Veterinary Advice

Tummy Upset? Here’s How to Provide Some TLC for Your Pet’s Gut

By BetterVet Team March 23, 2021

Has your cat or dog had a recent bout of vomiting and/or diarrhea? The causes of gastrointestinal (GI) signs like these can range from very minor to more concerning. In general, if this is a new sign for your pet, and if it can be linked to a recent change in diet and/or stressful event, some TLC might do the trick. If your pet’s appetite or energy level starts to decrease, or if the amount of vomiting and diarrhea is concerning, we always recommend seeking veterinary care immediately.

What is a highly digestible diet?

A highly digestible diet is one that is extremely easy for your dog or cat to process. You can think of this as similar to Saltines or toast for humans. Plain, boiled chicken and cooked white rice is the most commonly recommended home-cooked diet for your pet’s GI upset. The ratio should be about 2:1 for rice:chicken, and the amount should be around 3/4c for each 10lbs of body weight, per day. Small, frequent meals are better than 1-2 large portions.

If you would rather not cook for your pet at home, your veterinarian can provide options for prescription diets that are also highly digestible. While most of these diets are great options to calm your dog or cat’s upset stomach, they are not intended for long-term nutrition. After 3-5 days, if the vomiting and/or diarrhea have improved, your pet should be slowly transitioned back to his/her regular diet. Your pet may defecate less while receiving one of these diets, and while his/her digestive tract starts to recover. If the vomiting and/or diarrhea are continuing, please seek veterinary care.

Should I add a probiotic?

Probiotics are nutritional supplements in the form of live bacteria that help balance the collection of “good bugs” living in our GI tracts. Just like humans, some of our pets may benefit from the addition of a probiotic to their diets. Always consult your veterinarian before adding to or changing your pet’s diet. Probiotics can be given intermittently when there are signs of GI upset, or can also be given daily. Regardless of how your veterinarian suggests you use them, probiotics can be a great resource if your dog or cat often experiences an upset stomach.

What are some of the causes of vomiting and diarrhea?

This is a long list, but can include situations like a recent diet change, stressful event, toxins, foreign material ingestion, parasites, bacterial infections, viral infections, inflammatory or auto-immune conditions, and even cancer. Your pet’s history will help your veterinarian narrow this list and create a targeted diagnostic plan. Many pets require fluid therapy to support their hydration. For diarrhea, a fecal test is often indicated. Additional steps might include bloodwork and abdominal x-rays or ultrasound. If your pet’s GI signs are worrisome or uncontrolled, always contact your BetterVet veterinarian or a 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital for advice. We’ll be happy to help relieve your cat or dog of their upset stomach!

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