Sickness and Diarrhoea: is it a Canine Emergency?

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Is your dog vomiting? Have you noticed a change in colour or consistency of their poop? Sickness and diarrhoea are pretty common in pets and can be caused by lots of things. Often it’s nothing to worry about - they might have eaten something unsavoury or picked up a bug like we do. Although most cases settle on their own we do need to be careful because sometimes it may be a sign of a more worrying condition. Vomiting especially can cause rapid dehydration. Here are some pointers to help you decide if your pet’s sickness or diarrhoea needs veterinary attention

Taking Action

The first step, if your dog is being sick, is to stop feeding and make sure there is plenty of fresh water available. If your dog continues to vomit for more than 8 hours or is vomiting very frequently, seek veterinary advice. There’s usually no need to withhold food if your dog has diarrhoea. Self-limiting diarrhoea should normally settle in 2-3 days.

However, there are some circumstances where you should not wait for 24 hours before talking to your vet, if your dog is being sick.

Call your vet if…

  • Your dog is very young or very old (as they can become dehydrated very quickly)
  • Your dog has an existing health condition, such as diabetes
  • Your dog already takes medicine. Ask for advice about whether it can or should be stopped while your pet is being sick
  • You see blood in vomit or diarrhoea or black, tarry looking material is being passed
  • Your dog looks very miserable, becomes depressed or the gums feel dry and tacky
  • Your dog’s tummy starts to swell or the dog starts to groan or tries to be sick but nothing comes up. Swelling can be a sign of a serious problem – so call your vet immediately if you spot this.
  • After 24 hours, your dog’s tummy appears to settle and you need advice about what to feed next, talk to your vet. Vets will often recommend a specially formulated food such as Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d, rather than an immediate return to your pet’s normal food.

One last word of advice – call your vet before taking your sick dog to the practice. They may ask you to wait in a different waiting area if they suspect your dog could be infectious to other patients.

Reviewed by Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS