Nursing Diarrhea!

Nursing puppies or kittens with diarrhea is always a concern. Being 75% water these babies are prone to dehydration and their thin skin makes it difficult plus it's not recommended to use electrolytes under the skin. There are two different ages of concern. The first is less than two weeks and the other is over two weeks old.

Under two weeks: First assess dehydration - use a cotton ball to stimulate urination. This age has little kidney function and should have little or no color to urine. If they have any color at all – newborn is getting dehydrated and needs help.

Over two weeks – the activity often tells us how dehydrated babies are but the cotton ball also works. Those aggressively seeking the nipple and nursing are OK with minimal treatment. If not – intervene.

  • Electrolytes in water are often referred to as “Baby Gatorade” by breeders. RE-SORB electrolytes in a gallon of water is a popular choice and keeps for 1 week when refrigerated. Pet-A Lyte is chicken flavored and is received well as is Rebound OES. These options all work well for either kittens or puppies.
    • Warm in bottle and let babies nurse it down. By bottle feeding them for one feeding, the electrolytes will help to counter the dehydration.
    • Pedialyte can be used in an emergency but dilute 50/50 with water as it is too sweet for a puppy or kitten and they don’t nurse the Pedialyte as well.
  • Warm electrolytes can be given as an enema and is a good hydration technique. Injectable type fluids use 3-5 cc/lb warmed as a good start. Hold tail down until relaxed so they don’t expel.
  • Kaolin Pectin or Pet Pectillin are both good diarrhea options and they do not have the bite that the human product Pepto Bismol does. Dosing is 1 cc per pound and it is best to divide it up and give it over a 30 minute time frame – twice a day will coat gut and help with cramping colic.
  • Probiotic in milk daily is required for the orphan or use twice daily until resolved if nursing mom. Puppies and kittens get probiotic from mom when she cleans them. For best results use probiotics designed to bypass stomach acid and enzymes. Doc Roy's® GI SYNBIOTICS GEL and GRANULES will bypass stomach immune response and they have BG Mos® which adheres to bad bacteria rendering them inactive.
  • Antibiotic is important if they are feverish.
    • Under 2 weeks – Less than two weeks is usually not infectious in nature and antibiotic is rarely needed. Use Amoxicillin or Clavamox at 10 mg/lb (once daily). You can put it in milk replacer.
    • Over 2 weeks – Amoxicillin has worked well but Cephalexin 10 mg/lb (twice daily) is also relatively safe. With kidney and liver function minimal until 6 weeks use caution going to sulfa until after weaning.
    • Nursing baby diarrhea from coccidia is secondary and rarely considered a diarrhea cause here. Coccidia can be an issue if we did nothing to mom pre-birth (CocciGuard or Marquis) and must be considered in large breed dogs 4 weeks old. In nursing kittens nursing coccidiosis is unusual. My preference to treat is Marquis in all babies. We also use in moms pre-birth safely.


Reoccurring litters with diarrhea should not be tolerated. If you are fighting diarrhea more than on occasion – call us for help. We like to rule out virus and manage to prevent mom from passing bad bacteria to babies when cleaning post birth. This can involve safe antibiotic through all moms to eliminate organism as well as solid parasite control in late pregnancy. (Safeguard is labeled for pregnant and nursing.) Parasites immune suppression of mom cannot be tolerated because the babies will pay the price.

Long term control is achieved by putting moms on probiotic. It is important and you must use a probiotic designed to pass the stomach acid or your results will be disappointing. Try Doc Roy's® GI SYNBIOTICS GEL and GRANULES if you want to put in food so it can become active in the intestines where it is needed and Health Gard liquid if you want to go in water and use 30 days before birth and two weeks after birth. Both bypass stomach and become active in intestine where it is needed. The goal is to get mom normal so mom gives only good bacteria to their kittens or puppies. With time we will get rid of the cause from our mom's system. It has worked well on issues such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and E-Coli diarrhea.

It is always helpful to get a diagnosis if diarrhea is not controlled. See (Diagnosing Diarrhea article). Until we get the answer, we do have technique’s that help control the issue.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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