Coccidia are microscopic parasites that infect the intestine. The possibility of coccidiosis should always be considered when a puppy has loose stools or diarrhea. When a puppy presents at the veterinarian with watery, possibly bloody, diarrhea, a routine fecal test should be done to detect parasites. If the diagnosis is coccidia, the medication most vets prescribe is one of the sulfa-based antibiotics. Eliminating coccidia from the intestine takes time. Untreated, or not treated for long enough, coccidia can be life-threatening to a puppy.
After your dog has been checked by the vet, if she still has diarrhea, withholding solid food for a day can be a good way to give the intestines a rest. Fasting is not recommended for very young puppies. Never withhold water from your dog or puppy unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian. A puppy can die of dehydration, so if it will not drink water, then try a product like Pedialyte (a rehydrating liquid often used for babies and young children). Sometime puppies will not drink water or Pedialyte but they will drink chicken broth. Try filling ice cube trays with diluted chicken broth. A sick puppy who won't drink may be willing to lick frozen ice or broth cubes.
Typical treatment takes about two weeks, but medication should be continued until a few days after the diarrhea stops. This can take up to a month and, while diet cannot prevent or stop coccidia, feeding a bland diet is an important adjunct to pharmaceutical treatment. According to Dr. Terri McGinnis in her book, "The Well Dog," you should “withhold food for 12 to 24 hours and then offer a restricted, bland, easily digestible diet for three to five days.”
All suggested diets and recipes for puppies with coccidia begin with plain rice. The puppy should be fed rice only for 24 hours. Prepare the rice by boiling it with a chicken breast for flavor, using one cup of rice, two cups of water and one chicken breast. The flavor of the chicken makes the rice more palatable for the puppy.
Veterinarian Terri McGinnis recommends “nine parts cooked white rice, pasta or potatoes mixed with one part low fat cottage cheese or cooked skinless chicken. Feed small meals three or four times a day. Be careful to ... return to a normal diet gradually over at least a week, by mixing small quantities of puppy’s normal food with the bland diet. A change back to the regular diet before the bowel is healed will result in a relapse.”
Encouraging Your Puppy
Puppies will eat warm food more easily than they will eat cold food. If a puppy won't eat from the bowl, try hand-feeding. Be patient and talk in a soothing voice while you try to feed sick puppies.
Include More Variety
Continue feeding small portions of bland low-fat food three to six times daily, if possible, for about a week. Recommended foods include home-cooked boiled hamburger, chopped up skinless chicken breast, cottage cheese, tofu, boiled rice, plain yogurt and mashed sweet potato or 100 percent pure canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). After a week, you can add chopped hard-boiled egg or cooked liver.
Maura Wolf's published online articles focus on women, children, parenting, non-traditional families, companion animals and mental health. A licensed psychotherapist since 2000, Wolf counsels individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, body image, parenting, aging and LGBTQ issues. Wolf has two Master of Arts degrees: in English, from San Francisco State University and in clinical psychology, from New College.