Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

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Overview of Canine Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut)

Garbage toxicosis, or commonly called “Garbage Gut”, refers to a condition in dogs caused by ingestion of food or garbage contaminated with bacteria and potentially with bacterial toxins. This condition may also be referred to as Bacterial food poisoning, Song Bird Fever, or Carrion Toxicosis.

Ingestion of spoiled food is often contaminated with bacteria and bacterial toxins that can cause severe and even life threatening signs. After ingestion, various bacteria (including Streptococcusspp, Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfringens and/or “Bacillus spp.) are present in the gastrointestinal tract and can produce toxins that are absorbed into the blood stream. These bacteria can produce toxins that cause shock, collapse and death. Seizures and high fevers can result from some toxins.

Garbage Gut is most common in indoor/outdoor or outdoor dogs that are allowed to roam as they are most likely to be exposed to and ingest spoiled foods. This can also be caused by people that feed dogs food unfit for human consumption and in dogs fed raw food diets. Dogs can also get the disease from eating another dogs vomit or stool or licking other dogs that have the disease. Cats that hunt and consume birds are at higher risk.

Garbage toxicosis is most common in warm climates or during the summer months when food is more apt to spoil.

It is possible that this condition is Zoonotic – meaning it can be transmitted to people by exposure to the bacteria. It is most common in children, elderly or those with compromised immune systems.

What to Watch For

  • Diarrhea – can be foul smelling, watery or bloody
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Can progress to shock
  • Diagnosis of Garbage Toxicosis in Dogs

    Diagnosis is often based on history of your dog’s exposure to raw food diets or garbage, contents of vomitus and clinical signs. Diagnostics should be performed on those dogs that are having severe vomiting and diarrhea, are exhibiting other systemic signs of illness, or when the vomitus or stool contains blood. These tests may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
  • Fecal examinations
  • Treatment of Garbage Gut in Dogs

    There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to treat your dog. The recommendations may vary depending on the severity of your dogs signs. The principal goals of symptomatic therapy are to restore and maintain fluid balance, limit absorption of the bacterial toxins, correct electrolyte imbalances and to completely rest the gastrointestinal tract.

  • If the garbage ingestion was recent, induction of vomiting may be recommended to empty the stomach. Hydrogen peroxide, syrup of ipecac or Apomorphine most commonly used to induce vomiting. For more information, read How to Induce Vomiting (Emesis) in Dogs. If your pet has ingested garbage, call your veterinarian and follow their instructions. If your dog is weak or having problems, vomiting may not be recommended due to risk of aspiration. 
  • Activated charcoal may be used to minimize absorption of bacteria and toxins. 
  • Fluid and electrolyte therapy is administered intravenously (IV).  
  • Drugs that coat and sooth the GI tract – commonly used drugs Sucralfate (Carafate®)Famotidine (Pepcid®)and or Ranitidine HCl (Zantac®).
  • Drugs that symptomatically stop vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Antibiotics may be administered. 
  • Nothing orally for several hours, with a gradual introduction of water followed by a bland diet.
  • Seizures may be controlled with drugs such as diazepam or methocarbamol
  • A complication of this disease called Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) can occur and therapy may include plasma administration or heparin as well as intensive monitoring. 
  • Prognosis

    The prognosis is good early diagnosis and treatment. If shock or DIC has occur, the prognosis is poor. The clinical signs resolve in most dogs in 2 to 5 days. 


    Do not allow your dogs to roam. Feed only fresh food that is high quality. Do not feed your dog any table food that you wouldn’t eat. 

    Home Care for Dogs with Garbage Gut

    Call your veterinarian, and follow all recommendations regarding feeding and medication. This will probably include withholding all food and water. Observe your pet very closely. If clinical signs are not improving over a day or two, and/or your dog is getting worse, have your dog evaluated at once.


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