Vomiting and Diarrhoea

What is it?

Vomiting occurs when the stomach contents are forcefully ejected via the mouth. It is important that we distinguish vomiting from regurgitation; regurgitation is a passive process whereby undigested food is brought back up, usually very soon after a meal.

Diarrhoea occurs as a result of a disturbance to the normal function of the intestines, it is usually a problem with the large intestine. The large intestines main job is to reabsorb water so if it is not working properly then faeces become more fluid = diarrhoea.

Both vomiting and diarrhoea are common in dogs occurring as a sign of an underlying condition rather than a specific disease itself. The causes can include changes in diet, stress or excitement, toxins(poisons or chemicals), infection (bacteria, parasite or virus), blockages or damage to the digestive tract or other body organs.

What do I need to do?

Short term (acute) conditions lasting 1-2 days usually resolve on their own without the need for any treatment or veterinary care. A longer term problem is usually more serious.

Initially, starve your dog for 24 hours, feeding them nothing but leaving plenty of fresh water available and then give them small amounts of cooked chicken or fish with rice. If the problem persists for more than 24 hours, despite fasting, then take your dog to the vet.; there is a risk that they could become dehydrated.

Contact the vet sooner if there is blood in the vomit/diarrhoea or if the faeces are black and tarry (a sign of internal bleeding) and for puppies they become dehydrated very quickly and should not be starved.

Never treat your dog with human medicines – some drugs are poisonous.

What does the vet need to know?

It is important that any questions asked by the vet are answered to the best of your knowledge so they have the best chance of making your dog better.

Some important questions the vet will likely ask you :

  • When did the problem start and when was the dog last normal?

  • Has your dog eaten any different foods? Do they scavenge for food?

  • Is your dog a chewer, i.e. do they chew toys/sticks/bones and are there any missing?

  • Is s/he dull or depressed?

  • What is the appearance of the vomit/diarrhoea; colour, smell, consistency?

  • Are any other dogs in the household affected?

  • Has the dog been given any medication or had access to any sort of toxic substance?

What will the vet do?

The vet will take a thorough history and then perform a clinical examination of your dog.

Initial treatment usually involves 24 hours of fasting, unless your dog is dehydrated in which case they will be given fluids and essential electrolytes by mouth or directly into the vein. The vet may prescribe medication to help settle their stomach and protect it. In some cases antibiotics will be given, but not all; antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria so can do more harm than good in some cases.

If the problem persists for more than a couple of days then the vet may perform further tests. These can include:

  • Faecal samples – to check for bacterial and parasite infections

  • Blood tests – to check for infection, pancreatic, liver or kidney disorders

  • X-rays – to look for any abnormalities within the guts

  • Ultrasound scan – this can show the finer details of each organ in the abdomen (compared to x-rays)

  • Endoscopy – camera passed into the stomach and intestines to look for any abnormalities and take biopsy samples of the intestine for examination.

  • Surgery – sometimes it is necessary to perform surgery to assess the abdominal organs and remove or sample anything abnormal.

Digestive upsets are unpleasant for you and your dog but most cases will be better within 1-2 days. If your dog is not improving after 24 hours, or you are at all worried, make an appointment with your vet.