Tummy trouble: how to help your pet

Tummy trouble is a generic term used to describe a host of gastro-intestinal ailments which can be mild or serious. Symptoms vary from vomiting to diarrhoea and loss of appetite or constipation.

What’s causing my pet’s tummy trouble?

Acute gastroenteritis

This is very common and is characterised by sudden vomiting and diarrhoea. This is usually after your pet has eaten rich food (common over the Christmas period), food that has gone off or garbage. This usually resolves itself and if your pet is NOT vomiting and is still eating, you can get over-the-counter medication for the diarrhoea from your EberVet Vetshop or veterinary clinic.

However, if your pet’s condition does not improve within two days, get him to the vet immediately. Dehydration occurs very rapidly (especially in very young or old pets) which may necessitate a drip.

Parvovirus (katgriep)

This is endemic in South Africa, is highly contagious and can be fatal. ‘Katgriep’ is a misnomer, as it affects mainly dogs. It usually starts with vomiting and diarrhoea and there is blood in the stool. A dog with parvo will weaken very quickly. Immediate veterinary treatment can help but the prognosis for survival is 50/50.

Your dog’s best protection is vaccination, and parvovirus is covered by his annual core vaccination so don’t miss that annual vet visit.


Symptoms to look out for are vomiting, lack of appetite and constipation. This can be an emergency and should be treated as such. Your dog may need surgery; this will be determined by an examination, x-rays and or ultra-sound. Bassets, Pitbulls and Bull Terriers are particularly susceptible to bowel obstructions.


This is an inflammation of the pancreas and can be acute or chronic. Symptoms can be vague but they include loss of appetite, vomiting, sometimes diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Blood tests and or an ultra-sound will confirm diagnosis. If a pet contracts pancreatitis he will have to change his diet long-term to a lower fat diet. Cats and miniature Schnauzers are particularly at risk.

Parasites cause tummy trouble too

Worms and other parasites like Giardia can cause chronic diarrhoea. Your vet will perform tests to identify the parasite and then that. Your pet’s best protection is regular deworming.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Weightloss, chronic vomiting and diarrhoea are symptoms of this common yet difficult to diagnose disease. However, it can be treated by changing your pet’s diet and with medication. It is essential to get the proper diagnosis and to follow the treatment plan diligently.


Symptoms can include vomiting. Constipation is usually diagnosed via a thorough veterinary examination or x-rays. It is often a symptom of an underlying problem like kidney disease or back pain which your vet will need to determine before prescribing treatment. Medication, or a drip and enema are possible treatments.

Other ailments

Other illnesses that may cause vomiting and diarrhoea include kidney and liver issues. It is essential therefore that you see your vet immediately should symptoms persist for 24-48 hours.

Article by Dr Ingrid de Wet, Country Animal Clinic