Diarrhea and Vomiting: The Dos and Don’ts

Diarrhea is the frequent evacuation of watery stools. Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth.

What to Do if Your Pet is Vomiting and Has Diarrhea

  • Remove all food and water – this is short-term (until you can see your veterinarian) or for a few hours if symptoms are mild

  • Check for signs of dehydration – are the gums of the mouth sticky? 

  • If the diarrhea and/or vomiting continues when food and water are returned or your pet acts ill, seek veterinary attention right away! 

Diarrhea and vomiting can quickly lead to serious fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance, especially in very young and very old animals and requires prompt veterinary care. 

  • If no vomiting occurs after a short period of no food or water, begin to frequently give small amounts of clear liquids (water, Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other electrolyte solution).

    A good rule of thumb is to give 1 teaspoon per pound of body weight every 2 or 3 hours throughout the day and night. If your pet does not vomit the fluid, the following day offer small frequent meals of boiled hamburger and rice or boiled chicken and rice. 

  • If your pet does not want to eat, starts to vomit, or continues to have diarrhea, go to the veterinarian for medical care

  • Isolate the sick pet from other pets

What NOT to Do

Lethargic dog
  • Do not administer any over-the-counter or prescription medications to your pet without talking to a veterinarian first.  

  • Do not allow the pet to eat or drink anything until there has been no vomiting for several hours

Vomiting and diarrhea are associated with a host of problems that are referred to collectively as gastroenteritis. Some cases are quite severe (e.g., poisoning), and some are not (e.g., dietary indiscretion). 

If fever is present, infection may be a cause. Most infections that cause diarrhea and vomiting are contagious, so it is wise to assume that other pets might be vulnerable if they are exposed. 

While the removal of food and water is appropriate for a very short time, if your pet continues vomiting, veterinary care is needed as the longer the animal vomits or has diarrhea, the more fluid is lost. Companion animals will quickly become very dehydrated. 

Bottom line, if you notice 1-2 episodes of vomiting and/or diarrhea, the above home care is appropriate. However, if vomiting and diarrhea is more pronounced OR if your pet is not feeling well (for example, lethargic) and has been vomiting and/or has diarrhea, see a veterinarian.

About the author: Hilary Granson

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