This week we are continuing our digestive health series. While we have already covered canine digestive anatomy, the importance of diet, and the role of probiotics in previous blogs, today we will discuss possible solutions to two common intestinal problems often faced by pet owners at one point or another. Next week we will cover the big ‘B’: Bloat.
What if my dog is vomiting?
Dogs may vomit for various reasons: upset or empty stomach, after eating grass, after ingesting something indigestible, or after eating too much food too quickly. Most dogs will simply throw up once or twice, and then be done with it. However, if a dog is repeatedly vomiting, dry heaving, or is demonstrating other signs of feeling ill (such as lethargy, fever, etc.), then a trip to the vet is necessary.
If a dog has a sporadic, isolated episode of vomiting, then owners can take several steps to help get their dog’s digestive system back on track. Usually it is recommended that dogs be fasted for a period of time after vomiting. This can be a fast from the dog’s next meal, or it can be as long as 24 hours. Reintroduce a smaller amount of bland, easy-to-digest food after the fast, rather than moving full force into the dog’s regular-sized meal. If the dog seems to have recurrent episodes of isolated vomiting, adding probiotics or even digestive enzymes to their normal diet may be a wise choice. Always confer with a veterinarian first to ensure there are no underlying health problems.
What if my dogs has diarrhea or loose stools?
Diarrhea and loose stools occur when not enough water has been reabsorbed by the large intestine, resulting in watery fecal matter. Loose stools are a common problem among many dogs, particularly during times of stress, travel, changes in diet, and periods of intense excitement. Diarrhea is less common; it is more fluid-like than loose stools, and can potentially be linked to some serious illnesses like canine parvovirus. Indeed, if your dog shows other signs such as lethargy, vomiting coupled with diarrhea, fever, weakness, and lack of interest in water and food, then take a trip to your local vet.
However, if the dog seems to have a bout of loose stools or diarrhea but is otherwise acting normally, then owners may be able to address this issue at home in several ways.
- Offer free access to water, as it is important that the dog stay hydrated. Some owners will add small amounts of an electrolyte replacement (NOT sugar free ones!) to the water to help with electrolyte loss.
- Consider fasting the dog for one meal. Then for the dog’s next meal, cut back on the normal amount of food until the stools have stabilized and returned to normal. Or, break the meals up into smaller amounts over the course of the day.
- Consider using a supplement like Honest Kitchen’s Perfect Form or canned pumpkin to help firm up loose stools, and add a little bit of this to the dog’s food. Canned pumpkin (just plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling) will help alleviate the symptoms, while something like Perfect Form may actually help restore the intestinal balance. Canned pumpkin is also useful for helping with constipation.
A dog with chronically loose stools should be checked by a veterinarian, as this may be related to an issue with intestinal parasites or even diet. Keep track of when the dog seems to have an episode of diarrhea or loose stools, as this may reveal particular “triggers” that bring about an episode. Also avoid feeding treats sourced outside the United States (such as chicken strips and other treats made in China), as these types of treats have been linked repeatedly to Salmonella infections in dogs (one of the symptoms is diarrhea).
Exploring Natural Remedies
If you are looking for a more natural, holistic approach to treating periodic episodes of upset stomach, vomiting, loose stools, constipation, or diarrhea, then there are several options available. Herbal remedies–such as those found in Perfect Form–can be used to help soothe an inflamed intestinal tract. Homeopathic remedies may also offer relief for intestinal problems. Classic gut-related remedies include Nux Vomica (upset stomach, overindulgence, poisonings, diarrhea or constipation), Phosphorus (acute diarrhea), China Officinalis (also seen as Cinchona Officinalis; acute diarrhea resulting in dehydration, gas), Carbo Vegetabilis (flatulence, gas/bloating, stomach upset), and Lycopodium Clavatum (constipation, nausea, indigestion). These are options to consider.
When to Visit the Vet
There is often the question of “when should I call my vet?” whenever a dog is suffering from an upset stomach or diarrhea. There are several red flags that may indicate a trip to the vet. Examples of conditions that need immediate veterinary attention include canine parvovirus, intestinal blockages, and bloat or torsion. Symptoms to be alert for include:
- changes in appetite
- not drinking water/dehydration
- bloating or swelling of the stomach
- hunched over in pain
- foul-smelling, tarry, or bloody diarrhea
- unproductive vomiting (dry heaving)
- restlessness: lying down, getting up, looking at belly, can’t get comfortable
- signs of poisoning such as repeated vomiting, overall weakness, uncoordination, ataxia, staggering