Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.
Working as a small animal veterinarian, one of the most common ailments I see in dogs is upset stomach. About 50% of the appointments I see in a day are cases of vomiting or diarrhea. Most of these dog stomach problems are caused by a simple problem with a simple solution. The most common causes of non-complicated vomiting and diarrhea are:
- n Food Indiscretion (eating something they don’t normally eat)
I generally prescribe some medications, and within a few days, the dogs are back to being themselves. On occasion, however, it’s not so simple. So as pet parents, when should we be concerned that an upset stomach may be a bigger or ongoing health concern? The best way to answer this question is to start by asking how often your dog is experiencing an upset stomach. An occasional episode of vomiting or diarrhea is usually not anything more serious. If your dog is having an episode every few months that resolves quickly or with medication, I am not too concerned, especially if these episodes are associated with eating something unusual, or a situation that may have caused stress (such as their owners leaving on a vacation, or a new pet in the home).
The next question to answer is, are there other clinical signs associated with the vomiting and diarrhea that may indicate a more serious dog digestive health problem? And finally, how severe are the vomiting and diarrhea? Clinical signs that I tell all my pet parents to look for, and which require more advanced testing include:
- Multiple episodes of vomiting and diarrhea a month
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite and refusing food
- Chronic soft stool
- Inability to keep food down due to vomiting
- Lethargy and sickness
- Showing signs of pain and discomfort
- Multiple episodes of vomiting throughout the day despite having no food or water in their stomach
When my patients are showing any of the above-mentioned signs, I always perform more tests, such as bloodwork, radiographs and possible ultrasounds to test for more serious diseases. These clinical signs can be associated with more serious dog stomach problems such as foreign bodies, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease or even cancer. If you have any dog digestive health concerns whatsoever, please have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian.
Since digestive health in our pets is crucial to their overall well-being and a happy life, how can we help our pets with general vomiting or diarrhea?
Tips to Prevent Diarrhea:
- Do not feed your pet foods that they do not eat regularly (even new treats purchased over the counter can cause diarrhea in dogs). (Nutro sensitive stomach biscuits are bland treats for dogs that are predisposed to upset bellies).
- When switching foods, do it slowly over two weeks.
- Make sure your pet is on a monthly heartworm prevention that protects against gastrointestinal parasites.
- Have your pet tested every six months to a year for parasites.
- Avoid taking your pet to places that may cause high stress or have loud noises (fireworks, public events, etc.).
Home Remedies to Give Your Pet for Diarrhea:
- White rice in their regular dog food
- Canned pumpkin or pumpkin treats for the fiber (Nutro Ultra Oatmeal & Pumpkin Biscuits Healthy Digestion Blend Dog Treats)
- Bland food (Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care Dog Food)
- Probiotics labeled for dogs (Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Fortiflora Probiotic)
- Greek yogurt in their regular dog food
Most of the time, diarrhea and vomiting are resolved in a few days. However, beware of more serious dog digestive health diseases that can cause long-term diarrhea and weight loss; these dog stomach problems need to be addressed and treated by your veterinarian. If your pet is having severe diarrhea for more than a few days, or there is vomiting associated with it, or you feel your pet is acting sick, please contact your veterinarian immediately!