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Is This An Upset Stomach Or A Sign Of Something More?

Hi everyone! Working as a small animal veterinarian, one of the most common ailments I see in pets are upset stomachs.  I would have to say that about 50% of the appointments I see in a day are because of vomiting or diarrhea.  Most of these stomach issues are caused by a simple problem with a simple solution.  The most common causes of non-complicated vomiting and diarrhea are:

  • Food Indiscretion (eating something they do not normally eat)
  • Stress
  • Parasites

I generally prescribe some medications and within a few days the dogs are back to being themselves. On occasion, however, my patients come in for vomiting and diarrhea and it is not so simple.  So as pet parents, when should we be concerned that an upset stomach may be a bigger or ongoing health concern?  The best way to answer this question is to start by asking how often your dog is experiencing an upset stomach.  An occasional episode of vomiting or diarrhea is usually not anything more serious.  If your dog is having an episode every few months that resolves quickly or with medication, I am not too concerned, especially if these episodes are associated with eating something they do not normally eat, or something that may have caused stress (such as their owners leaving on a vacation, or a new pet in the home).  The next question to answer is, are there other clinical signs associated with the vomiting and diarrhea that may indicate a more serious problem?  And finally, how severe is the vomiting and diarrhea?  Clinical signs that I tell all my pet parents to monitor for and which require more advanced testing include:

  • Multiple episodes of vomiting and diarrhea a month
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite and refusing food
  • Chronic soft stool
  • Unable to keep food down due to vomiting
  • Lethargy and sickness
  • Appearing painful and uncomfortable
  • Multiple episodes of vomiting throughout the day despite having no food or water in their stomach

When my patients are showing any of the above-mentioned signs, I always perform more tests such as blood work, radiographs, and possible ultrasounds to test for more serious diseases. These clinical signs can be associated with more serious conditions such as foreign bodies, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, or even cancer.  If you have any concerns whatsoever, please have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian.

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