Common Causes of an Upset Tummy in Cats and Dogs

Stomach upsets are very common in pets. Often, an upset tummy results in mild diarrhoea and perhaps a loss of appetite. But in more serious cases, it can lead to vomiting and dehydration. So when do we worry and what situations warrant an emergency trip to the vet?

Just like humans, dogs and cats occasionally have an upset stomach. Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us when they have tummy cramps or are feeling nauseous, so it’s important to be on the lookout for signs of an upset stomach:

  • Licking the lips, lip-smacking or swallowing in between mealtimes
  • Increased salivation
  • Not eating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sleeping more
  • Being a bit grumpy and not wanting to be patted or involved in family life
  • Flatulence
  • Stomach rumbling
  • Eating grass

When to Worry

For a mild stomach upset, your pet may not need to visit the vet, particularly if it lasts less than 24 hours and your cat or dog is otherwise bright and happy. However, if you have an elderly or very young furry family member, they will tend to have more serious problems and get dehydrated and sicker quicker.

When you need to visit the vet immediately:

  • Known toxin ingestion (the quicker your pet is treated the better the prognosis!)
  • Bloated abdomen or abdominal pain
  • Ingestion of a foreign body like a piece of ball or string or bone fragment
  • Vomiting in an unvaccinated dog
  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Weight loss, lethargy and personality changes
  • Yellow, pale or bluish coloured gums
  • Vomiting that has been going on for more than 24 hours
  • More than 3 vomits within 24 hours
  • Changes such as increased thirst that have occurred leading up to the stomach upset

Ingestion of Something Nasty

Dogs are scavengers by nature and love to eat anything and everything off the ground. Cats can do this too, but are generally more discerning than dogs! We have seen dogs that have eaten dead fish, illicit drugs, faeces, mouldy sandwiches and all manner of rancid items without a care in the world. For a mild stomach upset as a result of an adventurous palate, switching to a recovery diet like Hills I/D is ideal until the diarrhoea improves.

Diet Change

If your pet is used to eating one type of food and they get something different, whether that be a different brand of food or some leftovers or treats, it can cause a stomach upset. Some dogs seem to have a cast iron stomach and be fine with lot of variation, but many do better on a consistent diet. If you do change food, we recommend you transition gradually over 7 days. PAW Digesticare probiotic can help with this transition and can also help stop the mild diarrhoea often associated with a diet change.

Food Intolerance or Food Allergy

Pets that have frequent bouts of stomach upsets should visit the vet to rule out a more serious problem. If your vet suspects a food allergy, they may recommend a diet change, whether that be a switch to a better quality diet, one higher in fibre, more digestible, or a diet that uses a different protein source.

Other Culprits

Other common causes of an upset stomach include:

  • Viral or bacterial gastroenteritis
  • Toxic substances (chocolate, lead paint, grapes, plants, human medications etc.)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Travel sickness
  • Parasites
  • Metabolic disease (Addison’s disease, diabetes, thyroid disease)
  • Stress
  • Heatstroke