Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and/or diarrhea are common in dogs and cats. There are numerous causes of vomiting and diarrhea, but they’re often broadly subdivided into two categories: primary gastrointestinal (GI) diseases versus diseases outside of the GI tract. Primary GI tract diseases include inflammation, infection, infiltration, and obstruction. Diseases outside of the GI tract that can cause vomiting and diarrhea include a variety of systemic, metabolic, or endocrine disorders. Importantly, GI obstructions may require surgery, while most other causes are medically managed.

Regardless of the underlying cause, significant vomiting and diarrhea may cause dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities. For this reason- and to help elucidate the underlying cause of vomiting and diarrhea- diagnostics may be advised. In cases where diagnostics are largely unremarkable and an underlying cause is not identified, a diagnosis of “non-specific gastroenteritis” may be presumed.

Primary Gastrointestinal Diseases:

Common gastrointestinal diseases that can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea include abrupt diet changes, dietary sensitivities, dietary indiscretion or toxin exposure (getting into something that upsets that stomach and/or intestines), GI infections (viruses, bacteria, or parasites), and GI obstructions (objects that get stuck within the stomach or intestines). Inflammatory or cancerous processes within the intestines can also cause vomiting and diarrhea. Your pet’s medical history, age, current diet, any history of dietary indiscretion, and exposure to other dogs can help to inform an initial treatment plan. Radiographs (x-rays) are often advised to rule out surgical obstructions, while blood work may be advised to evaluate for significant dehydration. Fecal testing may be performed to evaluate for GI parasites. If the clinical signs persist or recur, an abdominal ultrasound and/or more specific blood work with an internal medicine specialist may be advised.

Self-limiting vomiting or diarrhea is often treated on an out-patient basis with a combination of medications to help settle the stomach and a bland diet. More specific treatments may be indicated in cases for which parasites or other infections are suspected. In many cases, fluids are given under the skin to help treat mild dehydration. Diet recommendations may be made if your pet has a history of a sensitive stomach or diarrhea, in the absence of more significant underlying disease.