Vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and cats
Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common signs of gastrointestinal upset. There are many
possible causes for these conditions, including viruses and parasites, having eaten something bad, or even cancer. Ideally, treatment is aimed at the underlying problem, and might be as simple as temporarily withholding food or as complex as surgery or chemotherapy.
Loosely translated, the term gastroenteritis means inflamed stomach and intestines. Gastroenteritis in pets can be caused by a multitude of underlying problems ranging from minor to life threatening.
Symptoms and Identification
Vomiting and/or diarrhea are just the symptoms most easy to notice. Other symptoms that may appear include loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, abdominal ache when touched and more.
Because your pet can’t talk, your veterinarian counts on you for important information. Watch your pet’s gastrointestinal activity so you can describe the amount, frequency, and appearance of the vomiting or diarrhea. If possible, take a sample of the material to show your veterinarian. Also, a picture of the vomit or diarrhea may help a lot.
Your vet will also need to know whether your pet is drinking normal amounts of water, has a normal appetite, and is otherwise acting okay. After doing a physical exam, the vet may need to run some diagnostic tests. These may include:
- Blood work to look for organ problems like kidney disease
- Fecal testing to check for intestinal parasites or other abnormalities (checking several samples is often needed).
- Abdominal Xrays to look for masses, foreign bodies, or signs of obstruction.
- Abdominal ultrasound examination to look closer at the intestines and other abdominal organs.
Depending on the results of these tests, more specific diagnostic tests may be recommended.
Cases of mild vomiting and/or diarrhea typically respond well to basic home care. Withholding food for 24 hours to allow the gastrointestinal tract to rest, or changing the diet to easier digested may be recommended.
Unfortunately, not all cases of vomiting or diarrhea are simple and easy to treat. These conditions can sometimes be a sign of more serious problems.
When in doubt, call your veterinarian if you notice vomiting or diarrhea in your pet.