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What Your Pet’s Upset Stomach Is Telling You

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Pets are susceptible to all kinds of stomach issues. From eating too fast to ingesting certain foods, minor actions can cause upset stomachs in dogs and cats and lead to serious health problems. Being aware of common problems and warning signs of critical illnesses can help prepare you to better help your pet if needed.

Common Stomach Issues

Dr. Georgette Wilson, a veterinarian and the director of Science and Regulatory Affairs with Hartz, says gastrointestinal issues are extremely common in dogs and cats. In fact, upset stomachs in dogs and cats are the leading cause of vet visits.

“Some stomach issues are relatively minor and resolve on their own,” said Dr. Wilson. “However, many conditions are serious, with some being potentially fatal if prompt medical attention is not sought.” Common gastrointestinal issues include:

• Diarrhea: If you’re cooking a tasty meal, you may be tempted to give your pet some scraps from the table. But while they may love the savory meat, ingesting such rich food can cause diarrhea. While this may be uncomfortable for your pet, and a bit gross for you, if he is eating and drinking normally, and is active, he probably does not need medical attention. If you want to ease your pet’s discomfort, supplementation may be able to help. However, if the symptoms continue for more than three days, you may want to consider taking your pet to visit his veterinarian to make sure nothing else is going on.

• Vomiting: Vomiting can have a broad range of causes in both cats and dogs, ranging from eating something new to more serious issues. When your pet spends a lot of time outside, eating plants, table scraps and even gulping water can cause nausea. If your pet throws up once or twice watch him for next few hours and watch out for continued vomiting or vomiting that coincides with fever, bleeding or weakness. If you witness these symptoms you should try to get your pet to the veterinarian right away. Vomiting is much less common in felines, so if your cat begins throwing up, take her to the vet as soon as you can.

• Regurgitation: Regurgitation is frequently confused with vomiting. While vomiting often includes a lot of discomfort and physical stress on your pet, regurgitation happens suddenly and without effort. The food your pet just ate will just slide out, often in the shape of a tube. Regurgitation often signals other problems in your pet, unrelated to her diet or stomach, such as an obstruction or congenital issue. If your pet regurgitates more than once or twice a month, take her to the vet for an examination.

• Pet Pancreatitis: If your pet has eaten a lot of fatty foods, she may be at risk of pancreatitis—a serious illness where the pancreas becomes inflamed and enlarged. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue and difficulty breathing. In cats, weight loss is also very common. Pet pancreatitis can be treated if caught fairly early. If pet pancreatitis goes untreated, organ and brain damage can occur. If your pet shows symptoms without improvement for more than two or three days, your companion will need to see a veterinarian.

• Blockages: Your pet probably loves spending time outside with you. While she may love the quality time, she also has more chances to eat things she shouldn’t, such as ropes, rocks and other items. Ingesting these objects can cause blockages—a condition more common in dogs than cats since dogs tend to be less picky about what they chew. The blockages prevent water and food from being digested and processed, causing an accumulation in the stomach. Your pet may often vomit, especially after eating, and experience weakness and diarrhea. Blockages can be life threatening and usually require surgery to save the animal’s life. If you suspect your pet has ingested an object or is showing symptoms of a blockage, she’ll need medical attention right away.

• Bloat: If your pet spends time outside in warm weather, he has an increased risk of bloat. When the stomach fills up with gas, food or fluid, it puts pressure on the other organs—decreasing blood flow to the heart, tearing the stomach and inhibiting breathing. In some cases, the animal’s stomach will twist, sending him into shock. While animals can develop bloat at any time throughout the year, bloat is more common in the summer, because animals gulp water quickly after exercise or run heavily in the heat after eating.

“Dogs, especially large, deep-chested dogs, who (are) displaying symptoms of dry heaves, a bloated belly or is showing signs of pain should be brought to see a veterinarian immediately, since they are at an increased risk of bloat,” said Dr. Wilson. “It’s a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate surgery.”

If you suspect your pet has a stomach ailment, Dr. Wilson advises consulting a professional before doing anything else. What may appear to be a simple cat or dog upset stomach might be something more serious. For the safety of your pet, it is best to err on the side of caution and take her to a vet.