Why Has My Puppy Got Diarrhea At Night?

Photo by Tim Walker on Flickr

Your puppy having diarrhea in the middle of the night is no fun for anyone, and can honestly be a little scary. 

Having a new puppy is a lot of fun, but it can also be stressful and when you add a health issue, no matter how minor it is, it can add to that stress. 

Our pets are our family so it’s natural to be upset when they don’t feel good. 

So in this article I’m going to go through what could cause your puppy to have diarrhea and how to treat them afterwards.

What are the main causes of puppy diarrhea?

One of the things you may be most worried about is the cause of your puppy’s diarrhea.

And your fears can be stoked by looking online. 

It’s easy to be scared of all the potentially serious things it could be such as bacterial infections, viral infections, parasites, an intestinal blockage, or the ingestion of something toxic. 

Most of the time puppy diarrhea doesn’t mean anything serious but if your puppy also has some of these symptoms then you should contact your vet: black and tarry stools, fever, pale, gums, discomfort or pain, vomiting, if the diarrhea is bloody or has been going on for more than one day, or if you think your dog has swallowed a foreign body or toxic substance.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way we can talk about some causes that are more likely to be behind your puppy’s diarrhea. 

It could be something as simple as stress, similar to what happens with humans. 

There are many things that could cause your dog to become stressed. 

And especially when it comes to puppies, they are experiencing so many new things that a little bit of stress is common. 

The process of moving into their new home can also be a big trigger, and you should probably anticipate some nerves. 

Another common reason your puppy could have diarrhea is a change in their diet. 

Or alternatively your puppy could be forming a sensitivity or intolerance to their food and after discussing it with your vet you may need to change some things.

Four reasons why puppies have diarrhea at night and not during the day?

If you really think about it, when your puppy has diarrhea it could be related to when they would’ve pooped anyway. 

Which means that the first reason that your puppy could be having diarrhea at night is because they’re eating too late and then need to get up in the middle of the night to go poop whether it be diarrhea or not. 

So do you need to feed your puppy much earlier in the evening?

My second reason is based on personal experience. 

When your puppy goes out for their last toilet break before bedtime, they might be finding something to snack on.

And whatever they are eating doesn’t agree with their tummy and gives them diarrhea.

I live next door to a field of horses and this is where my dogs go to the toilet just before bed.

It doesn’t happen so much with my adult dogs but I could imagine that if I got a puppy again it would be tempted to snack on horse poop, which could cause diarrhea. 

I think that this opportunist snacking is much more likely to happen with puppies who use a local park or a local field for their bedtime toileting rather than puppies who are using a garden.

And the reason for this is that our gardens are less likely to contain any nasty surprises!

And if the diarrhea is caused by a stress trigger then it could be that your dog is getting nervous around bedtime. 

My third reason is stress related. 

Your puppy’s diarrhea is caused because they are so stressed and anxious.

Now this could be that they are suffering from separation anxiety and they find night time so scary because they aren’t with you.

This would be something that is common for puppies which are relatively young and you have only just brought home.

And it is the culmination of this nervousness that causes the diarrhea.

But, night time might also be freaking your puppy out for a very different reason.

This might be that as everyone goes to bed and the puppy is left, there is lots of shouting or arguing between family members and the puppy finds these exchanges very disturbing.

Or it could be that something happens in the middle of the night and that scares your puppy half to death.

Can they hear neighbours arguing or are there frequent loud noises during the night in your neighbourhood?

And my final reason, and perhaps, I should have explained this earlier in the section is that your dog is eating or chewing on something that they are finding in the house.

Could it be that they are able to open the trash can and have a rummage. Or has food or leftovers been left out on a work surface? 

Puppies, in my experience, are great at using chairs to access work surfaces!

How should you treat a puppy that has diarrhea at night?

In the middle of the night as long as you aren’t seeing any other symptoms that point to your dog being seriously sick and you know that your dog hasn’t ingested anything dangerous then you shouldn’t have to take your pup to the vet until the next day if at all. 

What you should do instead is clean up the mess and the puppy, take note of what consistency the diarrhea was, and let your puppy go back to sleep.

You don’t want to feed your dog anything that night since it might upset their stomach again, or just make them wake up another time in order to go to the bathroom. 

You can give your dog some fresh water in order to keep them from being dehydrated, and of course a little extra love and pets to comfort it before it goes back to bed.

How do you stop a puppy from having diarrhea at night?

To help prevent puppy diarrhea at night you can follow the same prevention techniques as you would during the day, and that is to clean up after your puppy, keep it’s kennel clean and use the right disinfectants especially if they share it with other dogs, make sure your puppy is vaccinated at the proper ages and keep unvaccinated puppies away from other unvaccinated dogs, put your puppy in a kennel when you’re not supervising it so that it can’t ingest anything dangerous, and if you need to switch up your puppy’s diet do it slowly and gradually.

If you think the diarrhea might be related to stress revolving around bedtime then make sure to stay on a consistent schedule so that your puppy can get used to it. Or if there’s something you need to change about the routine, do so and then stick with it. Puppies need stability in their routines similar to the way babies do.

Should you starve a puppy with diarrhea?

You should keep your dog from eating for at least twelve hours to let their stomach calm down, but don’t withhold food for any longer than twenty-four hours unless your vet tells you to. 

Make sure to keep your pup hydrated, and if they won’t drink water then you could have them lick some ice cubes. 

What you can do after that initial twelve hour period is put them on a bland diet for a few days until their tummy feels better.

For the bland diet you should be giving your dog things like white rice or some plain, soft, cooked macaroni in a no-salt chicken broth since salt is toxic to dogs. 

You could also give them yogurt so they can regain some of their lost beneficial digestive bacteria. 

You could also add a little pumpkin flavor to their food, both for extra taste and for the high fiber content pumpkins contain. 

Fiber can assist with either constipation or diarrhea.

Why can diarrhea be dangerous in puppies?

The first and most obvious reason diarrhea can be dangerous is the cause, and whether or not it’s something serious.

If the cause isn’t serious then it depends on a few other things.

One of the main things to consider is how long the diarrhea has been going on, since prolonged diarrhea can cause serious dehydration as well as metabolic disturbances after a while.

If this happens then your dog could need to be hospitalized for intravenous fluid therapy.

Diarrhea is also more dangerous in very young dogs, as well as very old ones, very small ones, or dogs that are already having health problems. 

So you need to be on the look out for signs that the diarrhea is dangerously affecting your dog such as a loss of appetite and/or thirst, lethargy and/or depression, pain and/or discomfort, blood in the stool, vomiting, and reduced or absent urinations. If you think the diarrhea is causing your dog to become seriously ill then you should contact your vet.

Are certain breeds of puppies more prone to diarrhea than others?

Most dog owners are familiar with the fact that certain dog breeds are more prone to certain health problems that other may not be. Part of this has to do with breeding pureblood dogs as well as trying to give certain breeds specific aesthetic or non-aesthetic traits. Because of this, you may be wondering if certain breeds of puppies are more prone to getting diarrhea than others. Thankfully the answer to this is no, at least for the most part. Since diarrhea isn’t technically a disease, dogs can’t be genetically prone to it exactly. But of course if you have a breed of dog that is likely to be on the nervous side, or maybe one that loves to explore and eat strange things even more than normal puppies then you will have a puppy that is slightly more prone to diarrhea.

Overall, a little bit of diarrhea is perfectly normal for puppies and isn’t something you should stress too much over unless they’re displaying some of the warning signs we’ve talked about in this article. If you feed them a bland diet and keep them hydrated it should normally pass in no time, and if it’s more serious talking to your vet can help prevent the symptoms from worsening too much.