An occasional episode of vomiting or diarrhea is fairly common in dogs. Based on pet health insurance claims, upset stomach and diarrhea are among the 10 most common medical conditions of dogs.
Seeing your dog vomit or pass loose stools can be distressing. But vomiting and diarrhea also aren’t necessarily bad. They’re actually defensive measures that protect the body from potential harm.
As a pet parent, how do you know if your dog’s tummy troubles are signs of a sensitive stomach or something more serious? Here’s what every dog owner needs to consider when stomach upset occurs.
Is it a sensitive stomach?
Occasional stomach or intestinal upset in a healthy dog isn’t cause for worry, especially if the dog ate something unusual or indigestible — what veterinarians call “dietary indiscretion.” If your dog has frequent episodes of unexplained vomiting, diarrhea or gas that resolve quickly, he or she may have a sensitive stomach. These dogs’ stomachs can’t handle a lot of variety in their food or treats.
If your dog has a sensitive stomach, here’s what you can do to help your dog’s digestive system run smoothly.
Feed a quality, highly digestible food formulated for a sensitive digestive system.
Your dog’s diet has a significant influence on his or her gastrointestinal (GI) health. A dog food made from a limited number of quality, highly digestible ingredients can be easier for your dog’s digestive system to process. Foods formulated for dogs with sensitive stomachs, such as Diamond CARE Sensitive Stomach Formula for Adult Dogs, also have moderate amounts of fat and a balance of soluble and insoluble fibers.
Be consistent with the food and treats that you feed.
Any change in nutrition can irritate a dog’s digestive system. If you and your veterinarian determine that a diet change is appropriate, you’ll want to switch food gradually, over the course of 10 to 14 days. A sudden change-up may cause more GI upset than you’re trying to relieve.
Watch what your dog eats.
When your dog has a sensitive stomach, you must think about the food you feed and the treats you give. You may need to stop giving food treats altogether or only cut out table scraps. And keep a watchful eye on your dog to ensure he or she doesn’t eat garbage, spoiled food or anything questionable.
Are your dog’s tummy troubles a sign of something more serious?
Yes, vomiting and diarrhea can be signs of serious health problems. These may include pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), foreign body obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease, food allergy or even cancer. Answers to three questions can guide your decision to seek immediate veterinary care:
- How often is your dog vomiting or having diarrhea?
- How severe is the vomiting or diarrhea?
- Are other symptoms or clinical signs present?
Repeated vomiting or retching (dry heaving) along with severe diarrhea and abdominal pain can be very serious. You’ll want to seek veterinary care as soon as you can. That may mean seeking emergency veterinary evaluation and treatment.
Signs of other serious stomach and intestinal problems include:
- Several episodes of vomiting and diarrhea in a month
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite and refusing food
- Chronically soft stool
- Inability to keep food down due to vomiting
- Lethargy (decreased activity or sluggishness)
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
When should you talk to your veterinarian?
Any time you’re worried about your dog’s health, you should give your veterinarian a call for some quick advice. If your veterinarian isn’t available when you call, a veterinary nurse can help you determine whether to schedule an appointment. And if you’re uncertain about what to do, it’s best to err on the side of caution and have your dog evaluated. Your furry friend may need an anti-nausea medication and fluids given under the skin.
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