Gastroenteritis in dogs is a condition characterized by a sudden and severe onset of acute vomiting and diarrhea. It can lead to extreme dehydration, shock, electrolyte disturbance and acid-base imbalance, and can eventually turn out to be fatal.
Dietary indiscretion and infection are the chief causes of gastroenteritis in dogs. Over eating, sudden dietary changes, ingestion of foreign material, eating spoiled food etc. that are frequent with dogs are largely responsible for acute vomiting and diarrhea. Bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections also cause gastroenteritis in dogs. Apart from them, drug reactions, abdominal disorders like pancreatitis, pyometra, peritonitis etc, metabolic disorders like diabetes, kidney and liver disease etc, and obstruction/blockage in the gastrointestinal tract are also responsible for acute vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.
The leading symptoms in gastroenteritis in dogs are sudden onset of severe and acute vomiting of intestinal contents through the mouth, and frequent passage of watery stools. Blood may sometimes be present in the vomit and fecal material. The dog may show signs of depression and listlessness in the acute stage of the illness. Though occasional vomiting and diarrhea are common among dogs, the sudden onset of acute vomiting and diarrhea symptoms is not normal, and requires attention to prevent situation going out of hand.
Diagnosis and Tests
Acute vomiting and diarrhea symptoms in dogs usually resolve quickly and do not necessitate elaborate diagnostic tests. However, if symptoms persist over 2-3 days, or when there is blood in the stool or in the vomit material, the following common diagnostic tests are recommended:
o Stool Examination
o Complete Blood Count (CBC)
o Routine Urine Examination
o Blood Biochemistry profiling
o Ultrasound or X-rays of Abdomen
Treatment and Care
Restoring fluid loss and correcting electrolyte imbalance are the two most important approaches of treatment. Intravenous administration of fluids and electrolytes may be necessary. For this, the dog may have to be taken to the hospital. Restricting oral intake of foods and drinks is advisable for several hours to give the gastrointestinal tract complete rest. Water and a bland diet may gradually be introduced once conditions stabilize. Original diet may be introduced after 2-3 days if the vomiting has stopped completely. If there is any recurrence of vomiting after introducing regular foods, oral intake should be stopped at once and the dog may be referred to a veterinarian.
It may sometimes be necessary to put the dog on antibiotics to control infection and on symptomatic drugs to regulate vomiting and diarrhea and provide a soothing coat to the abdominal tract. These medicines can improve the severity of symptoms and provide some comfort to the pet. However, oral medicines must be used only when it is absolutely necessary, and on consulting a veterinarian, as these medicines can sometimes irritate the already inflamed intestinal lining and increase vomiting.
Care is very important. The ailing dog need to be attended and its conditions monitored carefully. Veterinary help may be necessary, and if the clinical signs do not mitigate in a day or two, or the symptoms get worse, the dog may require another round of evaluation.
Living with Gastroenteritis
Proper dietary management is very important for reducing the incidence of gastroenteritis in dogs. The dog and its environment should also be kept clean to minimize chances of infection. However, if the dog has frequent bouts of gastroenteritis, a thorough evaluation may be necessary to find out the causes and start appropriate treatment.