Hello and welcome to my September Woof column. Hard to believe, but we really are already in September. As we enjoy a break from August’s temperatures from hell, let me present the topic for this column: gastrointestinal issues.

Whenever our furry kiddos have diarrhea or vomiting, we always get concerned because they are not feeling their best. We may automatically assume they got into something they shouldn’t have eaten, but it is important to know that these symptoms can be caused by quite a few different things.

I do want to note that vomiting is associated with retching while regurgitation is not, and these two symptoms are often confused with each other. Another important distinction is that diarrhea refers to liquid stools, and that is different from soft stools.

This may seem obvious to some of us, but we often hear parents in the veterinary medical field say that their baby has diarrhea when it was, in fact, soft stools.

Additionally, it always helps to describe the situation to your medical team in as much detail as possible to help them identify what’s going on and thus recommend an ideal course of action for your baby. You can even take a picture or video of what’s happening at home and share it with your medical team to help them more clearly understand.

An occasional isolated vomit or episode of soft stools may be considered normal for some pets, but we need to monitor closely as it may be an early indication that a disease or condition is developing. Needless to say, if you see excessive vomiting or soft stools/diarrhea, or if there are any concerning changes in their routine or behavior, seek medical care right away.

Based on your pet’s age, breed, sex and other factors, vomiting and/or diarrhea can be caused by different things, including changes in diet/treats or poor quality food, dietary indiscretions, stress-inducing events, parvovirus, intestinal parasites, ingestion of foreign material, toxicity, congenital disease, organ failure/damage (including liver and kidney disease), pancreatitis, metabolic/systemic diseases like Addison’s disease, inflammatory diseases like IBS, certain bacterial/viral/fungal infections, food allergies, reactions to medications/supplements/vaccines, motion sickness, and, unfortunately, different types of cancer.

When you talk to your veterinarian, they will likely recommend some lab work, ranging from very basic tests to, potentially, something more advanced. These could include fecal analysis, blood work, radiographs, and/or parvo testing. Your doctor may also recommend or at least mention more advanced tests like abdominal ultrasound, endoscopy, MRI/CT scan, food allergy testing (or a prescription food trial), gastrointestinal biopsy, or even surgical intervention for an exploratory procedure and potential sample collection.

Needless to say, not all tests are always applicable, and sometimes only the more basic tests are needed to identify the cause of the issue.

Treatment options vary widely, based on what may be causing the gastrointestinal issues. In certain situations, some injections and medications may be all your baby needs to feel better. However, certain conditions can lead to hospitalization and even surgical intervention as part of the treatment, and some diseases require long term or lifelong medications.

When taking your pet to your veterinarian or to the emergency hospital, share with them all the information you have. If your baby ingested anything, try to figure out how much what it was and how much they ingested. If there is a label, take a picture of the label or bring the container with you to the visit. You may also consider contacting the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center right away at 888-426-4435.

Fortunately, many causes of vomiting and diarrhea or soft stools can be avoided or prevented. I recommend to puppy/kitty-proof your home and to avoid access to things they could chew on or swallow. Make sure that electric cords are hidden and protected. Avoid taking your puppy to public areas around other dogs until he/she is fully vaccinated. Unless it’s necessary or recommended by your veterinarian, I suggest avoiding abruptly changing brands/flavors of food or treats.

Lastly, please know that social media and some breeders or pet store team members may not always have the best advice for your babies, so please follow your doctor’s recommendations.

I truly hope this column was not too graphic. And as always, I hope this info is beneficial to your family. Remember, if you need anything, I am located in Addison at Isla Vet. Thank you all for reading my column and big abrazos.

Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital, 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110 in Addison. Call him at 972-738-1111 or visit IslaVet.com.