Your dog started vomiting during the night. You have heard or read that you should withhold food for 24 hours and see how he does. That way whatever he got into can clear the intestines. Or should you continue to let her eat even though she may not hold it all down? Or what do you do if she doesn’t want to eat?
We now know that intestinal health is important to general health, ours and dogs. Maintaining the correct bacterial balance in the gut actually helps the overall immune system. Not eating disrupts the gastrointestinal bacteria balance in as little as 24 hours. This can decrease immune function and prolong an illness.
Intestinal Bacteria: “Good” Bugs and “Bad” Bugs
Believe it or not, the inside of the intestines is actually outside of the body. Think about it for a minute. The intestinal tract is a long, folded tube with an opening at each end, the mouth and anus, exposed to the outside world. And just like the outside environment, the intestines are full of bacteria, especially the colon. The walls of the intestines keep the bacteria from entering our blood stream and body.
What is interesting is that many of these bacteria are necessary for good digestion and overall health. These are the “good” bacteria. When things go wrong in the body or in the intestines that reduce the amount of “good” bacteria, then the “bad” bacteria take over and grow to large numbers. This worsens vomiting and diarrhea and diseases unrelated to the intestinal tract. Research suggests that products produced by these bacteria reduce the effectiveness of the immune system in the gut and inside the body.
Studies have shown that maintaining the right balance of good bugs to bad bugs in the intestines is extremely important for maintaining a good immune system and good health. In fact, new findings have found a link between asthma, diabetes and obesity and gut bacterial imbalances. Evidence is mounting that diets that promote intestinal health provide better overall health.
Good bacteria need a constant food supply in the gut to flourish. A dog that won’t eat or isn’t fed due to vomiting deprives the good bacteria of food, decreases their numbers and allows overgrowth of the bad bugs. This can happen in just 24 hours.
How to Feed the Vomiting Dog
1. Don’t offer dry food.
Ill dogs do not find hard, dry food appetizing. Does shredded wheat with no milk sound appetizing to you when you have the flu? Dry food will only irritate the stomach further and make vomiting worse.
2. Offer canned food, even canned cat food.
Canned food is 80% water and helps maintain hydration. It contains more protein and generally tastes better to dogs. It is also less likely to be entirely vomited up so some food reaches the intestinal bacteria.
3. Offer people food.
Homemade dog food is perfect for the vomiting dog. If you do not feed homemade, try non-fat cottage cheese. It can also be mixed it with cooked white rice or cooked chicken breast.
4. Offer yogurt or acidophilus containing dairy products.
Yogurt and acidophilus contain good bacteria and help re-seed the intestines. Veterinary or over-the-counter probiotics also contain beneficial bacteria and should be added to the food.
5. Add MetamucilTM or BenefiberTM to the food.
These prebiotic products contain fermentable fiber that promotes the growth of good bugs to help restore intestinal balance. Ask your veterinarian for the proper dose.
6. Go to the Veterinarian.
Take your dog to the vet to make sure there is no intestinal blockage or other condition that requires specialized treatment other than diet. He/she can determine your dog’s hydration and whether it needs fluid therapy. Dehydration decreases intestinal function. The vet can also give injections and/or medications to stop the vomiting to help maintain your dog’s appetite.
The gut plays an important role in maintaining health and overcoming illness. Always keep the sick dog eating, even the vomiting dog.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN