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Oz: Gastroenteritis is a common infection most pets will face
Over the past week, I have treated two animals that consumed food that was recalled due to contamination.
In addition to these two dogs, we also helped several different animals that suffered from upset stomach.
Gastroenteritis is probably the most common reason that draws pet owners to seek veterinary medical treatment.
I don’t know any pet owner that hasn’t dealt with this problem at some point in the pet’s life.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the alimentary tract.
The most common symptom associated with it is diarrhea.
Diarrhea is characterized by changes in the stool consistency-runny stool, and the stool’s colour.
Diarrhea can be caused by a disease of the small intestine, large intestine or other organs outside of the intestinal tract, the liver for an example.
There are few differences between the diarrhea that is originated from the small and the large intestine.
Small intestinal and large intestinal diarrhea have different causes, require different tests to diagnose and are treated differently.
Your vet will ask you instructive questions in order to understand, better locate the pet’s problem, and to plan for specific tests to determine the cause of the diarrhea.
There are numerous reasons for diarrhea.
Among the hundreds of causes for diarrhea there are intestinal parasites, viral, bacterial or fungal infections, food allergies, intestinal foreign body, tumors, diseases of the pancreas, liver or kidneys and many other reasons.
The most common reason for diarrhea is probably dietary indiscretion, meaning the pet got into garbage or other bad food.
Some pets have a very sensitive digestive system and just a change in the pet’s diet can elicit diarrhea.
Another common symptom of gastroenteritis is vomiting.
When the animal suffers from diarrhea and vomiting, it is not absorbing the nutrients from the diet properly which leads to weight loss and electrolytes imbalance.
Furthermore, this condition may also lead to dehydration. If there is presence of blood in the stool or vomit, a severe blood loss may occur.
Because gastroenteritis is so common and some pet owners have to face it numerous times in their pets’ lives, many people are not in a hurry to rush in to the vet office.
One of the most common questions I am asked by worried owners over the phone regards to the best course of action in case of gastroenteritis.
As a rule of thumb, I have to recommend consulting your vet with any change in your pet’s health condition.
In a simple case of gastroenteritis, in which the animal vomits once or twice and has diarrhea but is acting healthy otherwise (good level of energy,still has appetite etc.) you may try stop feeding it for 24 hours to rest the digestive system.
Make sure your pet has constant access to fresh water to prevent dehydration.
After 24 hours, providing that the diarrhea and vomiting have subsided, you can try to offer the animal a small amount of a low fat, easily digestible diet such as rice with boiled chicken flesh (without the bones, skin, salt or any other spices), pasta, or boiled egg.
You can also consider using a commercial food carried by veterinarians that it designed for animals with digestive problems. This food is available in both canned or dry forms.
In the first day you should offer the food in small amounts every three to four hours.
Gradually over the next two to three days, if the animal tolerates the food well and the stool is forming back to normal consistency, decrease the frequency of the feeding and increase the amount of food in each feeding.
When the pet is back to normal do not switch to its normal diet abruptly, it is better to mix it over a few days to prevent recurrence of the diarrhea.
If there is no improvement in the pet’s condition after 24 hours fasting, it would probably be better to go and see your veterinarian right away. Please note that overweight cats are not allowed to be fasted. Depriving food from fat cats can cause severe liver damage.
Other reasons for contacting your vet right away would be presence of blood in the stool or if the diarrhea is also accompanied by other sickness symptoms such as lethargy, fever, vomiting, weight loss or any other concerning condition.
Repeated vomiting as a single symptom, without diarrhea is actually more concerning and requires medical assessment.
Simple gastroenteritis may be just a simple and transient condition that may be treated at home with a diet change, but often the causative agent is more complicated and may require a specific medical treatment.
In most cases, when the reason for the condition gets diagnose early, the prognosis is good.
However, if the condition persists and is left untreated, it can lead to severe or life threatening consequences.
Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital at 2476 Westlake Rd. West Kelowna.