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Gastroenteritis in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Therapy In-depth

Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the diagnostic tests described above. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some, but not all pets with acute vomiting and diarrhea. These treatments may reduce severity of symptoms or provide relief for your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your pet's condition.

  • Withholding food and water for several hours allows the GI tract to "rest", and is the single most important means of symptomatic therapy in the patient with acute vomiting and diarrhea. Complete dietary restriction allows the lining of the GI tract to heal. Gradual reintroduction of small amounts of bland food should be instituted after the fast, and the original diet may be slowly reintroduced after 2-3 days if there has been no vomiting. If at any point vomiting recurs, discontinue everything given by mouth and contact your veterinarian.

  • Oral medication of any kind should be avoided if at all possible. Even a tiny pill can perpetuate vomiting by contacting an already inflamed stomach lining.

  • Fluid and electrolyte therapy may be necessary in some patients with acute vomiting and diarrhea, and is directed toward correcting dehydration, acid-base and electrolyte abnormalities. Occasionally, subcutaneous (under the skin) administration may be acceptable, and is able to be performed by the pet owner at home. In severe cases, intravenous administration may be necessary, and necessitates hospitalization.

  • Antiemetics and antidiarrheal agents (drugs that stop vomiting and diarrhea) should be used with caution. It is best to identify and treat the underlying cause of vomiting and diarrhea, however in selected cases may be recommended.

  • Antacids (drugs that decrease acid production) such as Tagamet® (cimetidine), Pepcid® (famotidine) or Zantac® (ranitidine), may be of benefit in many cases.

  • Gastrointestinal protectants and adsorbents (medications that protect or sooth) are felt to coat an "irritated" intestinal lining and bind "noxious" (harmful) agents.


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