Home Care After Vomiting & Diarrhea
June 6, 2017
Many things can cause vomiting and diarrhea in our pets. Some are very serious and require a visit to the clinic, while others are minor and can be treated at home. Either way, once your pet is on the mend we have some recommendations for re-feeding to prevent re-insulting the digestive tract and speed recovery when our pets aren’t feeling their best.
- For pets over six months old, a short fast allows the stomach to rest and recover from inflammation after an episode of vomiting. In most cases you do not need to fast completely from water, but if your pet tries to gorge on water (which can trigger a vomiting reflex), offer small amounts frequently to start rather than leaving a whole bowl available. For diarrhea without vomiting, you will not usually need to fast your pet, as the intestines recover more quickly from diarrhea if the pet is fed.
- After 8-12 hours without vomiting, or if your pet has diarrhea without vomiting, start feeding small, frequent amounts of a bland diet (discussed below). Small meals are less likely to aggravate or overwhelm your pet’s digestive tract while it recovers. Start with just 2-3 tablespoons every 2-3 hours for the first 8-12 hours, then gradually increase the meal size and decrease the meal frequency over the next 2 days or so.
- If your pet has been prescribed any oral medication, you can hide it in a meatball of the bland diet just big enough to cover it. Do NOT use foods like cheese, lunchmeat, hot dogs, peanut butter, butter, cream cheese, Pill Pockets, etc to hide these pills.
- Next, gradually start to convert over to your pet’s normal diet. Start with about 3 parts of bland diet to 1 part of normal diet for 1-2 days, then 50/50 for 1-2 days, then 1 part bland diet to 3 parts normal diet for 1-2 days, then back to the normal diet. If at any point the vomiting recurs, go back to 100% bland diet and call us for advice.
- Bland diets: There are commercially available canned prescription diets made specifically for re-feeding after a bout of vomiting or diarrhea. These brands include Hill’s I/D or Royal Canine GI formulas, among others. You can also make a bland diet at home if you prefer, consisting of 2-3 parts of a carbohydrate source to 1 part of a protein source. Appropriate carbohydrates include cooked rice (white or brown), cooked white potatoes, or cooked oatmeal. Appropriate protein sources include cooked chicken or turkey, lean hamburger (either boiled and drained, or browned and the fat drained and patted off), low fat cottage cheese, or scrambled egg whites. Do not use any butter, oil, salt, pepper, or other seasonings.
- Be aware that after a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, it may take 3-7 days to see stool again as the digestive system has been “cleaned out” and its motility (movement of contents through system) has been interrupted. If your pet has not produced any stool for a few days but is otherwise acting normal & comfortable and is not straining to defecate, don’t panic. Just give them a little more time.
- Stick to short, slow leash walks for the first few days especially. Walking can help stimulate normal GI motility, but more vigorous activity can overstimulate the GI tract, aggravating symptoms instead of helping.
- If diarrhea persists, checking or rechecking a stool sample may be necessary to identify a more specific treatment or medication needed for your pet’s diarrhea to resolve.
Generally speaking, pets with minor digestive upsets or who are going home after treatment for more serious digestive upsets recover well with this approach. However, you should call the clinic if:
- Your pet’s symptoms either continue, or recur at any step along the way
- Your pet is acting lethargic, painful, uninterested in normal activities (walks, playing ball, etc) or displaying other abnormal behavior
- Your pet is straining to defecate
- Your pet refuses to eat
- You have any questions or concerns
We often see a surge of minor vomiting or diarrhea in the spring and summer as dogs are outside more: Exploring, swimming, digging, and other activities can expose them to many agents of minor stomach upset. Hopefully these tips can help guide you and your pet smoothly through any minor problems, but as always call the clinic with any questions!
-Karen Christopherson DVM CVA