My pet has diarrhoea. Should I see my vet?
Vomiting and diarrhoea are common symptoms and are not diseases in themselves, but are symptoms of underlying disease. It is important to look at the pet and the other symptoms in order to make a diagnosis and choose the correct treatment.
My pet has diarrhoea: what are the possible causes?
Firstly, we need to look at whether the diarrhoea and vomiting started suddenly, i.e. in the preceding day or two (acute vomiting and diarrhoea) or if it has been going for longer, more than a week (chronic vomiting and diarrhoea).
- Garbage disease: The number one cause of acute vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs is ‘garbage disease,’ or acute gastroenteritis, as a result of eating something rotten or too rich for their systems. This normally results in a short bout of vomiting and/or diarrhoea and in many causes will blow over within a day or so. But sometimes pets can become very dehydrated and they may need intensive treatment.
- Viruses: There are several viruses that can cause acute vomiting and diarrhoea, the most serious of these being parvovirus or distemper virus. There are a number of other viruses, e.g. rotavirus that can cause milder vomiting or diarrhoea.
- Foreign bodies: Bones, stones, toys, and ropes in the digestive system are another common cause of vomiting in dogs and cats. Certain breeds of dogs, e.g. Bassets, beagles and bull terriers, present with foreign body ingestion more often than other breeds but any breed may eat something they shouldn’t. Puppies also tend to be more commonly affected. Cats are less likely to present with foreign bodies in the digestive system unless they have other behavioural issues like wool sucking. If the pet is vomiting and not producing stool at all, we would be concerned about foreign bodies.
- Diseases: There are a number of diseases that can cause sudden onset vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs and cats including pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), bladder or kidney infections, a blocked bladder, high fever, stomach ulcers and poisoning.
- Constipation: A tummy that hasn’t worked in a while can also cause vomiting.
- Parasites: A variety of parasites, including worms and Giardia can cause diarrhoea.
My pet has diarrhoea: how do I know if it’s chronic?
Chronic, or long-term, vomiting can be caused by many different diseases and it is a symptom that should not be ignored. Common causes include:
- Kidney disease (particularly in cats)
- Liver disease
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Cancer in the stomach or intestines
- Stomach ulcers
- Parasites, e.g. Giardia and Coccidia
When should you take your pet to the vet?
Firstly, if you are worried then please don’t hesitate to make an appointment. We’d rather see a pet early and rule out serious disease than wait too late and limit our options for treatment.
It is essential to see a vet if your pet shows the following symptoms:
- Vomiting or diarrhoea in a puppy, kitten, or toy breed (e.g. Yorkie, Toy Pom) for longer than 6-12 hours. The smaller the animal the more prone they are to dehydration and other complications.
- If vomiting has persisted for longer than 24 hours or if the animal is vomiting a lot (more than 4 times in 12 hours)
- If the pet has diarrhoea and has not eaten for 24 hours
- If the pet is eating but the diarrhoea lasts more than 2 days
- If there is blood in the vomit or diarrhoea.
- If the stool is dark or black in colour or if the vomit looks like coffee grounds
- If the pet is very lethargic and has dry gums
- If the pet has had chronic vomiting or diarrhoea, in other words vomiting or diarrhoea that has gone on for more than a week, even if it just happens intermittently.
When should you panic?
It is hardly ever necessary to panic, but if you are worried please feel free to contact us for advice. And if your pet has any of the above symptoms please make an appointment as soon as possible. It is common for pets, especially dogs, to have a short bout of vomiting or diarrhoea. If the diarrhoea lasts for less than a day or if they have diarrhoea but they are still bright and eating well, there is no need to worry. But they should go back to normal within 24 hours. If not, please see your vet.
What to expect when you visit your vet?
We will ask you for a full history when you bring your pet in for consultation. Please try and remember and tell us as much as possible about what your pet experienced and what symptoms they showed leading up the visit. Animals can’t talk and we need to look for subtle clues in order to figure out which one of the many potential diseases is causing the symptoms.
We will then do a nose-to-tail examination to look for further clues. Most cases will require simple and conservative treatment such as anti-nausea medication and medication to help clear up the diarrhoea. But in some cases we may recommend hospitalising the pet for a drip to correct dehydration, and to do further tests which may include blood tests, x-rays of the abdomen or an ultrasound of the abdomen to rule out some of the other causes of vomiting or diarrhoea.
Seeing your pet in discomfort from vomiting or diarrhoea can be distressing and messy to deal with. Please feel free to give your vet a call or WhatsApp for advice on what to do for your pet.