Ask a Vet: Does My Dog Have a Stomach Virus?

What is a common stomach bug for you can be something very different for your dog.

In fact, vomiting, regurgitation, diarrhea and refusal to eat are the most frequently reported signs of gastrointestinal (GI)  illness in dogs. Other signs of digestive disorders include constipation, changes in bathroom habits and pain while defecating.

Understanding the signs and common causes of digestive upset (virus-like symptoms) in dogs can help you take the best care of your canine companion and help you know when it is time to contact your veterinarian. Here are some things to consider when your dog has stomach issues:

  • Is Your Dog Stressed? Dogs in stressful situations, such as boarding at a kennel or shelter, traveling to dog shows or being adopted into a new home, may develop a digestive issue. Although its onset can be sudden, a stress-related digestive issue usually lasts just a day or two and resolves when the source of the stress is reduced. You can minimize stress by evaluating  your dog’s lifestyle and eliminating stress factors.
  • Does Your Dog Love To Raid The Trash Can? Dogs with dietary indiscretion (meaning they’ll eat just about anything) can end up with acute gastritis (stomach upset). If you’ve arrived home more than once to a kitchen covered in trash and a guilty-looking dog, this might be the problem. Although most episodes are minor, signs can be severe depending on what type of food (or non-food) the dog consumed.
  • Is Your Dog On A New Food? A change in food can cause temporary GI upset in dogs, especially if the change was introduced quickly. Make sure to slowly transition your dog’s food by gradually mixing the new food with the current food, increasing the proportion of new food over a period of seven to ten days.
  • Could Your dog Have Been Exposed to Parasites? Several infectious parasites live in the GI tract and may cause issues. Some common parasites include hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and coccidia. Some parasites can be transmitted by ingesting parasitic eggs or spores. These spores can be found in contaminated food, water, soil and feces. If your dog has ingested any of these, take him to the vet. Parasitic infestations must be treated with veterinary prescribed medications.
  • Was Your Dog Around Other Sick Animals? If the answer is yes, take him to the vet. Diarrhea is one of the most common signs of several infectious diseases in dogs. The most serious of these is parvovirus, a highly contagious disease that can be life-threatening. In addition to developing severe diarrhea, dogs infected with parvovirus will be lethargic, have a fever and show signs of abdominal pain and discomfort.
  • Not Quite Sure? If you can’t figure out the underlying cause, it may be worth having a vet check for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). These are a collection of large bowel (intestine) disorders that have several underlying causes. In each specific disease, a different type of inflammatory cell increases in number in the intestine. Your vet can diagnose this by performing an endoscopy and biopsy of the intestinal wall.

Because there are many possible underlying causes for digestive problems in dogs, it is important to contact your veterinarian whenever your dog shows signs of illness. Your veterinarian can use your dog’s medical and behavioral history, along with needed examinations and tests, to obtain a diagnosis and provide you with treatment options. Preventative care is key, so work with your vet to ensure your pet is on a complete and balanced nutritional plan and is getting regular checkups.

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