One of the most common problems that I see in my practice centres on the digestive system. I find that the simple act of switching the diet of both dogs and cats to a fresh food diet seems to have a very noticeable effect on their health. The more nutrition that can be processed through the body, the more likely that injuries and illnesses can be successfully abated.
There are two broad categories of intestinal disturbance that we see with our pets; vomiting, diarrhea or some degree of both. These categories may be further divided into chronic problems (lasting longer than a few consecutive days) or acute problems (those that usually are self limiting and end with the pet improving or rapidly getting much worse). In the first of this two-part column, to be continued next month, I will address vomiting.
In both dogs and cats, the act of vomiting or regurgitation can be normal. In nature, this is a good defense mechanism against the ingestion of harmful foods and toxins (most notably in dogs, which are more prone to scavenging than cats). Cats have developed a keen sense of smell and taste to help them be more selective than dogs as to the dangers of certain foods. Cats are also less equipped to detoxify than dogs (a common example being the dangers of acetaminophen in cats, as they cannot adequately metabolize it in the liver).
So what to do if your pet begins to vomit? If you are fairly sure the pet did not ingest anything like antifreeze or any prescription or over-the-counter medication, then a 24 hour fast is recommended, followed by boiled meat and rice in small amounts–usually four times a day until the pet feels better. If there is repetitive vomiting, with the pet becoming lethargic, you should probably get a checkup, as there may be dehydration.
Quite often there will be a problem with chronic vomiting in which the vomiting has been infrequent (one to two times weekly) but is becoming more and more frequent. In cases like these there may be something pro- gressing and you should consult your veterinarian.
Arsenicum album: this remedy is useful for the dog or cat that is restless, chilly and seeks water in small amounts quite often. The pet may search for a warm area to perch, which makes him feel better. This is the number one remedy for food poisoning (for that dog who gets into the garbage every so often!)
Nux vomica: this remedy is useful for vomiting from the effects of toxins. It is sometimes used as a homeopathic detoxification from the overuse of drugs and anesthetic. The animal is usually thirsty, may be very sensitive to intestinal pains and can be irritable from these pains.
Ipecac: vomiting repetitively with a green color or vomiting small amounts of blood can indicate this remedy.
Phosphorus: these pets have vomited very shortly after ingestion of food or water (once it has warmed up in the stomach). The pet is usually thirsty for cold water but this is also regurgitated. There may be red blood in the vomit.
Pulsatilla: this remedy is useful when your pet is clingy and whiny and this begavior is accompanied by vomiting.
Another caution I should mention is the possibility of an obstruction or a blockage of the bowel. These conditions are very serious and more common in young dogs and cats. Generally they will vomit repeatedly until there is nothing left in the stomach (sometimes six to 12 times during the day). These should get professional attention.