Gastrointestinal in Dogs

  • 3. Gastrointestinal
  • 3.1 Vomiting

Vomiting is one of the most common signs of intestinal disease that our pet animals can show us. Typically vomiting is a sign of inflammation of the stomach and can be elicited by eating things that would irritate the stomach. In cats feeding cold cat food will cause vomiting. Vomiting can also be caused by irritation of the vomiting center of the brain. Motion sickness, toxins, visual signals can all cause this center to be activated causing vomiting without any real intestinal disease present.

Vomiting is usually proceeded by nausea which is demonstrated by drooling or smacking of the lips. This is followed by retching and abdominal movements that result in the eventual emptying of the stomach. Vomiting of the stomach contents is followed by clear vomitus of gastric (stomach) juices. As vomiting persists, bile from the small intestine is brought up and the vomit may change to a yellow foamy consistency. Later there will be small flecks of blood in the vomit. Vomitus that has a smell of feces is usually an indication of intestinal disease.

Regurgitation appears like vomiting but does not have the retching or nausea associated with it. Regurgitation is seen in esophageal diseases such as obstruction or mal-function of this tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach.

When an animal vomits it looses a large amount of sodium and chloride and water. This can quickly lead to metabolic problems if it persists. Prevention of consumption of food or water is the right way to prevent vomiting. Pick up the food or water and keep the stomach from having to function so that it can heal for at least 24 hours. Without a rest the stomach will persist in vomiting, making the pet dehydrated. Ice chips may be given if the animal seems thirsty. Check for dehydration by:

  1. Skin tent – Pick up the skin on the neck or back and raise it up above the back or neck. Let it go. It should quickly snap back into place. If it does not then the pet is dehydrated.
  2. Eyes – If the eyes appear sunken into the head, then dehydration is present.
  3. Gums – Rub your finger inside the mouth – if the gums are dry, the pet is dehydrated.

Home medicines for humans can be given to help stop simple vomiting:

  • Reglan (.1 mg/lb)
  • Tagamet (10 mg/lb)
  • Zantac (1 mg/lb)
  • 3.2 Small Bowel Diarrhea

There are two major divisions of the intestinal tract, the small intestine and the large intestine. These two divisions give us very different signs when they are ill. The small intestine functions to digest food and essentially take a meal and turn it into something that can go into the bloodstream for use by the body. To do this the small intestine will break down the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into their element, with the help of pancreatic juice, bile, stomach acid and large volumes of water.

Dysfunction of this organ gives us large volumes of watery diarrhea. The affected animal can usually hold it until it can get outside but then the diarrhea is usually projectile, watery and will have a bad odor. The diarrhea is undigested food, fats, and protein. Large amounts of water are lost and the animal can become dehydrated quickly. Small bowel diarrhea can be caused by dietary indiscretion, viral infections (parvo, corona, distemper), coccidia, food poisoning or other toxins. Small bowel diarrhea is usually preceded by vomiting.

If vomiting is not present then small bowel diarrhea is treated with ample access of water. No food to allow the intestine to rest. Pepto-Bismol (1 ml/lb) may be given. (1 teaspoon = 5 ml & 1 tablespoon = 15 ml)

Very dark diarrhea that has a tar-like appearance is most likely due to blood from the intestine or feeding meat or liver.

Bland food is offered after the diarrhea has stopped. Rice, white meat chicken boiled, yogurt, mashed potatoes, hamburger meat with fat drained. This should be fed for three days before weaning back to normal food.

  • 3.3 Large Bowel Diarrhea

The large intestine or color or large bowel functions to store the by-product of food digestion until an opportune time. Loss of this function results in a particular type of diarrhea. This large bowel diarrhea or Colitis is typified by small amounts of frequently placed stools. The stools will be in small closely arranged patties that have a greasy or mucous coating. There may be flecks of bright red blood present. The dog can’t wait until he is outside to go and strains a lot as if he is constipated when defecating. This type of diarrhea has an increased frequency and urgency that is not seen in small bowel diarrhea, usually the diarrhea does not have as bad an odor to it.

Large bowel irritation is caused by allergic reactions, nervous reactions to stress, whipworms and certain toxins. The blood presence is normally not a concern. Cats will frequently demonstrate colitis with defecation of small amounts of blood. These are usually long haired cats and the color is objecting to processing this hair.

High fiber diets are used to treat this diarrhea on a long term basis. Metamucil may be added or other forms of fiber.

Home remedies that will stop the urgency other than withholding food are Imodium-AD (0.1 mg/lb).

  • 3.4 Bloody Diarrhea

Blood diarrhea in dogs is seen as either a small bowel problem or large bowel problem. Severe virus infections such as parvo, or severe poisons can cause bloody diarrhea or an irritation of the small intestine. More commonly however is the incidence of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis which is usually a large bowel disease. This illness usually hits toy breed dogs and can be very serious. The diarrhea looks like strawberry jelly with blood mixed with mucous.

Home treatment should be avoided and emergency treatment be sought.

Usually seen in small breed dogs (Poodles, Dachshunds, Min. Schnauzers). Signs: Acute onset of vomiting, “jamlike” bloody consistency to diarrhea or feces, straining when defecating. This can progress to severe dehydration and shock in these small dogs and can be fatal without prompt veterinary treatment.

  • 3.5 Bloat

Gastric dilatation and volvulus is the technical name for bloat in dogs. This common disease of older large breed dogs can be rapidly fatal. It is the result of excessive accumulation of gas within the stomach that causes the stomach to rotate on its long axis. This rotation twists the inflow channel (esophagus) and outflow channel (small intestine) off, thereby preventing gas escape. The stomach continues to swell like a large balloon inside the dog. This balloon compresses the blood vessels feeding the heart causing heart failure, shock and accumulation of metabolic toxins. The spleen is attached to the stomach and is displaced in this process usually loosing its blood supply. This illness is very serious and can result from exercise after a large meal or after drinking a large amount of water. Personal experience with dogs bloating after being boarded: The pets are taken home, fed and watered and kept unattended in the back yard while the owners unpack. The dog overeats and runs around unrestricted, then he bloats but no one sees him until it is too late.

Bloat is managed initially by releasing the air from the stomach. Signs of bloat are a dog laying on his side with a swollen appearance, drooling, grunting, having difficulty breathing, and pale gums. The stomach can be thumped with the resulting sound of a “ping” as if a basketball were thumped.

Emergency veterinary care should be sought. If necessary, decompression may be tried with a tube placed down the mouth to the stomach. The hose should be fairly rigid with a smooth tapered tip. There is a danger of rupture. If the tube is unsuccessful, a decompression of the stomach with a trocar placed behind the last rib on the right side into the stomach to let the air out might be life saving. These procedures are correct left to the veterinarians.

Most dogs will need surgery after a bloat. The prognosis is poor for any dog with bloat. Surgery can prevent it from happening again.