My Pet Has Loose Stools (Diarrhea) Do I Worry?

Sooner or later all of us with pets will have to clean up an unfortunate mess.  According to pet health insurance company statistics, digestive  problems such as vomiting and diarrhea are two of the  most common reasons that pet owners present cats and dogs to the veterinarian.  While an occasional episode is not usually life threatening, vomiting as well as diarrhea that persists is often the sign of more serious illness.

While vomiting often occurs in conjunction with diarrhea these symptoms may both occur independent of each other.  Intestinal parasites or worms can cause gastrointestinal inflammation resulting in loose stools or diarrhea.  In some pets a very heavy infestation may also stimulate vomiting though diarrhea is the more common sign.  Conversely some conditions such as the ingestion of foreign material or toxic substances will initially stimulate vomiting  but progress to diarrhea a few days later.

So what should you do as your pet’s guardian and caretaker?  First if your pet is vomiting, remove all food and water from the environment.  This will often temporarily stop the vomiting.  Second, contact your veterinarian immediately to make sure that your pet does not have any history of diseases which can become more serious as the result of the vomiting or intake restriction.  Next scour the environment to see if there is any evidence of the ingestion of a damaged toy, household item, toxin, plant or any other item that you think could be significant.  Finally avoid all home  and pet store remedies until you consult your local vet.  Though vomiting and diarrhea are often not serious in the beginning the improper treatment of these conditions can result in dehydration, electrolyte (mineral) imbalances progressive weight loss and severe wasting.

As in most disease conditions, early intervention is the key to diagnosing and treating diarrhea and vomiting.  In the next posts we will outline some of the most common causes of these problems.