Vomiting and Diarrhoea – Is It An Emergency?

Vomiting and diarrhoea are one of the most common complaints in companion animals that we see. It can be caused either by the Gastro-intestinal (stomach and intestines) tract or outside the gastro-intestinal tract; for example kidney disease. Vomiting or/and diarrhoea can be caused by either serious illness and warrants immediate care and veterinary attention or related to less serious disease that is self limiting and will run its course without specific veterinary attention.

Here are some guidelines to help you decide if supportive care at home is all that is needed or veterinary attention is advised. If you are confused at all, please contact us on 01-2802041 for further advise or to book an appointment.

If your pet is otherwise in good health and if only showing mild bouts of vomiting or diarrhoea  (a couple of times) today and is otherwise acting normally and has a good appeitie etc – then 24hours of supportive care at home and monitoring maybe is all they need. But if you are concerned please contact us sooner for advise. Please find supportive care tips below.

When to seek immediate veterinary attention

  • Animals that are very young (puppies and kittens) or very old, even if they have vomiting or diarrhea only a few times
  • Animals with chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, kidney disease), even if they have vomiting or diarrhea only a few times
  • An animal that develops any trouble breathing
  • Your pet seems to be in pain
  • You are aware that your pet has eaten something that might be a poison
  • You are aware that your pet has eaten something that might cause a blockage (e.g., toy, sock, corn on the cob)
  • The animal is extremely lethargic or depressed
  • Profuse vomiting occurs many times in a day or attempts to vomit continuously for more than 24 hours
  • The vomit contains blood or what appears to be coffee-grounds-like material
  • The diarrhea contains more than a small amount of blood, or is a dark, tarry color
  • The animal appears dehydrated

There are two simple ways you can check hydration at home – bear in mind this is not 100% fool proof but may give you some indication.

  • If you pull gently on the skin between the shoulder blades and then let go, the skin should rapidly snap back into place. If it stays up or goes back in place very slowly, this can be a sign of dehydration.
  • If your pet allows it, you can touch its gums with your finger. They should feel moist (you can feel your own gums first as an example). If they feel dry and sticky, that is a sign of dehydration.

Supportive At-Home Care

If you are happy that your pet is otherwise bright, suffering no underlying disease, has had no access to a toxin or foreign body, has not vomited blood or had diarrhoea with blood in it etc – You can try two simple things to see if the condition is self limiting e.g. caused by dietary indiscretion. Fast your pet for 12 hours and allow access to water – offer small amount if your pets vomits after drinking a large amount of water.

If your pet has stopped vomiting, you can offer bland food after an approximately 12-hour fast. This might include a prescription diet (available from your veterinarian), or you may start with boiled chicken and rice. Feed only a small quantity at first. If the food is tolerated, you may repeat this small meal in a few hours. If vomiting and diarrhea have stopped, offer the same bland food in several moderately sized meals the following day. If your pet appears recovered on the third day, mix its regular food with the bland meals, and return to its normal food by day four.