when pets overflow

After five years of living with the world’s greatest mother-in-law, my family recently was able to move in our own house, which is, in a word, fantastic! Along with this joy, though, was the stress involved in every move, and even though they didn’t have to do any of the packing, the dogs felt the stress, too.

Change is change, and my German Shepherd, Jack, doesn’t deal with change very well. The first night in our new house, I woke up to the sound of our other dog, George, whining and pacing upstairs. I traipsed downstairs in the dark to see what was bothering him and was greeted first by the smell and second by the wet slap of Jack’s diarrhea covered tail on my bare leg and he wagged hello. Yuck!

In addition to that mess, George’s dog bed was covered with an ocean of slimy vomit (why throw up on your own bed when you can do it on your brother’s?!) No wonder George couldn’t sleep!

Stomach upset is a common problem for many of my patients. Here are a few tips to help you get through such a crisis and to let you know when its time for a trip to the vet.

  • Occasional bouts of vomit and diarrhea are normal. The most important thing to realize is the difference between a little stomach upset and when your pet needs medical care. If they vomit once or maybe several times over a short period of time, say 15 minutes, but then they are bright, wagging their tail, and wanting to play, you can watch them to see how they do.
  • If they are continuing to vomit, or are acting very depressed and lethargic, or if your labrador who never misses a meal is now turning his nose up at a cookie, take them immediately to your vet. If your dog is retching to vomit but not producing anything, has a bloated looking stomach and is acting extremely depressed, this is a do not wait go directly to the vet no matter what time of day or night emergency.
Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) or bloat is a life threatening emergency.
Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) or bloat is a life threatening emergency.

The same rule of thumb can be applied to diarrhea. If it passes on its own within 24 hours and your dog is still acting pretty bright, then try some of the ideas below.

  • First, take up all food and water, especially the water. A vomiting dog will often go to the water bowl, drink, and then continue to vomit. Take the water away. Once your dog goes a few hours without any vomiting, you can allow him to have a few sips every hour. Do not allow him to over drink or he may start vomiting again.

What to do when there is too much poo?

  • Withhold food for 12-24 hours. When you do offer food again, feed a bland diet using a simple protein (cooked lean ground beef or cooked boneless, skinless chicken) and simple carbohydrate (cooked white rice or potato) in a 1:2 ratio. Feed small amounts at first – think one or two meatball-sized portions every three to four hours.
  • As your dog recovers, you can feed larger and larger potions at a decreased frequency and start mixing back in their normal food.

This whole process should take no more than one to two days. If your dog is still symptomatic after that, it is time for professional help. I can’t stress enough that these hints are for dogs that are otherwise acting and feeling fine. Do not wait to take them to the veterinarian if they are acting lethargic or uncomfortable.blackdog

Our story ended with me doing a lot of 4 a.m. clean up (here’s another trick of the trade: to clean up especially slimy vomit, rip a paper plate in half and use it as a scoop). I keep medication at home for Jack’s frequent diarrhea episodes, which he was started on immediately, and I picked up all food and water. By that evening, Jack was feeling better again, and George and I got a full night’s sleep!

Marina Siegert is a veterinarian.

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