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Dog Acting Normal Despite Vomiting and Diarrhea? Most Likely Reasons & What to Do

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Vomiting and diarrhea in dogs often go hand-in-hand when our canine companions experience stomach or intestinal issues. Sometimes our pups may also not want to eat, have a fever, stomach pain, or lethargy to go along with the vomiting and diarrhea, which makes sense. Other times, dogs may act completely normal, even when there is such disgustingness coming out both ends. Let’s discuss what it means, and how to help your dog quickly.

Common Causes of Diarrhea and Vomiting in Dogs That Otherwise Act Normal

Vomiting and diarrhea are most often results of irritation to the stomach and intestines. Usually that irritation is enough to make a dog feel pretty crummy along with it, but not always, especially early on.

Keep in mind that all of these causes may be for a dog that is otherwise acting normal, or they may show more of the listed signs.

1. Garbage gut (gastroenteritis)

Accurately nicknamed because it tends to involve dogs that got into the garbage and ate something they shouldn’t have. Rotten food or undigestibles can have bacteria or other irritants that cause inflammation in the stomach and intestines.

Dogs may also run a fever, not want to eat, or have abdominal pain, but may also be acting normal: most cases of garbage gut will run its course in a couple of days. More serious infections can develop so you should keep a close eye on your dog. If your pup has a mild case of vomiting and diarrhea with no other symptoms, you may choose to monitor them at home.

If your pup still has vomiting or diarrhea after 48 hours or if they start to show any of the above symptoms, see your vet. Most cases of garbage gut will cost $200-$400 to treat any mild cases with anti-vomit medications, a bland diet and workup. More severe cases may require fluids and hospitalization and cost $500 or more.

2. Infections

The digestive system is subject to infection with viruses or bacteria just like any other part of the body. Things like parvovirus and Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea without much else for symptoms early on (which could explain why your dog still appears to be well).


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As the infection persists, dogs may start to not eat, have weight loss, mucousy, bloody or foul-smelling diarrhea, a fever, and dehydration. Mild infections may clear within a couple of days without you knowing the cause, while severe infections may lead to dehydration that needs veterinary treatment. Diagnosis and treatment can range from $200-$1,000 or more if a pup needs hospitalization.

3. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas usually brought on by eating a lot of fat. Most of the time pancreatitis is a very serious issue that involves vomiting and diarrhea along with stomach pain, weakness, and a fever. Pancreatitis can be life-threatening.

So why did we list “pancreatitis” as part of the most frequent reasons causing dogs to vomit/have diarrhea while still acting normal? Once a dog gets pancreatitis, they seem to be more susceptible to get it again and again: it’s these repeat episodes that may not come with other signs, especially if the inflammation is mild.

If your pup has had pancreatitis before and now experiences vomiting and diarrhea but is otherwise acting normal, it may be minor flare-ups of a familiar issue. See your veterinarian if you pup shows any other signs of abdominal pain or weakness or runs a fever. Treating pancreatitis can cost $300-$1,000 or more.

4. Foreign objects

Dogs explore the world with their mouths, especially puppies. They may eat things that they aren’t supposed to and that are undigestible. Sometimes these objects can remain in the stomach or get lodged in the intestines and cause vomiting and diarrhea. In the short term, dogs might not show any other signs.

In the long term, however, dogs may have weight loss, abdominal pain, not eating, or not pooping. See your veterinarian if you know that your dog consumed a foreign object. Some smaller objects may be passed using laxatives or enemas while others may require surgical removal. X-rays or ultrasound are often needed to diagnose a foreign object and to locate it in the digestive tract. Look to pay $300-$1,500 or more for diagnostics and an enema to a surgery.

5. Changes in diet

A dog’s microbiome is a complicated and fragile balance of good bacteria in the gut that aid in digestion. The microbiome adjusts to a specific diet and become very efficient at digesting and maintaining that diet. Any sudden changes in the diet can throw off the balance of the bacteria to a point that it upsets the stomach and the whole digestive process, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

These signs often right themselves within a few days, but they can become severe enough to cause dehydration, abdominal pain, and a decreased appetite. Most of the time these won’t require treatment, but see your vet if your dog’s vomiting and diarrhea become severe or they become dehydrated or uncomfortable. Most dogs will respond well to probiotics and a more gradual transition to a new diet. If your vet gets involved, look to pay around $100 for mild cases, or $500-$800 for fluids and supportive treatment.

6. Food intolerances

Not quite an allergy, food intolerances occur when a dog has a negative reaction to certain food ingredients. It may cause vomiting and diarrhea, but also weight loss and skin conditions. Food intolerances are most often to the protein source in a food and may respond to a change in diet.

7. Internal parasites

Internal parasites, or worms, can affect any dog at any time. Dogs can pick up worms from their environment or from eating infected rodents or birds. The adult parasites attach to the intestinal walls where they pilfer nutrients and lay eggs. Large numbers of worms can cause vomiting and diarrhea. They can also lead to weight loss, bloody feces, and a dry, brittle hair coat but these signs may not be immediately visible to dog owners.

Internal parasites can be diagnosed by your vet with a fecal test. They can be treated using a dewormer. Be sure to only use prescribed dewormers from your veterinarian as over-the-counter medications aren’t always as safe and effective. Diagnosing and treating internal parasites can cost $100-$200.

8. Miscellaneous causes

Things like inflammatory bowel disease, medications, and toxins can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in a dog that is otherwise acting normal. Any long-term vomiting or diarrhea should be seen by a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

5 At-home Treatments for Diarrhea and Vomiting When a Dog is Otherwise Acting Normal

As long as your pup isn’t showing any other signs and their vomiting and diarrhea are fairly mild, at-home treatments can be given a shot.

1. Keep your dog hydrated

dog drinking water

The most important at-home treatment is making sure your dog stays hydrated. Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water. Encourage them to drink by adding a little low-sodium chicken broth or mixing with a small amount of canned food.

2. Feed a bland, easily digestible diet

bland diet for dog with chicken and rice

Rather than withholding food, which used to be the norm, it’s actually more important to keep food in the digestive system. Offer your dog a bland diet, such as plain boiled chicken and rice. Read our post: 11 bland diet options to help your dog.

3. Feed small amounts frequently

feeding dog a small amount

Instead of lumping your dog’s food into two large meals, spread that food out between 6-8 feedings for a couple of days. Then decrease to 4-6 feedings, 3-4 and then back down to your normal schedule if the vomiting and diarrhea as resolving.

4. Increase the fiber in their diet (with canned pumpkin)

canned pumpkin

Add a little canned pumpkin or low-sodium green beans to their food to increase fiber and help regulate digestion. For long-term fiber upgrades, talk to your veterinarian.

5. Add in probiotics

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Probiotics help to support the microbiome and can really benefit any digestive irregularity. Use a commercial probiotic supplement or give them a little plain yogurt.

Learn more about the most effective home remedies and treatments to stop dog diarrhea FAST!

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t give any human or pet medications to your dog unless instructed by your veterinarian.  

Should You Still See Your Vet When Your Dog is Acting Normal & Not Showing Other Signs of Illness?

A couple of vomiting episodes or a loose bowel movement or two usually doesn’t warrant a veterinary visit, especially if that dog is acting normal otherwise. Consider monitoring your dog at home for the first 48 hours if everything else is normal and try the above at-home treatments. However, if that vomiting and diarrhea continues past 48 hours or your dog starts to show any other signs of illness, it’s time to make the next available appointment. Make sure you closely monitor your dog to spot anything that seems off or different.

Don’t wait for 48 hours and contact your vet right away if your dog starts showing other signs along with the vomiting and diarrhea, including:

  • not eating,
  • not drinking,
  • lethargy, or
  • abdominal pain

Diagnosing and Treating Vomiting and Diarrhea in Dogs at the Vet

Your vet is going to want a full history of your dog’s vomiting and diarrhea. This includes when it started, how severe it is, and if you know if they ate anything they shouldn’t have or were around other sick dogs.

They will then do an exam and diagnostics that may include blood work, a fecal test, and x-rays or ultrasound.

Treatment of vomiting and diarrhea may be as simple as deworming your dog or as complex as surgery to remove a foreign object. Infections may require antibiotics and supportive care. Pancreatitis will need supportive care and a dietary change. Food intolerances will need a dietary change to a novel protein or limited ingredient diet. Dogs that are dehydrated will need fluids and possibly hospitalization.

With a wide range of causes for vomiting and diarrhea in a dog, there is a wide range of costs associated with treating it. Mild cases of intestinal parasites may cost around $150 for a fecal test and medications. Pancreatitis or infections may cost $200-$1,000+ for supportive care or hospitalization. Surgery to remove foreign objects can cost $1,000 or more.

The Prognosis For a Dog With Diarrhea and Vomiting

Vomiting and diarrhea without any other signs usually carries a good prognosis. Most dogs will return to normal within a few days with some at-home treatment. If other signs are involved, the prognosis will vary based on the cause. For example, some cases of infections or pancreatitis can be very severe, even fatal. To improve your dog’s prognosis, see your vet any time vomiting and diarrhea last longer than 48 hours or if they are accompanied by any other signs.

How to Prevent Vomiting and Diarrhea in Your Dog

Vomiting and diarrhea are fairly common issues in our pups, but that doesn’t mean that some cases can’t be prevented.

  • Keep your dog up-to-date on their vaccinations. Vaccinations can prevent or decrease the severity of many diseases that lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Transition to other foods very slowly. Never abruptly change your dog’s food. This goes for flavor as well as brand. Instead, gradually transition from the old food to new over the course of 7-10 days by mixing increasing amounts of new food with the old.
  • Lock up the trash can and supervise your dog. Keep your dog out of the garbage and keep them on a leash during walks to decrease the amount of eating something they shouldn’t be.
  • Get regular veterinary care. Seeing your vet at least once a year can help keep your dog healthy by catching parasites and other issues early on. Talk to your vet about any changes in your dog that can be concerning.

FAQs

What does the color of dog vomit mean?

The color of a dog’s vomit can indicate the cause. For example, yellow vomit can mean an empty, upset stomach. Bloody vomit may mean stomach or throat inflammation or an injury. Letting your vet know the color of your dog’s vomit can help them diagnose the problem.

How do you assess how serious diarrhea episodes are?

A main concern of diarrhea is dehydration. The runnier or waterier the diarrhea is, the sooner dehydration can occur. Also, bloody diarrhea, especially bright red blood, can indicate a more serious condition. See a vet if your dog has diarrhea for longer than 24-48 hours or if they are showing other signs.

What is the ideal size, shape, and color of a dog’s stool?

Normal dog stool should be soft and formed. It shouldn’t be dry or overly runny. It should maintain a tube-like shape while on the ground. The color can vary from light to dark brown depending on your dog’s diet. Dogs should defecate once or twice to up to five times per day.

Should I withhold food or water from my dog after a diarrhea event?

Withholding food and water isn’t recommended as often as it used to be. Instead, it’s recommended to feed a bland, easily digestible diet in small and frequent amounts. You’ll also want to give fresh, clean water frequently throughout the day.

Author

  • Dr Chyrle Bonk, Veterinarian

    Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 2010. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

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Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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