Dogs vomit and have diarrhea. Sometimes it is just a dog being a dog. If your dog has one episode of vomiting or diarrhea and is acting normally it typically is not a cause for major concern. If your dog is lethargic, not eating, or continues to vomit or have diarrhea, then you should call River Cove Animal Hospital.
Vomiting and diarrhea is often caused by gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines. If the inflammation is severe you may see blood in the stool or vomit. The condition can be caused by changes in diet, eating garbage or foreign materials, intestinal parasites, infection, food allergies, emotional upset or systemic disease.
Gastroenteritis often responds to supportive and symptomatic treatment. If signs are severe, fail to improve with initial treatment, or become recurrent, then a more extensive work up is warranted to try and identify the cause. Sometimes blood tests, radiographs (x-rays) and fecal tests are needed to diagnose or rule out more serious conditions.
Supportive and symptomatic treatment often includes medications to settle the stomach. Famotidine, omeprazole, and sucralfate (or carafate) help reduce the acidity and sooth irritation in the stomach. Cerenia, an antiemetic, is a medication that is often given to stop vomiting and nausea while improving appetite. Metronidazole can be used as anti-inflammatory for the colon and can also act as an antibiotic and anti-parasitic. Various deworming medications may also be indicated. It is important to give all medications until they are gone unless otherwise directed.
Diet is very important in resolving gastroenteritis. When a pet is vomiting we often recommend not offering any food for 24 hours. After 24 hours with no vomiting, we recommend feeding a bland diet. Pets with diarrhea can be started on a bland diet at their next meal. Regular pet foods have a high fat content. These meals are more difficult to digest and allow intestinal inflammation to persist and smolder. A bland diet can be made at home by mixing rice and boiled or broiled chicken or hamburger. Typically a ratio of 5 parts cooked rice to 1 part boiled meat works well. After boiling or broiling the meat it is imperative to drain the grease off. Be sure the meat is boneless, skinless and low fat. We also have commercial bland diets available if you do not have the time or inclination to cook at home. These diets are formulated to be well balanced and bland. They are specifically made to help resolve gastrointestinal inflammation. Please start by feeding a very small meal. If that is tolerated, then you can feed 4-6 small meals a day. Feed the bland diet for at least 4-5 days and slowly reduce the frequency while increasing meal size. Several days after the gastrointestinal signs have abated, slowly reintroduce the regular diet. Start by mixing a very small volume of their regular food with the bland diet. Then over a 5-7 day period slowly decrease the amount of the bland diet while increasing the volume of regular food.
We do not like to prevent access to water. However, if your pet is vomiting, we recommend withholding water for about an hour then allow access to only small volumes at a time. This will prevent your pet from over drinking, which can lead to subsequent vomiting. It is vital to prevent dehydration during an episode of gastroenteritis. Dehydration leads to a variety of problems. Dehydration can be determined by finding dry or tacky gums. When your pet becomes dehydrated they usually will become lethargic. Dehydration also leads to decreased blood flow to the intestinal tract which slows recovery.
We recommend restricting activity to leash walks only while your pet recovers from gastroenteritis. This prevents further dietary indiscretion. It is common for dogs with upset stomachs to want to eat grass and other foreign material. This will only allow add to the intestinal inflammation. Rest is also vital in any recovery protocol.