Vomiting and or diarrhoea is one of the most common reasons for a dog owner to seek veterinary advice. Dogs have a habit of eating all sorts of things that they shouldn’t, which can lead to a stomach upset. Whether the symptoms self-resolve or whether your dog needs to see a veterinarian will depend on how he or she is in themselves and what the vomit or diarrhoea looks like.
Vomiting and diarrhoea occurs when the stomach and or intestines become irritated or inflamed. Common causes for this include some viruses (similar to human gastroenteritis) or when a dog eats something inappropriate (similar to human food poisoning). Other causes include swallowing an object that causes intestinal obstruction, sudden dietary changes, intestinal parasites, poisoning, parvovirus infection, pancreatitis, side effects of medication, or any other inflammatory gastrointestinal disease (similar to human IBD). Some dogs may become inappetent or lose weight when they are stressed.
Try to prevent your dog getting vomiting and diarrhoea by avoiding very salty, spicy or fatty foods. Introduce dietary changes slowly, over around seven days, to allow the intestinal bacteria to adjust. If you know that your dog is going to experience a stressful event, or if a course of antibiotics has been prescribed, then you can feed a probiotic supplement, which can help to reduce the risk of stomach upset. It is useful to have some chicken fillet or white fish in the freezer at home together with dog-specific probiotics and electrolyte powders that can be used for future episodes.
If your dog is bright and happy, and there is no blood in the diarrhoea or vomit, then you can often start by providing symptomatic treatment at home:
Dogs need 50ml of fluid per kg of body weight per day. That is approximately 500ml for a dog weighing 10kg, but this will be considerably more if the dog vomits and or has diarrhoea. The dog may also need a few quieter days in order to fully recover, with short walks on the lead and lower energy activities. It is also important to avoid meeting other dogs until your dog has completely recovered.
Treatment focuses on replacing the fluids that have been lost. In severe cases, dehydration can lead to shock and damage internal organs, such as the kidneys. Blood tests are done to check the levels of red and white blood cells, internal organ function and to check the dog's electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride). In addition, it is important to identify what the cause of the vomiting or diarrhoea is. For example, x-rays and/or an ultrasound scan of the abdomen may be needed if the dog has swallowed an object or may have a foreign body. A surgical procedure may be required to resolve the cause.
Symptomatic treatment will be given whilst the clinical signs resolve. A bland diet that requires minimal digestion will be given in small portions, together with anti-nausea medication, antacids, pain relief, and probiotics to replace the normal gut bacteria. Antibiotics are rarely indicated in the treatment of vomiting or diarrhoea, unless there are signs of septicaemia (bacteria in the bloodstream), as they can further disrupt the normal bacterial flora in the gut.
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