Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR
Hospital Administrator at Case Veterinary Hospital
Last week I came home from work to a husband who was concerned about our dog, Jake. Apparently, he had vomited up grass and was having bouts of diarrhea. Since the dog is my "category" of expertise just as the car and boat mechanics are my husband's, he wanted me to have a fix for Jake. Through questioning, I ascertained that he had not gotten into the garbage, he had been playful although "not quite his usual "hyperness", and that he had eaten some grass.
My approach was to wait and see how he did overnight. His attitude was good and he did eat the smaller ration of food that I offered. Upon palpating, his tummy did appear slightly painful but, otherwise, he acted normal and did not vomit the food back up.
I think my husband was a little surprised at my nonchalant way of handling but he knew that I would be diligent about ensuring our beloved little guy was ok. The way I figured it, Jake was allowed an occasional tummy ache just like us and I wouldn't get too concerned unless his symptoms lasted more than 12-24 hours or he became more symptomatic or painful.
So what do we suggest when clients call us with the same concerns? Withhold all food for 12-24 hours and then slowly reintroduce in small quantities. I like to keep a can of I/D (stands for Intestinal Diet by Science Diet) on hand as it is a very mild diet that is easier than making a homemade, bland diet (consisting of chicken and white rice with all fat drained). I give a small portion of that first and, if it is eaten readily and held down, then I slowly mix in with regular diet every few hours until all is back to normal ( no vomiting, normal stools)
Make sure water is available, or, if vomiting is a symptom, offer a very small amount every few hours. Many dogs and cats will eat grass as Jake did when their stomachs are upset and they want to make themselves vomit. This is normal but should be an infrequent occurrence.
If your pet can't hold food or water down for more than 12 hours, you should get him in to see a veterinarian. Vomiting and diarrhea can be symptoms of a wide range of problems from mild to severe. My dog will eat anything he comes across so I always worry about him having an obstruction. If Jake doesn't improve in 12 hours or, if I know he did eat something like plastic or change, etc, then I know I need to get him x-rayed to see where the item is located.
You are the best judge of when your pet is not feeling well. Careful monitoring of any changes and quick responses are the best way to handle these incidents. Don't worry about calling your veterinarian for advice; that is what they are there for and can offer suggestions on what to do. At our hospital, it is heart wrenching to see a pet come in with an obstruction from a bone, etc and be a poor surgical candidate because they are so weak from dehydration due to the owner waiting more than 24 hours to see if the problem resolved on its own. An occasional upset stomach is not unusual for us, our children, or our pets but be diligent about monitoring duration and get him to a vet if symptoms last too long.