Long: Be wary of Internet advice about treating your animals
I recently came across an article on Yahoo! titled “Home Remedies for Vomiting Dogs.
If your dog is vomiting, deciding how long you will attempt to treat it at home is probably something of a matter of personal choice. For some people, one episode of vomiting brings them right to the veterinarian. Others seem OK with waiting it out. Typically other factors play a role in the decision. If the dog is otherwise perky, with a normal appetite and no other symptoms, you might give it a day to see how things progress. If the dog is lethargic, not interested in eating and/or drinking, seems painful or restless, you’d absolutely better bring it in.
So let’s say you’ve decided that you’re going to wait things out and see how your dog does at home. You sit down to your computer and ask Dr. Google, and he comes back to you with the above-mentioned article.
The first suggestion on the list recommends feeding a bland diet, and the second recommends total fasting for 24 hours. Clearly, you can’t do both of these, so how do you decide which to do? Trying a combination of these seems reasonable. Waiting six to eight hours, then offering a small “test” meal of boiled chicken and white rice is a common strategy.
Another point the author makes is that feeding canned pumpkin and yogurt may help to settle the stomach. While canned pumpkin may offer benefit to animals in need of more fiber, it does nothing to calm an upset stomach, and yogurt doesn’t have enough microorganisms in it to sufficiently alter gut flora to the benefit of the animal.
The author points out that dogs that are vomiting can become dehydrated, and this is true. Dehydrated dogs can have serious electrolyte imbalances, which can almost never be corrected by oral replacement alone. This is because vomiting dogs are typically nauseous as well, and getting them to consume enough fluids orally to replace what they have lost is next to impossible. The article suggests offering them a bowl of Pedialyte, the electrolyte replacement solution that is often fed to infants and small children. If your dog is sufficiently dehydrated to need electrolyte supplementation, he needs to be in the hospital getting it intravenously, as he’s unlikely to drink it on his own.
The last suggestion in the article is that dogs that are vomiting need sugar, since they are at risk for hypoglycemia because they aren’t eating, and they are losing glucose through vomiting. Adult dogs are capable of making glucose in the liver, so glucose supplementation is almost never needed with simple vomiting. Puppies that are vomiting may develop hypoglycemia, but a little bit of honey on the gums every six to eight hours, as the author suggests, will do almost nothing to correct it.
Information obtained on the Internet, while inexpensive, may not be helpful or even accurate. Your best bet is to consult your veterinarian for advice.
Christie Long is a veterinarian at the VCA Fort Collins Animal Hospital.