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What to do when your dog is vomiting and has diarrhoea

Poorly chihuahua advice
© Unsplash

It isn’t unusual for your dog to suffer with vomiting and diarrhoea. But you should learn the signs of a serious problem. 

By Nick Whittle

A desire to eat whatever she finds is a throwback to her ancient roots; her lupine cousins not only eat whenever they kill but they also scavenge animal carcasses, which are often riddled with diseases.

If your dog is otherwise healthy you should consider a home treatment for the first day of vomiting or diarrhoea. However, if you are caring for a puppy with these ailments you should contact your vet at the first opportunity, because a puppy does not have the physical resilience of an adult dog.

Similarly you should not delay seeking medical help if your dog is in her senior years.

Initial treatment at home

Vomiting can be due to a number of things. Some of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs include eating foreign substances, exercising after a large meal, eating too quickly and motion sickness.

There could however be more sinister reasons for her vomiting, and the vomiting itself can be life-threatening; you should wait no longer than 24 hours before visiting a vet.

Diarrhoea sometimes accompanies vomiting. You must not withhold food from a dog with diarrhoea, but a temporary change of diet is advised. A bland and easily digestible food provides her with lost nutrients for the time she is diarrheic. There are some food formulae designed especially for dogs with diarrhoea and there are also over-the-counter anti-diarrhoea tinctures such as kaolin, which can absorb excess fluid from the intestine.

Causes of dog vomiting and diarrhoea

1. Ingesting bacteria

Often when a dog eats something contaminated by a bacteria she does not fall ill. Her system is highly resilient to many types of bacteria, and unlike a human (who falls ill after eating a warm chicken sandwich) she is able to ward off most pathogens. Sometimes, things get too much even for your dog though.

2. Allergy or intolerance to food

Your dog may eat too much food or may eat too quickly. There may also be intolerance to certain types of food that you are not aware of until they cause a systemic imbalance or a toxicity of her gut. A change of diet may also take its toll of her digestive system, which is why most vets recommend gradual change.

3. Irritation of the bowel caused by a disease

Cancers and diseases of the kidney and liver can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. However, it is likely your dog already exhibits other pathological symptoms. If you suspect the underlying cause of her diarrhoea to be related to a current illness you should seek medical advice sooner rather than later.

24 hours fasting is the first line of defence against vomiting and diarrhoea.
Vomiting and diarrhoea often occur together.    © Christopher Ayme. Unsplash
 

4. Blockage of the bowel

It may be ironic to talk of the blockage of a bowel causing vomiting and diarrhoea but the presence of a foreign body in the gut of a dog causes a systemic irritation, which may force her to expel the contents of her stomach and her bowel.

Some other symptoms of a blockage include lethargy, anorexia and pain. Such a condition requires urgent veterinary intervention.

5. Parvovirus

Parvo and other infectious viruses such as distemper and coronavirus cause your dog to have acute and violent vomiting and diarrhoea. Crucially, secondary bacterial infections of a dog with Parvo are thought to be most likely to end the dog’s life. Regular vaccinations are essential in stemming the spread of viruses from dog to dog.

6. Parasites

Vomiting and diarrhoea are common symptoms of a parasitic infection by a worm, fluke or microbe such as Giardiasis. However, according to St Charles Animal Hospital, symptoms are slow to develop. If left untreated though these types of parasitic infection worsen and become a greater risk to the overall health of your dog.

Puppies are especially prone to parasitic infections.

Diagnosis and treatment of dog vomiting and diarrhoea

If your dog’s diarrhoea continues for more than a day or gets worse very quickly you must contact your local vet. They will run a series of test including a palpation of your dog’s abdomen to ascertain whether anything more than a tummy bug is at play. If your puppy has vomiting and diarrhoea you should not delay a visit to your vet.

Puppies don't have the strength to fight off vomiting and diarrhoea.
If your puppy has vomiting and diarrhoea you should not delay a visit to your vet.​​​​​​  © Duffy Brook. Unsplash
 

Treatments will not be forthcoming if it is confirmed that the vomiting and diarrhoea is caused by a time-limited gastro-intestinal bug. However, if the symptoms are particularly violent and are causing the dog to be distressed and dehydrated your vet may administer some anti-inflammatory drugs, pain killers and fluid therapy to prevent further dehydration.

Of the vomiting, treatment depends on the history and diagnosis. If you suspect your pet has eaten something that has irritated her stomach, you should wait a few hours to see if rest helps (she may just have picked up a virus or bug on her travels).

However, if your pet continues to vomit and be diarrheic for more than a day then it is vital that you seek veterinary help.

When vomiting and diarrhoea continues for more than just a few days your task, in tandem with whatever drugs or treatments your vet prescribes, is to meet her nutritional needs.

If no underlying chronic illness is identified your vet may even prescribe a therapeutic diet or alternative feeding method. Depending on the final diagnosis your dog should be able to return to a normal diet once she is better.