Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common and broad clinical signs of disease in veterinary medicine. The level of concern for these symptoms depends on several factors including what is in the vomit or feces, the size and age of the pet, the duration of symptoms, the pet’s medical history, and any other accompanying symptoms.
If a pet has only vomited or had diarrhea once or twice and otherwise appears normal, they can be watched at home for further developments. Pets should be seen by a veterinarian if vomiting and diarrhea are persistent; vomitus or feces contain blood or foreign material; the pet’s behavior and attitude is abnormal; or if the pet has a known, underlying disease process. Although there is a long list of possible causes for vomiting and diarrhea, common causes include dietary indiscretion, ingestion of foreign material, ingestion of toxins, gastrointestinal irritation, viral or bacterial gastrointestinal infection, and pancreatitis or other metabolic diseases. Recognizing and treating problems early will help prevent dehydration (especially in smaller pets or those with marked symptoms) and ulceration or irritation of the stomach and esophagus.
Diagnosing the underlying cause of the vomiting and diarrhea with labwork and abdominal imaging is often necessary. Common supportive treatments for vomiting and diarrhea include IV fluids, anti-nausea medications, intestinal protectants, and occasionally antibiotics. Treatment for specific disease processes will be added when an underlying cause can be found.