Updated: Mar 25
Does your doodle seem to always have an upset stomach? I'm talking... loose stool and diarrhea?
Rest assured that this is, unfortunately, a very common problem. You are not alone.
Before we get to the tips and tricks, I need to write a disclaimer.
I am not a vet. This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any serious medical conditions. Before starting any new treatment or regimen, please consult with your board certified veterinarian.
Ok, that's out of the way. I'm not a veterinarian! And I'm not pretending to know more than one. But, I am an experienced dog breeder. I have seen A LOT of poop, and I've seen many different kinds of poop. So I have come up with many different regimens that work to make your puppy's gut healthier.
Genetics, genetics, genetics
First of all, let's address probably the most common cause of sensitive stomachs--genetics! Unfortunately, somewhere down the line, we introduced some bad genes into our poodle and doodle communities. Poodle hybrids have become well known for having ultra sensitive stomachs, and nobody really knows why. Except that your puppy could very well be genetically pre-disposed to having a sensitive stomach.
Many breeders, like myself, are working hard to breed away from these traits by NOT breeding dogs with these sensitivities. We have experienced sensitive systems in our bloodlines in the past, and it is not fun to deal with. As breeders, it is our job to breed away from undesirable traits. We are fighting an uphill battle against backyard breeders and puppy mills who are not selecting breeding pairs for health and vitality, so these bad genes will continue to be passed on.
If your puppy has a genetic sensitivity, it is important that you find a protocol that works for him and stick with it forever.
Food allergies are a lot less common than you think
So, you switched your puppy to a poultry-free kibble and his itching and diarrhea stopped? That's great! The problem probably wasn't "chicken."
When you switched your puppy to a kibble formula that excludes poultry, you probably switched him on to a much higher quality kibble.
Higher quality kibbles use higher quality ingredients. Your puppy was probably sensitive to the lower quality fillers ("chicken meal," or "chicken by-product meal") that cheaper kibbles are full of, not "chicken."
Are you feeding table scraps? How about commercial dog treats? Your puppy could be sensitive to the ingredients in those foods, too.
To know for sure, why not test for sensitivities? We have so many tools available to use today. Why are pet owners still trying to solve their problems blindly? Try one of these food sensitivity tests so that instead of trying 10 different kibble formulas, you can find one that suits your puppy's individual needs.
Click here to order.
** These in-home test kits are useful, however, your vet can run a much more accurate and conclusive allergy panel. Our favorite is the Spectrum Veterinary allergy test.
Parasites are more common than you think
Puppy owners need to stop blaming breeders for every little problem they have. Sure, breeders have a lot of control over a puppy's health and wellbeing for the first 8 weeks of it's life.
But once you bring your puppy home, you need to take control of his health. You need to take responsibility for his well being.
Parasites are everywhere. They live inside every animal that walks barefooted, eats off of the ground, eats dirt (whether on purpose or by chewing on a dirty toy), and drinks water that has been sitting outside for any period of time.
Do you pick up sticks off of the ground with your mouth? Do you drink from puddles, or from a water dish that has been sitting on the ground outside? No! That is why you don't have parasites.
You can't prevent exposure to parasites--please don't try! Eating dirt and playing in dirty water is good for your puppy. It's fun, enriching, and builds his immune system!
But I need you to understand something. Once you pass the four week mark of bringing your puppy home, parasite problems are your problem, not your breeder's. ** There are some exceptions to this "rule," keep reading!
Parasites work quickly and efficiently, and they're very good at what they do. Your puppy can leave your breeder completely clear of parasites, and pick up eggs or larvae (all are microscopic) as soon as he hits the ground in his new home. Just 30 days (or less!) from exposure, infection symptoms can begin with the most common symptom being diarrhea.
Puppies are still building their immune systems, so they are more susceptible to damage and infection from parasites. The most common form of damage is to the digestive tract, since that is where the most common parasites call "home."
Good breeders will have rigorous deworming protocol in place to ensure that their puppies are parasite free while in the breeder's custody. After the puppy leaves the breeder, they have no control over what the puppy is exposed to.
Deworming is a part of routine pet care, and should be done several times a year.
It is possible you are deworming your dog regularly and you don't even know it! The most common combination products used that contain broad spectrum dewormers are:
If you do not use any of the products listed above (they are very strong products and many dogs have adverse reactions to them), then it is important to talk to your vet about deworming your dog a few times a year.
The exception to the rule
I mentioned above that if your puppy tests positive for parasites after you have had him home for four weeks or more, then the breeder is not to blame.
Here are the exceptions to the rule:
These parasites are species of protozoa. They are much smaller than other parasites, and the same dewormers that kill other parasites do not kill these protozoa.
Coccidia and Giardia, like other parasites, are everywhere. You cannot avoid them! Giardia most often lurks in water (it doesn't have to be dirty water!), and coccidia most often hunkers down in the soil. Traditional disinfectants won't kill these tough protozoa.
These protozoa are species specific, meaning dogs get giardia from other dogs. And dogs get coccidiosis from other dogs. Your infected puppy or dog cannot infect you. And no, your puppy didn't get giardia or coccidiosis from your chickens, goats, or from the birds flying over your yard. Your puppy "inherited" these nasty protozoa from his mom!
Most dogs are carrying these protozoa around in their systems, and constantly shedding them in their feces. These dogs are not ill from these protozoa because their immune systems are very strong.
Many breeders do not include protozoa eradication in their routine deworming protocol. Not because they're lazy, or ignorant, but because it did not used to be considered the "norm" for breeders to use prophylactic protocol against protozoa. Therefore, many new puppy owners experience bouts of infection from these protozoa for two reasons:
When a young puppy changes homes, there is stress involved (you don't always "see" this stress, but it is there). This stress weakens your puppy's immune system and makes him more susceptible to infection and illness.
Again, many breeders do not include protozoa eradication in their routine deworming protocol. It is possible your puppy's breeder did not use prophylactic treatment to get rid of these protozoa in your puppy's system.
So here's the thing about coccidia and giardia--it is possible for your puppy to leave your breeder feeling well, and then fall ill just a week later after joining your new home. And, it's not necessarily your breeder's fault. This is because the puppy's stressed immune system has allowed the protozoa that were already in his gut (but not making him sick) to multiply and grow at an even faster rate and infect the intestinal tract, therefore causing symptoms of illness (vomiting & diarrhea).
Some breeders have caught on to the prevalence of coccidia and giardia in certain regions, and have added protozoa prevention protocol to their already rigorous deworming protocol. But many breeders still do not know about this protocol or the desperate need for it.
It has been shown in some loose studies that oregano oil has strong and effective antibacterial properties. Adding oregano oil to your sensitive puppy's daily regimen could help in preventing future illnesses.
Poor diets and diet changes
Another common cause of chronic digestive upset is simply poor diet. Not food allergies--remember, true food allergies are a lot less common than you think.
Pets are sensitive to low quality ingredients, just like we are sensitive to fast food and junk food.
When we eat too much greasy fast food and get an upset stomach as a result, we don't then go on saying that we are "allergic" to fast food. We understand that too much junk is not good for us, therefore, it makes our bodies feel sick when we eat too much of it.
Why don't we think this way about dog food? Too many people are feeding their dogs junk food for every single meal. When your dog eats junk all the time, he is going to feel like junk all the time. And for many dogs, what owners think are food allergies, are actually just normal bodily reactions to junk food.
Teaching you how to read ingredient labels and buy good dog food is a job for a whole separate blog post. But here are some practical tips when it comes to choosing a dog food:
Ignore labels like "organic," "all natural," "free range," etc. Don't buy (literally) into the hype. All commercial dog food companies are using by-products of the human meat industry. Be it, different levels of quality, but--all dog food is made from plant and animal by-products. Period. What is important is what by-products are selected, and how the ingredients are used in the recipe.
Meat should be the #1 ingredient. A single word meat source should be the very first ingredient in your kibble. This is non-negotiable! Having real meat as the first ingredient ensures that your kibble contains muscle meat. Lower quality kibble will have meat by-products such as "bone meal," or "chicken by-product meal" listed. Some might not have any meat at all, if you read the ingredients carefully! Avoid "exotic" meat ingredients like venison, kangaroo, or rabbit. These meat ingredients are not regulated like more common ones (chicken and beef), and therefore these meat ingredients can actually be much lower in quality, but they're priced significantly higher. For example, the kangaroo meat in dog food is obtained from Australian bounty hunters who are paid to kill these animals in mass quantities, because they are overpopulated and destroying the environment. The meat is not approved for human consumption, so it is made into dog food! So many people pay exorbitant prices for a kibble that contains an exotic meat because of the assumption that an exotic meat is somehow healthier for their dog. There is no research that supports that exotic meats are better for your dog.
Avoid peas, lentils, beans, squash, and pumpkin. These are trendy new "fillers" being used in modern boutique dog food formulas. These ingredients are nothing more than plant by-product fillers being pawned off as "healthier" ingredients. Traditional filler/fiber ingredients such as rice or oatmeal are backed by a lot of science showing how these ingredients are digested and how nutrients are extracted and stored. Wheat middlings are distillery by-products, and have been used for centuries as animal feed. We know a lot about the ingredient and how dogs are able to utilize it. There is little to no research supporting the use of newer, "trendy" ingredients in dog food (peas, lentils, squash, etc.), yet there is overwhelming research with evidence proving that these ingredients are actually harmful, and are causing dangerous vitamin and mineral deficiencies in our dogs.
Corn is not your worst enemy. Just like chicken is not your worst enemy. Low quality ingredients are your worst enemy. Higher brands split certain ingredients in order to make the ingredients more easily digested, and therefore, nutrients more bioavailable to dogs. In other words, they split an ingredient ahead of time so that the dog's body doesn't have to do it during digestion. For years, a popular dog food rating website claimed that ingredient splitting was a fraudulent way for dog food companies to use more fillers in their formulas. I used to believe this, too. The myth needs to stop circulating! Higher quality brands use ingredients that are going to give you the most nutrition in the most highly digestible form.
You can spend more money now on a premium diet, or you can spend more money later in vet bills. Vet bills that are incurred on your senior dog because he is developing conditions in his old age that have been caused by eating a poor diet his whole life. Conditions like obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, hip and/or elbow dysplasia, and cancer.
In addition to a premium kibble, we suggest adding a few supplements. A raw egg on top of kibble a few meals every week is a great way to add in some extra healthy protein and fat. Some fish oil a few times a week keeps skin and coat healthier. A daily pre-biotic, digestive enzyme, and antioxidant supplements is also a great idea. High quality kibbles are sprayed with probiotics (look for probiotics on an ingredient list) and so a daily probiotic is not needed.
Stop it with the treats
Giving your dog too many junky commercial dog treats could greatly affect a sensitive system. Your dog's ultra premium kibble is perfectly balanced to ensure optimum nutrition. When you feed too many junky treats, that balance is thrown out of whack. You're now working against yourself by feeding a high quality kibble, with very low quality dog treats.
Try some of these all natural options when it comes to "treating" your dog:
Raw, whole carrot
Dehydrated sweet potato
Eggs, raw or hard boiled
Dehydrated or freeze dried liver
Canned chicken or tuna
Ditch the pumpkin and yogurt
Y'all... can we stop it with the "cure-all pumpkin" advice? Pumpkin isn't really all that good for dogs. Evidence supporting claims that it is good for digestion is largely anecdotal. Giving your puppy who has chronic diarrhea pumpkin is not going to treat the root cause of your puppy's illness.
Yogurt is not a high quality probiotic. Commercially produced probiotics for dogs, such as Fortiflora, are created specifically for dogs and contain live organisms that are naturally found in the digestive tracts of dogs.
During a strict treatment plan, please avoid giving any foods intended for human consumption.
Practical treatment plan
So, your dog has chronic diarrhea... what do you do now?
Go to the vet. Rule out any significant medical conditions, viruses, illness, or disease. It is typically routine for most vets to run a parvo SNAP test when puppies have diarrhea. Your vet will also test for parasites.
No more treats! Cut out the pumpkin, yogurt, and all commercially manufactured dog treats. During your treatment period, do not even feed healthy treats. Feed only your high quality kibble and supplements listed below. If you're feeding anything else, you will not be able to pinpoint whether your puppy's issues are diet related or not.
Feed the best kibble you can afford to buy. Remember, food allergies are less common than you think. Dogs are sensitive to low quality ingredients. If you can't afford to take your dog to the vet all the time, consider investing in a higher quality kibble. Click here to go back to the section in this blog post about choosing a high quality kibble. Our recommendation: Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach
Add in some practical daily supplements. A daily probiotic is not needed if you're feeding a kibble that is sprayed with a probiotic (another reason to spend more on a higher quality kibble). But during a treatment period, we suggest giving a therapeutic dose of probiotics daily for 30 days. Our recommendations: Purina Fortiflora NuVet Vitamins
Deworm your puppy. Listen carefully--even if your vet has told you that your puppy is free of parasites, please deworm your puppy! It is safe, easy, and will not harm your puppy. Coccidia and giardia are the most under-diagnosed parasites. Not because they are not common, but because they are very small and very difficult for vets to detect under a microscope. If you leave out this step to the treatment plan, you will be wasting your time! Deworming Protocol: Follow this protocol exactly. Purchase two boxes of Safeguard granules. Each box comes with three packets of granules, pre-measured based on your puppy's weight. Give one packet per day, mixed into a small spoonful of wet food, for 6 days in a row. You have to give the dewormer for 6 days in a row in order to clear out giardia. During this time, the Safeguard will also clear out any other parasites lurking around Click here to order Safeguard. I mentioned mixing these granules in wet food... but I've also stressed the importance of not feeding anything but your puppy's kibble! Purchase a wet food that is of the same brand and formula as your kibble. For example, Purina Pro Plan makes coordinating dry and wet foods. Purchase a few cans of wet food to match your kibble. Only use one spoonful when mixing the Safeguard granules. Safeguard will not kill coccidia. However, coccidia is more likely to be suppressed and neutralized in a puppy undergoing this protocol, as this protocol will strengthen his immune system and gut health. If you still suspect coccidiosis, read more about treatment options here: Using Toltrazuril in the treatment and prevention of coccidiosis in dogs and puppies
Stay consistent! Do not change your puppy's diet for at least 60 days, even if you think his problems are diet related. It takes more than 30 days for your puppy's system to acclimate to a new diet. Too often I see puppy owners trying to find a kibble that works, and they've tried 5 or 6 different kibbles in 6 months! No wonder their puppy has diarrhea! You need to give your puppy at least 2 months to acclimate to a new diet, maybe longer. And remember, if you're still feeding treats of any kind during this time, you're not accurately ruling out diet related issues!!
Click on the infographic below for a printable version, or click here to download:
Dehydration kills puppies
If your puppy is experiencing watery stools (liquid, no texture or form whatsoever) then an Emergency Room visit is in order.
Dehydration kills puppies. It kills puppies fast. Pay attention to your puppy's bowel movements! A pudding-like stool consistency is not normal by any means, but watery stools indicate that your dog is not only losing fluids, but not absorbing them either.
What is my puppy's poop supposed to look like?
Puppy and dog poop should be very firm. It should be dark brown and cylindrical in shape. It should be formed and when touched it should keep its shape and not be soft. Poop smells bad, but your dog's poop should not have an odor that permeates the whole yard. If it does, I bet you are feeding junk food.
You want your puppy's poop to score a 2 on this chart:
Dogs have scent glands on either side of their anus called "anal glands." These glands are supposed to be naturally expressed (emptied) each time the dog poops. If your dog's poop is not firm enough, these glands will not be expressed / emptied properly. The glands will then become infected and leak a very foul smelling, oily substance.
Does your dog need his anal glands manually expressed by your vet often? Consider the quality of kibble and treats you're feeding. Also consider that your puppy may be eating too much.
Overeating causes loose stools!
So, that's the whole scoop
I hope you've learned something today! And I hope you don't feel alone in this. When in doubt, please follow your veterinarian's advice.