If you’ve ever had a dog with vomiting or diarrhea, you know that it can be tough for everyone involved! It’s messy and stressful, and worst of all it can feel really scary to see your pup sick. In this article, we will discuss common reasons why vomiting and diarrhea in dogs occur, and steps you can take to help them feel better faster.
Why is my dog vomiting and having diarrhea?
Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs will happen separately from each other, while other (more unfortunate!) times, they are paired together. Regardless, the reasons for both are often the same.
Here are just a few reasons that your dog may be experiencing vomiting or diarrhea:
- Eating new food, trash, cat poop, or any other indulgence
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Pancreatitis (which I discuss fully here)
- Gastrointestinal blockage (such a bones, toys, or other foreign bodies)
Things to ask yourself if your dog is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea:
- “Have I opened a new bag of dog food”? This is important because even the most reputable pet food companies can be subjected to recalls, most often for bacterial contamination. Find a reputable site (such as this one) that is constantly updating pet food recall information in real time, and check for updates if you are ever concerned!
- Has your dog gotten into anything? Has your dog raided the trash or counters recently? Have they eaten anything precarious such as hard bones, toys, or other non-digestible items?
- New food? Have you started feeding your pup a new food? Are they eating new snacks? Did the friendly neighbor at the dog park give your pup a yummy and novel treat?
You may or may not ever determine the reason for vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, however it is good to get curious about why it’s happening as this information can help guide you and your veterinary team towards the next best next steps.
Next steps for helping your pup may include:
- A short fasting. If you cannot determine the cause of vomiting or diarrhea in your pup, and the symptoms are mild (as well as not accompanied with a lack of appetite or lethargy, or other concerning symptoms), it’s possible that a quick fasting may be worth a try. This can be a 12-24 hour fast away from food, however always give your pup access to clean water. As your dog’s symptoms resolve and you reintegrate food into their daily life, it could be worth smaller/more consistent meals. An example of this is breaking up your dog’s two meals into four meals throughout the day (if possible).
- Bland diet. A bland diet approach may also be used for mild vomiting and diarrhea episodes, and in conjunction with other steps (such as fecal testing or examination). A bland diet is one without an excess of ingredients or fatty proteins. A great example of a bland diet is boiled chicken breast (no bones) and rice.
- Fecal testing. A fecal test is an incredibly easy, non-invasive, relatively affordable test that can ensure your dog isn’t struggling with vomit or diarrhea as a result of intestinal parasites. Fecal tests will look for giardia, coccidia, hookworms, whipworms, roundworms and other common parasites. We have begun to see more parasites and creepy crawlers everywhere as the temperatures on our planet rise, and global warming becomes more severe. I would suggest regular annual fecal tests, even if your pup is having no gastrointestinal troubles at all.
If you have a young or unvaccinated dog, your veterinarian may also request to test for Parvo or Distemper, two very serious viruses most commonly seen in puppies or unvaccinated dogs. Both of these viruses are very dangerous, and should be treated in-hospital and not at home.
- Examination. Requesting an exam from your vet at any point, for any reason, is never wrong! You are not overreacting! This is especially true if your dog’s vomit and diarrhea has become chronic, intermittently chronic, severe (can’t hold their stools throughout the night), causing weight-loss, inappetence, lethargy or fever. Reasons for vomiting and diarrhea can range from quite benign to very serious. Your dog’s veterinarian will perform a full exam that includes abdominal palpation, something that could be very telling in a situation with vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.
- Radiograph. If your dog is really struggling, or their exam presents your veterinarian with concern, additional diagnostics may be necessary. A radiograph would be able to help rule out gastrointestinal blockages or other medical concerns that may be contributing to your dog’s symptoms. Sometimes a radiograph is not enough, and an abdominal ultrasound will be recommended. Both of these procedures are relatively non-invasive and can often be done without anesthesia or sedation.
- Bloodwork. Another diagnostic consideration depending on the severity of your dog’s vomiting or diarrhea may be bloodwork. A comprehensive blood panel can help identify if your dog is struggling with pancreatitis, and will also check your dog’s blood cell count (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets), electrolyte and organ function, such as liver, kidney and thyroid function.
- Medications. At any point, your veterinarian may suggest medications. Sometimes, this is all it takes to resolve vomiting and diarrhea in dogs! Your vet may prescribe an antibiotic, anti-parasitic and/or an anti-nausea medication.
If your dog struggles with a sensitive stomach, hop on over to my Gut Health blog for tips on how to achieve optimal gut health for your pup!
It is important to seek immediate veterinary attention when vomiting and diarrhea in dogs is associated with:
- Pale mucous membranes
- Lack of appetite
If you’re a pup parent, chances are you will run into many episodes of vomit and diarrhea in your dog’s life! It is important to understand the different options you have for helping your dog through these episodes, and when it’s time to seek professional help. Be sure that you’ve established a relationship with a veterinarian you trust well before you need them and while your dog is healthy, so that you have a resource when answers or a plan of action are needed!
Sending you and your pup lots of love through this journey!