Jem and Zoey went through a rough week with belly aches recently, and it killed me to see them sick! The worst part about seeing your dog in pain or feeling ill is that she can’t tell you what’s wrong or what she needs from you. I just wish I could ask my girls what they need me to do to help them feel better, but all I have to go off of is the symptoms they show me.
Is It Normal For My Dog To Get An Upset Stomach?
Yes. Dogs can get the occasional belly ache just like we do. But how do you know if the symptoms your dog is showing are an indication of a normal belly ache or something life threatening that you should rush her to the vet for? Knowing the difference is the most important part of saving your dog from a life threatening condition if there is one.
When Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?
I’m a bad one to ask… because I’m guilty of taking my dogs to the vet even when there’s a very minor issue. I do this because I hate worrying that if I don’t take them I could regret it later if something serious is going on. BUT, it’s common for dogs to have upset tummies. So if you see clear signs that your dog’s condition has been consistently improving with an almost full recovery by 24-48 hours then it’s most likely a 24 hour bug and a vet visit is probably not necessary.
If your dog has been sick without significant improvement for more than 48 hours, the best thing for you to do is take her to the vet. It’s not normal for your dog to remain ill for an extended period of time. She could have a disease or a permanent condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome that requires regular medication prescribed by your vet.
Signs of Serious Distress – It’s Time To Go To The Vet
- Distended stomach
- Nervous pacing
- Severe lethargy
- Drooling and retching
- Trying to vomit without success
- Hacking and heaving
- Constant diarrhea and vomiting
- Constipation – straining to poop without success
- Signs of severe dehydration – test your dog’s skin for elasticity by gently lifting the skin on her back with 2 fingers, then let the skin drop. Skin that quickly returns flat on the back is good, hydrated skin. Skin that returns slowly or doesn’t reform is a sign that your dog needs to go to the vet for fluids immediately.
Panic is an emergency sign that your dog has a serious issue that may require you to administer medical care at home if there isn’t time to get to the vet. Zoey was in a panic about a year ago and once again this week because she ate something that she couldn’t digest and was desperately heaving to try to throw it up. She was biting ferociously at my hair, the carpet, blankets, grass, and everything else within reach to try to make herself throw up. She was also labored for breath and hacking and heaving like something was stuck.
I knew I needed to induce vomiting right away to save her from whatever was stuck in her belly. My vet was closed and the emergency vet was too far away. If you need to induce vomiting for your dog, use hydrogen peroxide. Measure with a syringe or turkey baster:
- 1 ml per pound of your dog’s weight
I used 15 ml for Zoey because she’s 15 lbs. I didn’t have a syringe with measurements or a turkey baster on hand because we just moved, so I was able to use the cap from the top of a cough syrup bottle because it had ml measurements on the side. If you don’t have anything in your house with ml measurements, 15 ml is exactly 1 tablespoon, so you can use that as a reference. I poured the peroxide down her throat and within 5 minutes she threw up whatever was causing her stomach panic. The first time, it was the underwear. The second time, I think it was stuffing from her toy. If your dog doesn’t throw up within 15 minutes, give her another dose.
I was so glad that I knew this peroxide method and I was able to induce vomiting to relieve her from the panic she was feeling. And even more, I was able to avoid surgery since the underwear and stuffing came out before it got stuck in her intestines.
Blood in vomit or stool is a perfect example of a stomach ache that is not normal. This would be cause for immediate, emergency medical attention. This could be an indication of an obstruction from eating objects like coins, stuffing from toys, string, etc that would need to be dealt with right away to save your dog’s life.
Left poisonous materials within your dog’s reach? You should know if you’ve left something poisonous like insect poison, rat poison, cleaning products, chewing gum (xylitol), chocolate, or any other poisonous human foods out in the open that your dog could have ingested. If you believe you left something within your dog’s reach, take her to the vet immediately.
Diseases that cause upset stomach are very serious and can include:
- Stomach ulcers
- Twisted stomach.
These conditions would need to be treated quickly at the vet to save your dog.
Bacterial contamination can cause stomach problems that will call for a trip to the vet’s office.
- Stale or contaminated food
Any of these bacterias can cause infection that will need to be treated with medication at the vet. You should check to see if the food you feed your dog has been recalled recently.
Injury to the stomach will also cause these symptoms. If your dog has played rough at the dog park, was alone with anyone you aren’t sure is trustworthy, or you recall an incident that could have caused a stomach injury, then you need to take your dog to the vet to make sure there is not an injury that needs medical attention.
Non Life-Threatening Causes Of Upset Stomach
Most of the time, if your dog has an upset stomach it is caused by something she ate. Try to think back to what your dog ate right before symptoms started.
Changes in diet can cause sudden stomach problems. Have you switched your dog’s food recently? If you don’t gradually introduce a new food you dog will have stomach issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Did you just introduce new treats that could have been bad?Immediately go online to check if your dog’s food or treats have a recall. Or did you notice her eating something outside that could be poisonous to dogs? Did she get table scraps from a friend or relative that doesn’t know your dog doesn’t eat table scraps?
Common food-related causes of upset stomach:
- Eating too fast
- Food allergy
- Eating too much
Aging is a common “cause” of upset stomach. Aging dogs experience changes in metabolism, digestion, and overall health.
Stress can also cause stomach upset. We recently moved to a different house, and I think that had a lot to do with Jem and Zoey’s stomach issues. Understanding how to help your dog adjust to moving helps prevent this. Dogs can experience stress due to many things including separation anxiety, change in schedule or routine, a trip to the vet, fighting in the household, etc.
Symptoms of Upset Stomach
- Change in appetite or not eating
- Gurgling stomach sounds
- Eating grass
- Dry heaving
- Painful stomach to the touch
- Biting at sides of body
- Excessive thirst
Without fail, it’s always the best case scenario to take your dog to the vet if your gut instinct is telling you that it’s the right move. However, this article’s purpose is to help differentiate between the common non-life threatening causes of belly ache versus the life threatening causes of belly ache so you can better understand how to help your sick pup. Have you ever had an experience with your dog getting sick where you learned from it? Any advice you may have to pass on to me and our readers is greatly appreciated!