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Labrador Sickness & Diarrhea


What Happens When Your Labrador Vomits?

When your labrador vomits, some of the contents of its stomach or small intestine are bought up and ejected from its mouth. This might be food that it has recently eaten, partly digested matter, water, froth or bile.

Regurgitated stomach contents taste unpleasant and cause profuse salivation because of their acidity. Bile is typically a bright yellow liquid produced by the liver, stored in the gall bladder and released into the small intestine to aid digestion, particularly of fats. If the vomited food contains bile, it shows that the stomach is completely empty.

In the wild, dogs will survive by eating what they can find, when they can find it. This may sometimes lead to them eating unsuitable foods, which are then rejected from their stomachs, causing them to be sick. Occasional vomiting of food is quite common in some dogs. Repeated vomiting, can however, have severe consequences. It can lead to an inability to take in their food and fluids, which can lead to dehydration and weight loss. The loss of fluids and, in particular, the highly acid stomach contents will rapidly upset the delicate fluid balance of the body, making your dog feel even worse.

Most labradors will seem to eat anything they can find, so occasionally they do encounter digestion problems.


Why Is My Labrador Vomiting?

There are many reasons why your labrador may be vomiting, some serious and others not so serious. Occasional vomiting might be caused by eating unsuitable foods or eating too much. It could also be due to car or travel sickness, or even excessive activity after eating. Eating grass is another common cause. Follow the guidelines below if your labrador is being sick for one of these common causes, remembering to withhold food for 4-6 hours, and making sure your lab has plenty of rest. Of course, avoid the cause of the vomiting, and this may be enough to clear the problem.

Important: Frequent or persistent vomiting, with or without traces of blood or bile, with depression or lethargy, or a bloated abdomen are more serious signs. In all cases showing these symptoms, veterinary help should be sought as soon as possible.

What You Can Do To Help Your Labrador - Guidelines

If your labrador has been vomiting, there are many things you can do to help the situation, including the following:

- Withhold food for at least 4 hours.

- You can offer small amounts of water to drink, and then take away the bowl after a few laps. If your labrador drinks too much at once it may cause more vomiting.

- If your labrador vomits again, after the water has been given, don't offer any more to drink for the next 1-2 hours.

- If the vomiting goes on for more than 24 hours, or if your labrador seems very distressed or noticeably lethargic, arrange for them to see your vet immediately.

Once seen by the vet, it may be that your labrador has severe dehydration or loss of bodily salts, and your vet will probably hospitalize them for treatment with intravenous fluids.


Specific Causes Leading To Severe Vomiting

If your labrador is vomiting severely, it could be due to a more serious reason than that of above. Reasons could include:

1) Foreign body in the stomach or small intestinal blockage - Labradors and dogs in general, often play with small items such as bones, stones, small toys, nuts or fruit stones. There has also been cases where golf balls have been swallowed. Most of these are easily swallowed into the stomach, but may be difficult to pass on into and through the intestine.(Especially a golf ball!)A partial or complete blockage will rapidly cause vomiting and severe illness, and may well need surgery to remove the offending item. Your vet may be able to feel a foreign body, or see it on X-ray or ultrasound examination. 

2) Poisoning - There are many different types of poison that are attractive to dogs which can cause them serious harm if eaten. On occasions they may eat contaminated food. The signs of poisoning are very varied therefore if you suspect your labrador has eaten something poisonous, collect any samples, packets or evidence which you can take to your vet to help identify any specific antidotes.

3) Infection - Sickness and vomiting may also be caused by a bacterial infection. Food poisoning or other viral infections, can sometimes cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) or gastroenteritis. (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) This may result in vomiting and/or diarrhea. Specific infection with canine parvovirus will cause sudden onset sickness with profuse diarrhea which may be bloodstained and with a characteristic fetid smell. Hospitalization and intravenous fluids can be life saving for these dogs. Vaccinations can fully protect dogs against this disease: these are routinely available at any veterinary clinic, ask your vet for further information about these.

4) Kidney Or Liver Disease (hepatitis) - Kidney or liver problems can have a serious effect on the rest of your dogs body. Changes in the levels of certain chemical and waste products in the bloodstream can cause irritation the the stomach lining-resulting in feelings of nausea.

5) Toxaemia - The build up of bacterial toxins in the bloodstream can cause vomiting. Pyometra is a condition affecting older female dogs that have not been neutered, where fluid and infection build up inside the womb (uterus) over a period of time until, typically some weeks after a season, signs of toxaemia develop. Signs that your labrador may be affected include depression, they may be very thirsty, frequent vomiting or a vaginal discharge. If you suspect this illness in your labrador, they must be seen by a vet immediately.


Diarrhea is not a disease, it is a symptom of many different diseases.  Normally, your labrador will probably be passing firm stools once or twice daily, Diarrhea is when they pass semi-solid or liquid stools, more often than usual. This is due to an increased rate of passage of food through the gut. Diarrhea is messy, it can be painful, and it's also an indication that something isn't right in your labrador. Diarrhea is common in labradors though, especially if they eat anything and everything, as a lot of labradors tend to do! Normally it is down to them snacking on something tasty of the street, or whilst out for walks - when their owners aren't looking! With proper care, diarrhea normally clears up in a day or two. Remember- even diarrhea caused by mild illnesses may become fatal if treatment is not begun early enough to prevent severe fluid and nutrient losses.

Common Reasons That Can Cause Diarrhea

Many different factors can affect your labrador, and its bowel movements. These include the following:

- If your labrador has eaten something he shouldn't, or if you have changed his diet recently, he could end up with a bout of diarrhea.

- They could be allergic to certain types of foods, including dairy products.


What You Can Do To Help Your Labrador

- Provide your labrador with plenty of rest, as increased activity often stimulates increased gut movement.

- Offer plenty of water or oral rehydration fluids to drink. So long as your labrador is not vomiting, there is no need to restrict fluid intake.

- You can help clear up your labrador's simple diarrhea by putting him on a 24-hour fast. If he appears better after a day, cook him a bland diet of two parts cooked rice and one part boiled skinless white meat or fish. Start him of with a small amount every four hours.

If the diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, if there is any blood in the diarrhea, if your labrador also vomits, is obviously lethargic or in pain, you should seek veterinary advice without delay.

- If your labrador seems well after small amounts of food, feed him about 1/4 of his regular food along with the bland diet of cooked white meat and rice. Gradually, up the percentage over a few days until he's back to his normal diet.

- Most veterinary clinics are able to supply a number of veterinary diets specifically prepared for the treatment of dogs with diarrhea. Speak to your vet who will be able to advise you.

- Feed your labrador a little live yoghurt. Live yoghurt or preparations of probiotics will help restore the normal bacterial population of the gut, allowing it to function normally.

- Certain prescription medicines may be used to slow down the movement of the gut, seek advice from your vet regarding what is the most suitable for your labrador.

- Some types of fibre added to the food will help clear up diarrhea.

- Diarrhea can cause dehydration, so your vet may recommend a drink enriched with electrolytes.

Antibiotics are rarely necessary in the treatment of diarrhea, unless it is due to infection with specific bacteria or the intestine has become so inflamed that it can leak into the bloodstream. Antibiotics commonly disturb the normal bacterial population of the gut, and may in themselves cause further diarrhea.


Other Causes Of Diarrhea

Diarrhea can also result from intestinal worms, intestinal obstruction from swallowing a foreign object, or a viral infection like hepatitis, parvovirus or distemper. If you are worried about your labrador, or again if he is unwell for more than 24 hours, contact your vet for further advice.

Please remember, any health advice noted here should not replace a visit to the vets. Please take your labrador immediately to see your vet should your dog have diarrhea or sickness for more than 24 hours, or is lethargic and depressed. If you are concerned at the first signs of illness, trust your instincts and seek help from your vet.

The information in this article is for use as a guideline only.

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