Gastrointestinal Problems

Help! My pet has an upset tummy!


Tummy upsets affect us all at some point and unfortunately our pets are not immune! Vomiting, diarrhoea, or a combination or the two, are some of the most common reasons we see pets here at the surgery. Often investigations aren’t necessary as your pet will get back to fighting fit in no time, but sometimes we need to do more to find out what’s going on and treat your pet appropriately.

What can cause vomiting or diarrhoea in my pet?

The list of causes of vomiting and diarrhoea are endless, but the most common reason is that your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have! Scavenging, eating a rich meal, stealing food, and eating nasty dead animals can all cause an upset tummy.

Aside from that, food intolerances, bacterial or viral infections, worms and other parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal obstruction with foreign bodies and problems with other organs can all cause issues. Problems can range from mild, acute signs that clear up spontaneously to severe, chronic conditions that need longer term treatment.

What should I do if my pet is vomiting or has diarrhoea?

We like to see pets with vomiting or diarrhoea to assess how severe their symptoms are and to make sure they aren’t becoming dehydrated.

If the symptoms are mild and your pet still seems bright, we can provide an easily digestible diet suitable for a sensitive stomach, plus a pet probiotic to try to restore the intestinal microbial population and soothe the gut. You can also try feeding bland home cooked meals such as chicken and rice. Sometimes we can give medication to stop your pet vomiting. We always ask that you return if signs don’t resolve.

If your pet seems very unwell, we would want to admit them for medication, any investigative tests and possibly fluids to make them feel better. Specific tests and treatment would depend on the signs of your pet’s condition.

How can you investigate vomiting and diarrhoea in my pet?

Often, we don’t investigate vomiting and diarrhoea, as symptomatic treatment and a little tender loving care is all that’s needed before your pet is fully back to normal. We would, however, want to do tests in any of the following circumstances:

  • The vomiting or diarrhoea is severe.
  • Your pet seems really unwell.
  • The vomiting and diarrhoea is chronic and hasn’t responded to symptomatic treatment.
  • Your pet is losing weight.

Specific tests will depend on the exact symptoms your pet has. Test may include one or more of the following:

  • Blood tests to check organ function and hydration, and sometimes to look for specific diseases. Often blood tests don’t provide a specific answer, but they can indicate how well your pet is coping, and if they are safe to anaesthetise (for example for an X-ray).
  • X-rays and/or ultrasound to assess the intestines and other organs and look for foreign bodies!
  • Analysis of a poo sample to look for pesky worms or bacteria.
  • Sometimes trial treatments with antibiotics and de-wormers are used to see if your pet responds.
  • Diet trials, involving feeding an entirely new diet that your pet has never had before, or a diet that has been specifically formulated to not trigger inflammation in the guts, can help check if your pet has a condition related to food.
  • Small Biopsies (where we take a few small sample of different bits of the gut and analyse them) can be used if we still don’t have an answer.
How can tummy upsets be treated?

Treatment for vomiting and diarrhoea really depends on the cause! Specific diets, medications and other treatments may be what your pet needs to keep on top of their issues.

How can I prevent my pet getting an upset stomach?

Sometimes it’s impossible to prevent your pet from getting vomiting and diarrhoea, however there are a few steps you can take to keep upset stomachs to a minimum!

  • Give regular flea and worm treatments to prevent parasites from taking hold.
  • Prevent scavenging and avoid giving your pet lots of rich treats and food they aren’t used to.
  • Avoid giving meat with bones in, as this can become stuck in your pet’s guts! It’s also best to ensure your pet’s toys aren’t small enough to be swallowed.
  • If you are changing your pet’s diet, do this gradually over the period of a week so they can get used to the swap.

We hope this article has given you an insight into the world of upset tummies. Most cases resolve quickly, so there is often no need to worry. As there are so many reasons animals get tummy issues, it sometimes takes a while to find the cause! It’s worthwhile investigating though, if your pet has a chronic problem. If you would like to talk to us about your pet’s funny tummy, we would be more than happy to see you both at your local Park Vet Group clinic.