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Common Illness in Puppies: Digestive Issues

05/02/2018 by Colleen Williams
May 2nd, 2018 by Colleen Williams

Puppies’ digestive systems are extremely sensitive during the first year of their life. There are many conditions your puppy can develop, some of which are more serious than others. If your puppy experiences diarrhea, vomiting, or refuses to eat, make an appointment with your vet, as symptoms and conditions can escalate in those little bodies! Here are three puppy digestive issues with their symptoms, treatments, and some preventative measures.

E. coli Infection

The proper name for E. coli infection is “Colibacillosis.” The bacterium naturally occurs in mammals’ intestinal systems, but sometimes can cause unwanted symptoms, especially in newborn pups. Mother’s milk, or “colostrum,” coats puppies’ digestive systems, preventing bacterial infections. There are two ways puppies can contract Colibacillosis – lack of mother’s milk, or the mother is infected and can pass the virus on to her pups.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include lack of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and cold skin. Treatment consists of hospitalization, antibiotics, restoration of body fluids – prompt veterinary care is required, as puppies’ immune systems are very weak. You can prevent E. coli by checking all pregnant mothers for the disease, having a clean birthing environment, and making sure the puppies have enough of their mother’s milk.

Campylobacteriosis Infection

This bacterium most commonly infects puppies less than six months old and is zoonotic, meaning it can crossover to humans (in 2017, pet store puppies were responsible for a nasty bout in people). Around forty-nine percent of all dogs have the bacteria within their system, passing it into feces, where other animals can contract an infection. Water and food contaminated can also cause infection. Puppies are at a higher risk for acquiring Campylobacteriosis, as their immune systems are underdeveloped.

Symptoms of Campylobacteriosis consist of fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, and enlarged lymph nodes. Treatment encompasses antibiotics, replenishing of fluids, and close monitoring, depending on the severity of the infection. Preventative measures than can be taken include cleaning your dog’s living areas and disinfecting food and water bowls.


One of the most common infections in puppies – up to 50% of all puppies will contract it – is caused by the parasite giardia. Puppies are more easily infected because of their weakened immune systems and the cramped conditions with their siblings and mother.

Symptoms of Giardiasis include diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Treatments consist of prescription medications, along with follow-up appointments with your veterinarian to ensure the infection has run its course. Preventing Giardiasis is as easy as keeping clean conditions for your dog, and making sure feces is cleaned.

Puppies are especially susceptible to diseases, due to their underdeveloped immune system. These three illnesses are most common in puppies, and can be fatal if left untreated. Keep a close eye on your pet, and seek veterinary care if any of the mentioned symptoms arise.

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