Bulldog getting an ultrasound.

When pet upset stomach problems strike, it can be unpleasant to say the least. While the outcomes of vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating may be the same, though, there are many potential causes of pet gastrointestinal problems. Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is here to help you understand what those are, what to do, and when to worry. 

Common Pet Digestive Issues

When a pet owner tells us that they are experiencing pet gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea, there are many possibilities that come to mind as the underlying cause. Some to the more common issues that we see include:

  • Dietary indiscretion: Sometimes pets eat something that they are not supposed to, and while there are not any serious consequences, it upsets the works. Inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines, called gastroenteritis.
  • Stress: When pets are stressed such as during travel or after a playdate, tummy symptoms can ensue.
  • Foreign body ingestion: When something gets stuck in the gastrointestinal tract that shouldn’t be there, chaos can ensue. Foreign objects can cause irritation and even obstruction of the GI tract.
  • Pancreatitis: The pancreas is an abdominal organ heavily involved in digestive function. It can become inflamed, especially after a heavy or fatty meal, and lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. 
  • Gastrointestinal infections in pets:  Pets are subject to infections just like people are. Viral infections such as canine parvovirus or bacterial infections from undercooked food such as Salmonelosis can occur. 
  • Intestinal parasites:  Unwanted guests such as tapeworms, hookworms, and Giardia can cause pet gastrointestinal problems. It is important to remember that not all pet parasites are visible to the naked eye, so just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they are not there. 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Some pets have true IBD or food sensitivities that require special diets or medications.
  • Toxin ingestion: Ingestion of many toxins leads to gastrointestinal symptoms in animals.
  • Systemic disease: Other processes going on in the body such as systemic infection, kidney disease, or ear problems can lead to nausea and/or diarrhea.

What to Do When Vomiting and Diarrhea in Pets Strikes

Clearly, not all vomiting and diarrhea in pets is a pet emergency, but sometimes they can indicate a serious problem. So what should you do if your pet is having gastrointestinal symptoms?

  • Think about why your pet may be having trouble. If you know that they are a little stressed or ate a new treat, you might be prone to waiting a bit before acting.
  • Pay attention. Knowing details such as when your pet last ate, what vomit or stool looked like, etc. can be very helpful. 
  • Unless your pet is very tiny or very young (in which case you should contact us right away), remove access to food for about 12 hours to allow the gastrointestinal tract to rest.
  • If your pet seems to be doing better after a short fast, you can try feeding a small portion of a bland, easy-to-digest diet. Good choices include lean, boiled chicken and white rice or plain pasta. 
  • Do not give your pet any medications without veterinary advice. Some human medications can be toxic to pets, and sometimes medications can cover symptoms and prevent you from recognizing a serious problem until it is too late.

It is important to recognize when veterinary intervention is necessary. Allowing a pet to continue with gastrointestinal symptoms for too long can have serious consequences. As a general rule of thumb, you should have your pet examined right away if they have more than two bouts of vomiting or diarrhea in 24 hours, haven’t missed more than one meal, have blood in the stool or vomitus, have a known toxin exposure, or are acting lethargic or painful. Remember it is always better to have your pet checked than to wait if you are unsure.  

Investigating the Problem

When pet gastrointestinal problems strike, oftentimes diagnostic testing is needed to get to the bottom of the problem. Our expert team of veterinarians will start off with a good medical history and physical examination on your pet. After that they may recommend testing to help determine what is happening. Recommendations might include:

  • Blood work
  • Fecal testing
  • Radiographs (x-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Infectious disease testing
  • Dietary trials

Thankfully, most gastrointestinal problems in pets are treatable. Depending on their underlying cause, medications, fluid support, and/or surgical intervention may be necessary.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if your pet’s tummy isn’t happy. No matter the cause of your pet’s problems, we are here to help.