Recently Kristen Danielson, DVM, a member of the VCA San Francisco Veterinary Specialists 2013-2014 intern class, answered questions from pet owners in the San Francisco Chronicle Ask the Vet column. The topics? A Chihuahua with a vomiting problem and another dog with loose stools. Read the full Q&As below, and browse the Ask the Vet archive.
July 24, 2013
Split meals throughout day may stop vomiting
Q: Whenever my Chihuahua goes even just one hour past her normal feeding time, she vomits bile. This happens whenever she appears to be hungry. Why would having an empty stomach cause her to throw up? She’s been checked and given an otherwise clean bill of health.
A: Your Chihuahua’s vomiting on an empty stomach while being otherwise healthy is consistent with a condition known as bilious vomiting syndrome. This is a relatively common problem in dogs where they vomit bile after having an empty stomach for a period of time. It is most common after a long period of not eating (e.g., early in the morning or late at night).
It is thought that bile secreted from the gallbladder abnormally enters the stomach and causes irritation, which in turn leads to irritation to the stomach lining and causes the dog to vomit. The exact cause of the abnormal bile flow is not known, although a variety of causes have been implicated, including underlying motility disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, infectious diseases and inflammatory bowel disease.
The most common treatment is aimed at reducing the time between feeding, which may involve splitting feedings into three to four feedings evenly spaced throughout the day. (The overall amount of food should not be increased.)
Occasionally, antacids, gastric protectants or pro-motility drugs are used to treat this disorder, but these options should be discussed with your dog’s veterinarian. If the increased frequency of feeding does not resolve the vomiting, further diagnostics should be considered. These may include blood work and imaging, such as radiographs or an endoscopy, to further evaluate the function of your dog’s organs and to look for a primary problem with her gastrointestinal tract.
Kristen Danielson, DVM, VCA San Francisco Veterinary Specialists. http://www.vcasfvs.com.
August 7, 2013
Dog’s interest in its behind is a delicate matter
Q: Over the past few months, my 5-year-old dog has suddenly taken to gnawing on her rectum, leaving the area raw and irritated. Her stools have also been consistently soft since we got her five months ago. She isn’t on any medication (except for flea and heartworm prevention), although she was on antibiotics for roundworm and giardia. Could this be a food allergy?
A: The symptoms you describe could be consistent with several disease processes. One of these is impacted anal glands. In dogs, there are two of these scent glands located on either side of the anus. These glands are used to mark a dog’s territory and are normally expressed when a dog defecates.
When a dog has chronic soft stools, these glands do not empty properly and can become impacted, which can cause the dog discomfort and lead her to lick or chew at her hind end. Besides being uncomfortable, impacted anal glands can also lead to more serious problems, such as infection or rupture of the glands.
Another possible disease that may explain the signs you are seeing is peri-anal fistulas. This is an autoimmune-related, chronic inflammatory disease of the tissues surrounding the anus in dogs, and is most common in German shepherds. The most common complaint first reported by owners is the dog excessively licking or chewing at its rectal region. Peri-anal fistulas are a serious medical condition, and therapy may involve long-term immunosuppressive drugs.
In either case, underlying food allergies have been associated with both anal gland disease and perianal fistulas, and could explain the chronic soft stools. Diagnosis of your dog’s condition should be made by your veterinarian after a full workup. Diagnostic tests may include checking stool samples for parasites, rectal examination, blood work and food trials to look for underlying food allergies.
Kristen Danielson, DVM, VCA San Francisco Veterinary Specialists, http://www.vcasfvs.com.