Tackling your pet’s tummy troubles

Tummy upsets are one of the most common reasons pet parents consult their veterinarian. It is distressing knowing your best friend is unwell, and of course, unpleasant for them too. Here’s expert advice to help you tackle your pet’s tummy troubles, whatever the cause.

“Diarrhoea and vomiting occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from relatively benign to serious,” explains Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor to Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “The most common in dogs, especially ‘scavengers’, is eating something they shouldn’t.” Other causes include stress, food sensitivities, parasites (e.g. worms), bacterial infections and viruses, or chronic conditions including pancreatitis, colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

When should you consult your vet?

Dr Fyvie recommends consulting the vet sooner rather than later when your pet has an upset tum: “With vomiting or diarrhoea, the body loses water and electrolytes, so the pet can quickly become dehydrated, especially young pets and smaller breeds.” He advises close monitoring to establish the severity of the problem. “Your pet will become lethargic with just 2% loss of body fluid, severely depressed with 5% loss and is at risk of death after just 10% fluid loss.”

What is an alternative to Chicken and Rice?

While chicken and rice is sometimes recommended to ease digestive disorders, it makes sense to feed sick pets food that is clinically proven to help them heal and recover more efficiently. “Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d is formulated for pets with gastrointestinal conditions. It’s highly digestible and gentle on the stomach, encouraging improved absorption of important nutrients and increased electrolytes help compensate for those lost,” says Dr Fyvie. “Feed small, regular meals during the recovery period and ensure there is always clean, fresh water available.”

What else can be done to help keep your pet's healthy?

“Prevention is always better than cure,” says Dr Fyvie. “Keeping up to date with vaccinations, pet-proofing your home and taking precautions when you are out all reduce the risk of your pet getting sick in the first place.”


  • Keep your dog on the lead to prevent it eating anything it finds on a walk, particularly if it’s prone to wandering in search of ‘treasure’.
  • Pet-proof your home, keeping household chemicals and toxins out of reach.
  • Put rubbish in the dustbin where it is not accessible.
  • Don’t feed table scraps or bones.
  • Ensure vaccinations are kept up to date.
  • Feed a healthy, complete diet with the correct balance of nutrients and added antioxidants to boost the immune system.
  • Only buy a kitten or puppy from a reliable breeder or shelter, making sure it is vaccinated and dewormed (ask for an official vaccination card).
  • Do not take an unvaccinated pet to public areas, and if your pet is sick keep it home to avoid contamination.
  • Deworm regularly (as per your vet’s instructions).
  • Instead of leaving food out to spoil, rather feed several small meals at intervals. 
  • Keep your yard clean and dispose of poop daily. Do not ‘wash’ it into the grass; this can infect the environment with worm eggs excreted in the poop.


Although digestive problems are common, they should never be ignored. “There are many potential causes and it may take time to identify the correct treatment. Early intervention can be the difference between life and death.”

Should your pet be suffering from any digestive disorders consult your veterinarian for expert advice or visit www.HillsPet.co.za/digestive-health.

Additional Information

Causes of Tummy Upsets in Pets

·         Dietary indiscretion - consuming spoiled or rotten food, or eating non-food items

·         Toxins - medication, poisons or products that are toxic to animals e.g. chocolate, insecticides, rat poison, bleach, some fertilizers and certain plants.

·         Parasites, such as worms.

·         Food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies

·         Bacterial infections and viruses e.g. parvovirus

·         Conditions of the gut, such as pancreatitis, colitis and inflammatory bowel disease

·         Diseases such as diabetes, kidney, liver disease

·         Stress, acute or chronic stress can be a trigger


Signs of Tummy Troubles

·         Vomiting

·         Diarrhoea or soft stools

·         Loss of weight

·         Change of appetite

·         Flatulence

·         Stomach gurgling

·         Constipation

·         Sudden inactivity or depression

·         Sometimes pets will show other signs, such as itchy skin or ears


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