Having discussed the ailments associated with the oesophagus (that tube which connects the oral cavity with the stomach), the next step would be to zero in on stomach problems. We will do that week after next.
Last week, I mentioned that regurgitation is not the same as vomiting. Today, let us look at this whole issue of vomiting more closely.
One of the major disturbances of the digestive system is vomiting. It is a major sign that something is radically wrong. The moment the vet hears from the client that his/her companion animal is vomiting, the vet must take the call very seriously.
We must firstly define vomiting. It is the vigorously active ejection of food from the stomach and even from that part of the intestine that adjoins the stomach. The action is accompanied by the increased production of saliva and the contraction of the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm.
For vomiting to occur, there must be stimulation of the vomiting centre in the brain stem, or the stimulation of special nerve receptors within the central nervous system. Certain drugs and bacterial toxins can excite these nerve receptors. Actually, many of these receptor nerves are to be found in the duodenum, that part of the intestine which comes immediately after the stomach.
Vomiting can also be triggered by diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, by kidney or liver failure, by inflammatory conditions of the pancreas and so on.
It is important for you as the owner who is confronted with this symptom, to observe how the dog vomits, and under what conditions the dog vomits. It is also important for you to determine how often the dog vomits and the period of time that elapses between vomiting episodes, and how long this condition has been present before you decided it was problematic enough for you to see your veterinarian.
Often, vomiting could be simply the result of the animal engorging itself with too much food too hastily. This happens especially when puppies have to compete for food from the same bowl. And, by the way, even though it may not be aesthetic (to you), it is not a problem if the dog goes back and eats the vomited stuff.
As veterinarians, we often hear that the dog has been eating grass (for whatever reason) and then vomits soon thereafter. To this day, after more than four and a half decades of practice, I am not sure what the connection between grass eating and vomiting is. Does the grass irritate the stomach wall, thus precipitating the vomiting reflex? But why does the dog eat the grass? Is it a bad habit? Is it that he is deficient of roughage or certain minerals found in grass and that he is trying to rectify this deficiency? Some authors tend to think that a heavy worm burden causes the animal to eat grass. I think the jury is still out on that one.
We will now discuss the types of vomiting. This could help us to focus on the more fundamental problems.
Continuous and repeated vomiting
Several maladies cause repeated vomiting. A toxic encounter (poisoning) could result in vomiting. For example, if a puppy, in its curiosity, plays with and swallows rat bait, one would expect vomiting to follow. Bacterial or viral diseases which result in stomach upsets (destruction/inflammation of the lining of the stomach wall = gastritis) would precipitate continuous vomiting. The food which entered the stomach would be expelled. Since there is no longer any substantial matter left in the stomach, the next vomiting episode will be associated with the expulsion of clear/frothy material.
For a vet, this the most difficult kind of symptomology from which to diagnose a definite ailment. In this case, the vomiting is episodic, ie, it comes and goes. In fact, the vomiting can stay away for days, return and then stop. The animal is obviously ill. It is depressed, listless; often the elasticity of the skin is reduced (if you pull a fold of skin, it returns slowly back to place instead of immediately snapping back to its original position). One can be dealing with a chronic gastritis, which is bad enough. Worse, however, is that this intermittent vomiting can be the result of a damaged organ (usually the kidney or the liver). Diabetes (sugar) has been known to precipitate sporadic vomiting. In puppies, a heavy worm burden could induce vomiting.
This is the worst of all, because it means that the mucous membrane lining of the stomach (or the oesophagus or duodenum) is peeling off and leaving the raw tissue with the blood vessels open and unprotected. A bad gastritis or a stomach ulcer would result in the vomiting of blood. Very often, a foreign body stuck in the oesophagus or the stomach would create conditions whereby the animal vomits blood. Similarly, the ingestion of any caustic or acid substance (even some types of medication) could produce bloody vomit.
Sometimes the blood that is vomited up is relatively fresh (red). This would mean that the blood has not begun to be digested, therefore we can assume that the bleeding is taking place in the oesophagus or at the entrance to the stomach. On the other hand, if the vomited blood shows signs of being coagulated (black, grainy), then we can assume that the original lesion is in the stomach or in that portion of the intestine which adjoins the stomach (the duodenum). Cancers of the stomach would also cause the vomiting of blood.
We will continue with the different types of vomiting next week.
Congratulations to all those who are involved in the positive aspects of mothering undertakings. You are just simply the best. Thank you from all of us children.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.