Health & Wellness

Diarrhoea and vomiting in dogs - common causes and treatment

Bianca Amponsah
A poodle wrapped in toilet paper sitting on toilet

Diarrhoea and vomiting are common reasons for emergency admissions in pets.

As pet parents, it's crucial to recognise the symptoms that require immediate medical attention and those that will resolve on their own.

Identifying the cause of diarrhoea is essential to provide the right treatment. 

Diarrhoea in dogs is characterized by frequent toilet trips and soft, watery faeces.

It can be caused by many factors, and most dogs will recover naturally within a few days.

However, severe diarrhoea, long-term diarrhoea, recurrent bouts of diarrhoea, and very severe cases require veterinary attention.

Prompt veterinary care can be the difference between life and death.

Watery diarrhoea can cause dehydration, which is especially dangerous for puppies.

Therefore, it's vital to seek veterinary attention if your dog has severe or ongoing diarrhoea.

Veterinarians can determine the cause of diarrhoea and provide the appropriate treatment to help your furry friend recover quickly.

    Why do dogs get diarrhoea? 


    Dogs can suffer from diarrhoea due to various causes. While some cases may resolve with time, some may require prompt veterinary attention.

    If your dog seems unwell or doesn't recover quickly, take them to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your vet may conduct some tests to identify the cause of the diarrhoea.

    There are several common reasons why dogs may suffer from diarrhoea. These include: 

    • New food - Dogs may experience diarrhoea or vomiting if fed unfamiliar food that upsets their stomach.

    • New medication - Some dogs may get diarrhoea as a side effect of worming treatments, antibiotics, pain relief, or other medications.

    • Scavenging - Dogs that love to scavenge can get tummy upsets from what they find and eat. 

    • Toxins — Lots of toxins can cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. In some cases, these symptoms may progress to more severe illness.

    • Food allergies - Certain foods can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs, leading to inflammation of the gut and potentially severe or repetitive diarrhoea.

    • Infection - This type of diarrhoea can result from parasites, bacteria, or viruses. Parasites include worms and small organisms called protozoa. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to diarrhoea caused by parasites, which can be severe and lead to dehydration.

    • Dogs that consume raw food are at a higher risk of contracting foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella.
    • Many viruses can cause diarrhoea in dogs, some of which are mild, while others can be fatal. For instance, parvovirus is a deadly virus that can cause diarrhoea in dogs.

    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) - IBD is a medical condition that occurs when cells from the immune system multiply in the gut wall, preventing the proper absorption of food and water. 

    • Cancer - Intestinal cancer, unfortunately, is a common condition in senior dogs that can cause diarrhoea.

    • Obstruction - Obstruction of the intestines can also cause diarrhoea in dogs. This could occur when a dog swallows undigestible objects unintentionally, such as bits of a tennis ball.

    Diseases of other organs 


    • Pancreas - The pancreas is an important organ that aids in digestion. However, when it becomes inflamed, it may not function properly, leading to diarrhoea.  

    • Liver - Liver disease can cause several symptoms in dogs, including diarrhoea.

    • Kidneys - Dogs suffering from severe kidney disease may also experience diarrhoea.

    • Hormonal imbalances caused by diseases such as Addison's and diabetes can also result in several symptoms, including diarrhoea.

    When do I call the vet? 


    Please seek veterinary advice if:

    • Your puppy (under six months) experiences diarrhoea.
    • Your dog is passing blood or dark reddish-brown diarrhoea.
    • Your dog's diarrhoea is very watery or in large volumes.
    • Diarrhoea continues (with/without vomiting) for over 24 hours despite fasting.
    • Your dog is not eating, appears dull or seems in pain (looking at their tummy, bowing on their front legs, seeming unable to settle) or if your dog has repeated bouts of diarrhoea.

    If your dog isn't displaying any of the above symptoms and just has a temporary spell of diarrhoea, you can use supplements.

    Buddy Digestive Paste for cats and dogs is an excellent option to keep in the cupboard for runny poo problems. 

    Our Digestive supplements firm up sloppy stools quickly and can keep your dog comfortable until the diarrhoea passes.

    Now let's look at vomiting. 

    Dogs can vomit for various reasons.

    Although some causes of vomiting are not severe, others require immediate veterinary attention.

    Dogs may vomit due to inflammation, infection, other diseases, or something they have eaten.

    Even if your dog appears to be well, it is best to contact your vet if it has been vomiting repeatedly for more than 24 hours.

    It is also important to contact your vet if your dog is vomiting and not eating or drinking or is quieter than usual, or if it has abnormal bowel movements.

    If your dog is attempting to vomit but is unable to do so, it is a medical emergency, and you should contact your vet right away.

    Why do dogs vomit? 


    Dogs have a natural tendency to scavenge, and they are not picky about what they eat.

    This is why their stomachs are designed to expel things that they should not have consumed

    Most commonly, dogs vomit because they have ingested something inappropriate while out on a walk.

    Here are the major causes of vomiting: 

      • Rich or unfamiliar foods can irritate a dog's stomach. This can range from mild to severe, necessitating veterinary treatment.

      • A dog may have a particular sensitivity to a particular food. A sensitivity can cause vomiting over a longer period, especially if the dog is regularly fed the offending food.

      • Dogs might consume foods that are safe for humans but toxic to them, such as chocolate. This can cause vomiting and pose a risk of dangerous toxic effects.

      • Dogs may occasionally ingest things that are not food and are not broken down by their stomach. These "foreign bodies" may include sticks, bones, or plastic toys. They may cause a blockage in the gut as they move through the digestive system, resulting in an obstruction. Food cannot pass the obstruction, so it is vomited up instead. This is a severe condition that requires immediate treatment.

      • Certain medications can cause vomiting as a side effect. This is usually not a cause for concern, but it is best to consult with your vet. 

      Dogs can also start vomiting due to: 

      • Diseases of the liver or kidneys.
      • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
      • Inflammatory bowel disease.
      • Bowel cancer and other cancers.
      • Gut infections such as salmonella and parvovirus.
      • Womb infection (pyometra).
      • Neurological disease-induced dizziness.

      What To Do if Your Dog Vomits 


      If your dog is sick once or twice, appears fine otherwise, and is still eating and drinking, there is no need to be concerned.

      However, you should keep an eye on them.

      Make sure to call your vet immediately if your dog: 

      • Vomits several times in one day.
      • Brings up blood in its vomit.
      • Is less than six months old and vomits more than a couple of times . Puppies are more likely than adult dogs to become dehydrated from vomiting.
      • Has other symptoms in addition to vomiting such as being quiet, not wanting to move, or not eating or drinking.
      • Is attempting to vomit but nothing is coming up - this may be a sign of a twisted stomach (also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus), which is an emergency!
      • Vomits after taking medication - sometimes it is a one-off, and your dog can continue the medication safely, but you may need to stop the medication and switch to an alternative.
      • Vomits regularly.
      Fiona Eldridge
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      Fiona Eldridge
      Hi! I'm Fiona, Buddycare's lead Veterinary Nurse and I'm here to answer all of your pet related questions dog and cat emoji
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