Gastrointestinal upset (GI upset) includes vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Symptoms of GI upset can include anorexia (loss of interest in food), tender abdomen, and lethargy. It’s important for patients with GI upset to be treated immediately as life-threatening changes can develop quickly. If you are unsure of the urgency of your pet’s condition, call your veterinarian’s office and discuss the symptoms with them.
The most common causes for vomiting include an abrupt diet change, dietary indiscretion (eating something they shouldn’t), obstruction (something is lodged in their stomach or intestines), intestinal parasites, a virus, ulcers, sour stomach from fasting or stress, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). When you bring in your pet, the veterinarian will distinguish between self-limiting and life threatening.
Self-limiting generally includes bouts of vomiting that include one or two episodes, a generally normal attitude, no diarrhea or other symptoms, and no abdominal pain. In these cases, the general recommendation is resting their intestinal tract by not feeding anything for 12 to 24 hours. Start by feeding small meals of a bland diet as recommended by your veterinarian. Once your pet has been eating without vomiting for a couple of days, you can begin to transition them back to their regular diet. Take about a week: gradually remove relative amounts of the bland diet and replace them with the regular food. If the vomiting recurs, have your pet seen immediately by a veterinarian.
Life threatening means that without medical intervention, your pet can become dangerously dehydrated. This generally includes continual vomiting to the point of retching, abdominal bloating, vomiting with diarrhea and lethargy, obvious abdominal pain, vomiting in an animal losing weight, or multiple episodes of vomiting in animals under 12 weeks old. Depending on the type of symptoms your animal is displaying, we may need to test blood values, take radiographs, and/or hospitalize with IV fluids and medications.
The most common causes for diarrhea include an abrupt diet change, whether that is from one brand to another or from one flavor to another; dietary indiscretion (eating something they shouldn’t), intestinal parasites, a virus, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or food intolerance/allergy.
The severity of your pet’s diarrhea will aid the veterinarian to determine the initial course of treatment. A fecal sample is often needed to help determine the cause of diarrhea and ensure the appropriate treatment. Sometimes oral medications are all that is needed to treat your pet, however in some severe cases hospitalization may be required with IV fluids and IV antibiotics.