avoid any food that is high in carbohydrates and sugar. 
 

We also love to give our schnauzers Elk Antler Splits.  It keeps them entertained for hours, and it’s good for their teeth.  A split is simply an Elk Antler that has been split into two or more pieces. The dogs will eat the soft bone marrow out of the antler, and then you can throw the antler away.  They last for a very long time and are not known to have problems with salmonella or listeria like bully sticks.  The big problem with bully sticks is that when they chew them down to about an inch, they can swallow them which can be very dangerous.  We get our Elk Antlers from a small family-run business. I always order the petite and small size.  If you are interested in purchasing some, here is the link:  Elk Antler Link

Heatstroke 

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Puppies are very susceptible to heatstroke during the summer months. When temperatures are 90 degrees or above it is best to only take your puppy out in the early mornings or late evenings.  For potty training do not be outside for more than 10 minutes at a time.  

 

Dogs do not sweat like humans, except for a small bit from their footpads. They depend on panting to help cool them. They also don’t know to NOT run around the yard in 90+ degree temperatures.  So it’s important to monitor their outside exercise when high temperatures prevail.

If your puppy comes in from outside and is lethargic, throws up or has diarrhea you need to take their rectal temperature.  If their temperature is over 102 but less than 104 you need to give them some Fortical, and then slowly start giving them water from the syringe that we provided you with.  You can also put them in a cool bath to bring the body temperature down. 

Heatstroke begins with heavy panting and difficulty breathing. The tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red. The saliva is thick and tenacious, and the dog often vomits and can have diarrhea. The rectal temperature rises to 104° to 110°F (40° to 43.3°C). The dog becomes progressively unsteady and then passes bloody diarrhea. As shock sets in, the lips and mucous membranes turn gray. Collapse, seizures, coma, and death rapidly ensue.

If the rectal temperature is above 104°F, begin rapid cooling by spraying the dog with a garden hose or immersing him in a tub of cool water (not ice water) for up to two minutes.

 

Alternatively, place the wet dog in front of an electric fan. Cool packs applied to the groin area may be helpful, as well as ice packs to the paws.  Monitor rectal temperature and continue the cooling process until the rectal temperature falls below 103°F (39°C). At this point, stop the cooling process and dry the dog because further cooling may induce hypothermia and shock.

If you suspect heat stroke you need to get your dog to a vet as soon as possible.