Yesterday morning, I found part of a goose carcass in the backyard.
Yesterday afternoon, I found more of it… in a pile of dog vomit on the dining room floor. (Yes, my dog’s an idiot, but that’s a separate story).
Between the vomiting and my dog’s rather solid gut, there hasn’t been any diarrhea, at least not yet, but it not an uncommon problem in most dogs after an episode like this.
Diarrhea after dietary indiscretion can be caused by a number of different factors, including ingestion of disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella. It can also simply be from eating too much, overloading the gut with a new substance, effects of fermenting material on the intestinal tract, and other physiological causes.
The best way to prevent this kind of diarrhea is to make sure dogs don’t eat anything unusual, but that may be easier said than done. If a dog does get into something it shouldn’t, odds are it’s not going to be a major problem in terms of infectious diseases. Most of these become typical cases of "garbage gut," the results of which are the dog vomits and maybe has some diarrhea, but is otherwise fine and gets over it quickly. Sometimes they puke once and never look back. Other times, they need to be kept off feed or be fed a bland diet for a couple days to let their system get back to normal. During this period you should be aware that, while the cause is unlikely to be infectious, there’s still certainly a possibility that the dog is shedding more harmful bacteria than normal. Vomit isn’t that big of a risk, particularly compared to diarrhea, but you should clean it up promptly and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Cleaning up diarrhea takes a little more care, as I’ve previously discussed.
Garbage gut is usually more of a nuisance than a major health problem. You don’t necessarily need to go running to your vet every time your dog throws up after eating something, but you also need to make sure you don’t miss a potentially serious problem such as ingestion of a foreign body (e.g. bones, indigestible garbage), severe intestinal infection or pancreatitis. You should go to your vet anytime you have concerns. It’s particularly important to get your dog evaluated if it has persistent vomiting or diarrhea, signs of abdominal pain (e.g. hunched up stance, crying, moving around like it hurts), doesn’t want to eat or drink or is lethargic. It’s also wise to get to a vet quicker if your dog has underlying health problems, has a history of pancreatitis or is very young (i.e. a puppy) or very old.