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When A Digestive Problem Becomes An Emergency…

Vomiting and Diarrhea are among the most common symptoms of pets presented for treatment. Veterinarians frequently receive phone calls asking when it is warranted to seek immediate treatment for these signs. While it is impossible to fully assess a pets condition without an examination, there are criteria that can help a pet owner with this decision.

Blood in either vomit or diarrhea warrants prompt treatment as this indicates advanced inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and perhaps other critical conditions. Blood may appear bright red or could appear as “coffee grounds” in the vomit or as a black color in the stool due to digestion.

If the vomiting or diarrhea is high volume watery or frequent, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can ensue rapidly. Therefore these pets should receive prompt medical attention. Frequent straining to defecate may indicate substantial pain from colitis or constipation and should be addressed quickly.

A very important consideration is a pets energy level and attitude. Sluggish or lethargic behavior should raise concern. An elevated or subnormal rectal temperature is another criteria for seeking help (normal is 100.0 to 102.5 degrees F). These can indicate systemic effects of the illness.

Vomiting and diarrhea are very common problems in our household pets. These symptoms can be mild and self limiting or could indicate severe illness. Even if the signs are mild you should of course seek help if they are persistent. Hopefully these guidelines can help in deciding if your pet needs immediate evaluation and treatment should vomiting or diarrhea occur.

By Erik Madison, DVM, Emergency Pet Hospital of Collier County, 6530 Dudley Dr., Naples 239-263-8010.


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