Although vomiting has been considered a symptom of specific problems, it may be helpful to review some of its ramifications. There are two forms of vomiting. Projectile vomiting is involuntary vomiting, where a sudden contraction of the stomach causes fluids to spurt out of the pet’s mouth. It may occur during play or excitement and is usually not an indication of a serious condition.
The second form is voluntary, where there are active contractions of the abdomen and the dog lowers its head with each contraction. This is repeated until the contents of the stomach and/or the esophagus are discharged.
Acute Vomiting. When a dog ingests toxic material, the lining of the stomach may be irritated or the toxin, absorbed into the blood, may affect nerve centers in the brain. Both conditions can cause vomiting. Moreover, inflammation of the brain or toxic substances from tissue destruction which is blood-borne to the brain also may cause vomiting.
Sensitivity to food must is considered, with perhaps the most common item causing vomiting being pork. But the amount of food causing vomiting is important. Many dogs eat a strip of cooked bacon or a bite or two of pork roast and have no problem, but any more than that brings on the problem.
It appears to us some dogs eat the same diet day after day and because of a particular ingredient or ingredients vomit perhaps once every week or two. Some of these dogs eat grass before vomiting, suggesting that they eat it to vomit.
The percentages of the various ingredients of commercial dog foods change from time to time. In such a competitive business the ingredients are the result of a computer’s printout. The computer is programmed with information indicating a balanced and nutritionally complete ratio. Then the costs of all the possible ingredients available are fed into it, and the resulting formula is the least expensive possible. So if the fish meal is less expensive than another source of protein, there may be more in a certain batch than has been in previous batches. If your dog has a problem with fish meals, for example, vomiting may result.
A dog with occasional vomiting is one of the more difficult to diagnose. However, one simple method of treatment is to feed the dog a simple diet with few ingredients, such as one of one-third cooked hamburgers, one-third cooked rice, and one-third of canned stewed tomatoes. The diet must be given exclusively over some time long enough to demonstrate no vomiting occurs. If one commercial food is a problem, change to another and, if none can be found, compound one of your own.
A chronic vomiting dog that promptly eats the vomitus may not secrete sufficient acid in its stomach. The second time down stimulates enough hydrochloric acid for digestion. Salting the diet helps a percentage of these dogs and adding diluted hydrochloric acid during the preparation of food often helps.
It is normal for the nursing bitch at weaning time to eat a meal and vomit it for her puppies to eat. This is their first solid food when she follows nature’s dictates. In the wild, her mate does the same.
Dogs can and do live with intestinal parasites. They may not live as well but they do live. When the parasite load is too great, especially with tapeworms, toxins released by the worms cause vomiting.
When the body cannot rid itself of many substances, not only ingested substances but also wastes of normal metabolism, vomiting results. A good example is the geriatric dog whose kidneys no longer filter wastes from the blood properly. Uremia develops with vomiting. In the case of uremia, a urinelike odor may be detected on the dog’s breath. Achalasia is a defect thought to be an inherited one, but environmental problems may also cause it. It is a pouchlike area involving the esophagus anterior to the diaphragm. When inherited, it is usually observed soon after the weaning puppy eats its first few meals. Some dogs show signs of this problem at three or four months. When the puppy eats a meal, a percentage does not enter the stomach but rather gathers into this pouch. After a while, the uncomfortable puppy vomits the contents of the pouch. Surgery is difficult in this area and fortunately is often unnecessary.
Some years ago a beautiful but emaciated Irish Setter pup with a history of vomiting after eating was brought in to us. After a few swallows of barium, achalasia was diagnosed by X-rays. We explained the difficulty, danger, and expense of surgery, but the owner was convinced that the choice of surgery over euthanasia was the better choice. Since surgery could not be scheduled for three days, we suggested the puppy be fed from a table so that gravity might help the food gain entrance to the stomach. The day the surgery was to happen the owner phoned to say the puppy had not vomited since being fed in that manner. He had put the food in a dish on a windowsill on which the puppy placed its front feet, and by the puppy’s eating in that almost vertical position the problem was corrected. In two months that setter had gained twenty pounds and looked beautiful.
Another genetic cause of vomiting, which can also be caused by injury, is a stricture of the outlet of the stomach, which prevents food from entering the small intestine when it’s ready to get here. This vomiting of very acid and sometimes foul-smelling vomitus occurs many hours after eating. The dog will not reingest this material. Special diets may not help here, in which case surgery is suggested. There is a long list of infectious agents that may cause vomiting. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a catchall term for any disease-causing bleeding in the stomach and intestine. Blood accompanying vomiting does not always indicate a disaster since it may be the result of such vigorous vomiting that small blood vessels rupture and produce small streaks or even clots of blood. A surprisingly small amount of blood mixed with a large amount of other fluid appears to be all blood.
Vomiting does give us an indication of the area of the intestines that are affected in cases of diarrhea. There is usually no vomiting if only the lower bowel, the colon, is affected, but if after a few days of diarrhea, the dog begins to vomit it suggests the infection has ascended to the small intestine. In such cases there may be a regurgitation of bile from the small intestine into the stomach, resulting in bile-tinged gastric juice and saliva.
Most of this feeling of sorry for pets that are put on reducing diets stems from the idea that starvation is painful. But it is not, as long as there is a reservoir of food in the stored fat of the body. If you give them a little protein and a little carbohydrate – say, a slice of bread a day to help burn the fat, there is no danger of acidosis developing. If a vitamin-mineral supplement is added, there is no danger of starvation at all.
Anyone who thinks starvation is painful needs only tries it. One of us once lost forty-two pounds in less than two months and smaller amounts on many other occasions, and never felt a pang of anything but hunger. And we knew someone who lost twenty-five pounds in fourteen days from infectious hepatitis, and there was no pain. Hungerpangs are habit pangs – not pain at all.
There are many instances of dogs living with only water for two months. One dog lived 117 days. So don’t think your pet is going to die if it doesn’t eat for a few days while you are accustoming it to what is good for it. Its taste can become re-educated to like the diet you choose, and your pet will thrive on it if it is complete.
Clients whom we have advised to feed a certain diet ask if a dog doesn’t need variety. How can a certain canned food or dry food that is fed day after day still be palatable? The reason is that our pets can smell each ingredient in the food. You and I smell hash. The dog smells separately each of the ingredients of which hash is composed. If you doubt this, watch a finicky pet trying to separate finely ground ingredients from each other in a mixture of foods. It isn’t difficult to understand this ability if one thinks about it for a moment.
A Bloodhound can smell a man’s track a day after he has walked down a path, even when that track has been trampled all over by many other people. Why should we doubt that it is as simple a matter for any dog to smell the ingredients of dog food and enjoy its various components?It is far crueler to overfeed than to underfeed. It is a disservice to the pet and a discredit to the owner. Obesity shortens the life of a dog and makes it sluggish and no longer fun to have around. It often brings great misery and suffering to pet and owner alike, because of the paralysis that so frequently sets in as the pet grows older.
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