Vomiting and Diarrhea in Dogs
Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common concerns that cause a dog owner to seek veterinary advice. Dogs seem to enjoy eating all sorts of things that they shouldn’t, which can lead to pretty severe stomach upset. Some cases of vomiting and diarrhea are easily resolved at home, while others require veterinary treatment. Read on to learn more about the signs, causes, and treatment of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.
Symptoms of Vomiting and Diarrhea in Dogs
- Nausea: drooling, lip licking, excessive swallowing
- Vomit: note the color, volume, frequency, and when the last meal was
- Diarrhea: note the color, consistency, and look for signs of blood
Causes of Vomiting and Diarrhea in Dogs
Vomiting and diarrhea occur when the stomach and/or intestines become irritated or inflamed.
There are many causes, including:
- Certain viruses, such as parvovirus in puppies
- Dietary indiscretion (when a dog eats something inappropriate)
- Swallowing an object that causes stomach or intestinal obstruction
- Sudden changes in diet
- Intestinal parasites
- Medication side effects
- Chronic disease, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Stress due to boarding or other change in environment or routine
Preventing Vomiting and Diarrhea in Dogs
- Avoid feeding fatty, salty, or spicy foods
- Introduce diet changes slowly, over 5-7 days, to allow the intestinal bacteria to adjust.
- Speak to your vet about calming supplements or anxiety medication if your pet is easily stressed.
- During times of stress, it may be helpful to use a soothing pheromone spray or plug-in adapter (Adaptil).
- Consider feeding a probiotic supplement if your pet is prescribed antibiotics. Always ask the advice of a vet before giving your pet supplements or medication.
- If your dog eats a raw diet or has exposure to rodents or wildlife, your vet may recommend routinely submitting a fresh stool sample to rule out intestinal parasites.
- Roundworms are extremely common in puppies. Your vet will recommend deworming your new puppy with an appropriate dewormer.
- Ask your vet or make an appointment with one of the FirstVet vets to discuss deworming your puppy or adult dog.
- Vaccinating your dog against parvovirus is extremely important. Puppies should be vaccinated starting at 6-8 weeks, then every 3 weeks until 16-18 weeks of age. Adult boosters will be needed to maintain immunity. Prevention of this disease is VERY important. Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can cause fatalities, especially in young puppies.
Treating Your Dog's Vomiting or Diarrhea at Home
If your dog is bright and happy, and there is no blood in the diarrhea or vomit, then you can often start by providing symptomatic treatment at home.
- If your dog is vomiting, withhold food for 12-24 hours.
- Very small dogs and puppies should NOT be fasted at all due to a high risk of developing severely low blood sugar levels.
- Offer a bland diet in small portions. Examples include boiled rice or potatoes with cooked chicken breast or very lean hamburger, or a prescription intestinal diet.
- Recommended feeding protocol:
- Day 1: give 50% of the recommended daily amount divided into 6-8 portions
- Day 2 and 3: give 75% divided into 4-6 portions
- Day 4 and 5: give 100% divided into 3-4 portions
- Once the dog has been normal for a couple of days you can gradually re-introduce its normal food.
- Your dog should always have access to fresh water.
- On average, a dog should drink about 1 ounce of water (1/8 cup) per pound of body weight each day. This requirement will be significantly increased if your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea.
- Ensure that your dog is allowed quiet time to rest and fully recover.
- In the case of contagious diseases, it’s important to avoid contact with other dogs until your dog has completely recovered.
When to Visit Your Veterinarian
- Blood in the vomit
- Blood in the stools or very dark/black stools
- If your dog is increasingly lethargic or weak
- Refusing food for more than 24-48 hours, or does not want to drink
- Vomiting continues despite withholding food for 12-24 hours
- If your dog cannot hold down water or is dehydrated (check for dry sticky gums)
- If a foreign body may have been swallowed that could obstruct the stomach or intestines
- Abdominal pain or a swollen abdomen
- No response to supportive treatment for 3-4 days at home (for young puppies and older dogs you should seek help earlier)
- If the dog has recurrent episodes of vomiting and or diarrhea.
Veterinary Treatment of Vomiting and Diarrhea
If your dog is very ill or dehydrated, he may need to be hospitalized.
- Your dog may be given intravenous fluids to correct dehydration and replace lost electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride).
- Blood tests may be performed to check red and white blood cell levels, as well as internal organ function.
- Other diagnostics may be performed to determine the cause of your dog’s vomiting or diarrhea. These include x-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen, stool analysis, and tests for diseases like pancreatitis or parvovirus.
Symptomatic treatments will likely continue when your dog is ready to go home.
- A bland diet that requires minimal digestion will likely be prescribed.
- Your dog may go home with prescriptions for anti-nausea medication, antacids, pain relief, and probiotics to replace normal gut bacteria.
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