Saturday, March 2, 2013

Grass Eating, Vomiting, Car Sick Puppy

One of the best parts of answering Pawbly questions is learning about the ways people perceive their pets and their pets actions. I also love to answer the questions! Here's the question that I received today. It is insightful because I know many new parents are concerned about their puppy/dog getting car sick, and many people don't recognize just how important and concerning some of these behaviors can be.
"Hi, my daughter just got a puppy from a shelter. She is 5 months old. She keeps wanting to outside to eat grass. Earlier today she got sick two times in the car. She also got sick in the car when she was bringing her home. Will eating the grass hurt her or will it help her to vomit?"
Here was my answer; Let me know what you think;
"Thanks for your question.

There are a few things to discuss.
I would like to know how long you have had your puppy, and if she has been to the vet yet? I would also like to know if she has had a fecal check? (she might need more than one). I always worry about intestinal worms with puppies. Especially if they are vomiting or having diarrhea. 
I tell my clients that "most puppies come with worms, it is very common, and worms come with the puppy package. So expect them, check for them, and treat for them."
I am unclear as to whether the vomiting is related to the car trip? Or, if she is vomiting without it being related to the car? Many pets, especially puppies get car sick due to anxiety about being in the car, and the motion of the car. I always recommend taking your puppy with you in the car as often as you can so they get used to the car, used to the motion of a car, and over come their anxiety associated with the car.
Getting car sick and vomiting because of being in the car, but then stopping vomiting after you get home or to your destination is fairly common. But, if your puppy is still vomiting after the car ride stops then I am concerned that we have a puppy who is nauseous.
There are many things that can make a puppy nauseous. The best way to try to determine the triggers for nausea are to visit your veterinarian and start talking.
I am also concerned about your last statement; "Will eating the grass hurt her or will it help her to vomit?" Eating grass can cause a few things. Pets can pick up the eggs of the worms that evolve into the intestinal parasites that can be dangerous to the health of your puppy. Also, I have seen dogs that have eaten so much grass that the stomach becomes a vat of fermenting green discomfort. This grass becomes a stomach full of un-passable, un-movable, obstruction. It can get stuck in the stomach like cement, except this cement is fermenting,. causing their belly to be stretched to the point that the grass is stuck and may eventually cause the stomach to rupture. These dogs are miserable. They are trying to burp to expel the fermenting stomach gas, trying to vomit, to relieve the pressure in the stomach and feeling terrible. I have actually had to do surgery to remove grass from dogs because their stomach is bloating. Bloat is incredibly painful and can be fatal.
So, I don't want you to think that she should be eating grass. A small amount of grass eating is likely to be safe and may be normal for a curious puppy who investigates the world by tasting it, but I am concerned that she is eating grass because she doesn't feel good.
I hope that I have encouraged you to try to identify why she is vomiting, why she is eating grass, and that you will have a meeting with your vet soon to help your puppy feel better.
If you would like to discuss any of this, or see a veterinarian and you live close to us at Jarrettsville Vet we would love to help.
Best of Luck, and here's to wishing you and your puppy a long, happy, safe life together!"

I wanted to add a few other relevant observations. The dogs that lick obsessively (think about carpet, rugs, blankets, etc), graze or eat grass frequently, lick their lips frequently, or burp, might have either nausea, allergies, indigestion, or reflux. All of these behaviors should be discussed, researched, and treatment options offered to keep your pet happy and healthy. 

I don't always discover the reason why a pet does these, but I always try to curb it. I have performed too many gastrotomies (open up the stomach to inspect and empty it), exploratories (open the abdomen to treat or inspect the organs), and passing of a tube into the esophagus to remove trapped air and ingesta (can be gastric dilation and/or gastric dilation with volvulus (GDV)) to ignore these signs. And even if I cannot figure out the reason they are licking, chewing, swallow, etc. is happening I know they have a reason and I know I need to try to solve it before it becomes a problem.
Here is a dog that we treated a few months ago that had bloated from eating too much grass.  He was very lucky that his mom knew what to look for and knew what was going on. She had just picked him up from a boarding facility a few town away and she immediately noticed that he was distended in his abdomen, trying to vomit (nothing was coming out because there was too much pressure inside the stomach to allow it to empty), and reluctant to move. If she hadn't gotten him to us as quickly as she did he likely would not have survived. She had lost her first poodle to this disease, and she knew exactly what was going on. As soon as he arrived at the clinic we tried to decompress his stomach by passing a stomach tube. The stomach tube is used to remove the fermented grass from his stomach to help relieve the pressure. It is also how we treat choke in horses.
This is what I call a stem to stern incision. It extends from the diaphragm to the pelvis.
It is required when you need to get a very large dilated basketball sized stomach out of the abdomen so you can open it, inspect it and remove any other contents.

The table is tilted with the head down so we could pass a tube from the mouth
to the esophagus to the stomach. 

This is what fermented grass looks like after it has been removed from the stomach.
There is about  3 liters of foul bright green ingesta.
 One last note. After the abdominal exploratory surgery was completed we performed a gastropexy to try to alleviate the chances of a GDV occurring again. This tacks the stomach to the abdominal wall to anchor it, so that even if the stomach dilates it can't twist.
For more information on GDV and gastropexys see the links below;

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