What is Garbage Gut in dogs and how is it treated?

For many pet owners, it’s not uncommon to see their beloved furry friend turn into a voracious garbage disposal, gobbling up anything and everything in sight. You might wonder if their desire to devour anything other than their pricey, organic meals is akin to a vegan’s aversion to offal. But in reality, if given the chance, they would happily devour anything until they resemble a blimp. It’s hard to resist those longing looks they give, but let’s not dwell on the true nature of their adoration or Google the answer, shall we?

Simply put, some dogs just can’t resist eating anything, and I mean anything. Unfortunately, their stomachs are not as tough as we’d hope. For some, their stomachs become temporary holding stations for all sorts of “food,” only to be swiftly ejected through either end, faster than an arachnophobe fleeing at the sound of the ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ theme song. Vets refer to this as “dietary indiscretion,” but you may have heard it called “garbage gut.”

What are the clinical signs of garbage gut?

The symptoms of garbage gut can vary, but here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Quiet behavior
  • Stomach and gut pain
  • Flatulence (yes, your dog might start farting up a storm!)
  • A grumbly tummy

The severity of these signs can differ from case to case. Many dogs will recover without treatment or with simple medical management within 24-72 hours. However, there are cases where complications can arise, posing potential life-threatening risks. These complications include pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gastrointestinal obstruction (when ingested material causes blockages in the stomach or intestines), sepsis (a severe response to infection), and clinical signs specific to certain toxins.

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How is dietary indiscretion diagnosed?

In most cases, your veterinarian will diagnose dietary indiscretion based on your pet’s history, presenting signs, and a thorough clinical examination. In severe cases or when initial medical management doesn’t yield expected results, additional tests may be performed. These tests can include blood testing, ultrasound, X-rays, and fecal testing, among others. These tests help rule out other complications such as dehydration, pancreatitis, and obstruction.

How is it treated?

Thankfully, most cases of dietary indiscretion are mild and can be addressed by feeding your pet a bland diet like boiled chicken, white fish, and rice without any veterinary intervention. However, if the clinical signs persist, your vet may consider further treatment options. These may include:

  • Anti-emetics: Medications to stop vomiting and alleviate nausea
  • Gut protectors: Medications to treat irritation or ulceration of the stomach lining
  • Probiotics: Supplements to replace normal gut bacteria and reduce irritation in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Antibiotics: Rarely necessary, but they might be prescribed if there’s a suspicion of infection, such as a high temperature or significant blood in the stools
  • IV fluids: Administered if your pet becomes dehydrated

In more severe cases, specific treatments like surgery to remove ingested material causing obstruction or hospitalization for further medical management may be required.

How is it prevented?

Unfortunately, some animals never seem to learn and periodically suffer from dietary indiscretion. Preventing this behavior can be challenging, especially if your pet has a knack for picking up things during walks. However, here are a few steps you can take:

  • Keep food out of your pet’s reach or store it in the fridge or a cupboard if they can access kitchen surfaces.
  • Ensure your garden is clear of toxins or rubbish that may tempt your pet.
  • Supervise your pet closely during walks.
  • In extreme cases, consider using a basket muzzle to prevent your pet from eating unwanted items.
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So, the next time your dog decides to transform into a dustbin, causing you to spend an evening playing catch with their ears to avoid a stream of vomit and dodging projectile diarrhea, remember that you’re not alone in this struggle. Welcome to the not-so-glamorous side of being a domesticated wolf owner. Fortunately, you have a vet on your side to help.

Don’t blame yourself for their indulgence; they’ve brought it upon themselves. Just like us after a terrible hangover, their memory will soon fade, and they’ll be back to tempting the gastrointestinal gods in no time. And if you’d like more information, you can always visit Katten TrimSalon.

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