When vomiting and diarrhoea need a vet’s help

by Lynn Broom
Longmead Veterinary Practice

DOGS especially are prone to getting diarrhoea and, though less frequently, vomiting. Cats are generally less prone because they are usually more discerning and less likely to eat inappropriate items.

Most episodes in dogs are short-lived and self-limiting, often resolving within 24 hours. If your pet is bright and well, is eating normally and is not losing a lot of fluid through vomiting or liquid diarrhoea, then they can often be managed at home. If, however, their symptoms are not resolving, then veterinary advice should be sought.

Following research, it has been established that the digestive system heals more quickly if it is fed but not overloaded. This can be achieved by feeding a highly digestible, low fat, preferably wet food, which includes a protein they have had before, which they have not had an adverse reaction to previously.

Feeding small amounts more frequently such as six or seven times a day ensures the gut is receiving nutrition, but it is not being overloaded. In the short term you are feeding the intestines to heal and not your dog’s normal appetite.

After 24 to 48 hours a gradual return to your pet’s normal food can resume if the symptoms have resolved. If your pet has recurrent episodes of diarrhoea then it is worth considering the underlying causes and discussing this with your vet because they may have an underlying infection, a dietary intolerance or a chronic abnormality of the gut flora.

Recurrent vomiting, particularly if your pet cannot keep down food or water, needs veterinary assessment. Small amounts of blood in diarrhoea can be normal when the bowel is inflamed but large amounts require intervention. Dogs can go for several days without eating if they are drinking or not losing too much fluid, but cats need to eat regularly and can quickly develop secondary problems from not eating.

Occasional vomiting which does not resolve despite dietary management needs assessment. Diarrhoea which continues for more than several days and either doesn’t improve or recurs quickly needs assessment. Any progressive deterioration should be investigated and appropriate treatment started where necessary.

Knowing how to manage simple digestive disorders and knowing when to get further advice will mean you can manage at home where appropriate and get further assistance when necessary.

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