Why do all of my pets have stomach troubles?
May 15, 2011 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Why are all of my pets sick all the time?

To start, I have two dogs and two cats, and they have all been to the vet. So "you need to see a vet" isn't helpful, unfortunately.

My animals are all indoor animals, and only go outside with supervision. For the last year, we have lived in the same house, and during that time all four animals have had recurrent health issues.

I have a schnauzer with known liver problems, but the issue in this post is his stomach. He constantly vomits and has bloody diarrhea. The first time this happened, the vet diagnosed him with pancreatitis, treated it (quite expensively), and sent him home with several medications. He got better, but as soon as the medications ran out, he got sick again. We have been on an endless cycle of this for several months, minus the pancreatitis, which cleared up after the first round. He is currently not really interested in eating, vomiting a lot, and having bloody bowel movements, despite his special, low-protein liver food (which he has been on for two years). Two different vet offices have run countless tests, even the really expensive in-depth ones, to no avail. He even had an exploratory abdominial surgery to check for a blockage of some sort, and there was nothing there.

My terrier began having bloody diarrhea several months prior to my schnauzer's pancreatitis episode. He, too, was extensively tested, and finally given the diagnosis of irritable bowel and switched to prescription food for sensitive stomachs. He still has episodes of stomach issues, though.

One of my cats vomits pretty regularly, as well. And I don't mean coughs up hair balls. I mean vomits up his meals.

So, the vets are no help. They run tests, send the animals home, and it starts all over again. I have spent thousands of dollars trying to treat a problem I can't identify. The vets are aware that all of the animals go through different symptoms regularly, but none of the three vets I have seen with these issues have offered an environmental cause that would affect them all.

Which is why I look to you. What could my animals be getting into, indoors, that could cause these problems? I have an extremely minimalist home, with absolutely no potpourri or decorative items for them to chew on. Of course they have no access to chemicals or cleaning products. They have been known to chew anything in sight, but because an intestinal blockage was ruled out in my schnauzer, I doubt the act of simply eating anything and everything is the root. (Seriously, my terrier has chewed through Kong toys, rugs, even my coffee table.) Is there an emotional cause that could be the root? Stress?

Any idea? This is very distressing, and expensive, and just all around not cool.
posted by starbaby to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are you feeding them? Brand names and how much?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:10 PM on May 15, 2011

Have you seen an internal medicine specialist?
posted by k8t at 4:14 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could there be something wrong with the tap water that is screwing them up? Switch to distilled water for a few weeks, maybe?
posted by babbageboole at 4:15 PM on May 15, 2011

Get your home checked for both mold and lead.
posted by juniperesque at 4:24 PM on May 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Have they been tested for giardia? I don't know where you live, but here in California its fairly common...my dogs seem to come down with it once a year. It is highly contagious, but easily treatable with medication. They can pick it up off grass...mine got it from drinking from a puddle. I am not sure if it can be passed to cats, but a google search would turn that up (people can get it, so it would seem it can be passed inter-species). To determine if they have it, its a relatively inexpensive stool test. Might be worth a try. Good luck.
posted by Z if for Zillah at 4:24 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you could have mold or fungus growing in some area of your house that you can't see but that the animals can get to (e.g. under the bed, behind a couch) that they might be eating or licking. You could try quarantining one of them off in a controlled room for a day or two to see if the symptoms get better.
posted by phunniemee at 4:25 PM on May 15, 2011

Response by poster: Schnauzer is on dry Hill's L/D, and I don't remember the amount, slightly less than 2 cups a day. He is also on a liver medication and Pepcid for now. The terrier has the same amount, but it is half canned, half dry Hill's W/D (tried I/D but it was too balnd and he refused to eat it). Kitty has been on several foods (I don't like to switch around, but grain-free made him sick, then our local store stopped selling Indigo Moon) but right now it is Purina One Beyond. Again, not sure how much--around a cup, maybe more, because he is a massive cat, like 17 pounds. Not fat, just huge, like a smaller version of a Maine coon.

I have not seen an internal medicine specialist, as I have never heard of one in my area. Perhaps I should ask for a referral.

I considered the water, but my second cat is fine. Dogs have visited and drank it and not gotten ill. Could it just affect some animals?

Who do you call for mold and lead checks?

They have been tested for giardia, though I understand it is difficult to "catch," meaning it doesn't always show up on the test, so a diagnosis is hard to get. And they have had rounds of antibiotics since this started, wouldn't that have kicked it?

When my schnauzer was hospitalized with pancreatitis, he improved. So a quarantine would probably help. But because these episodes seem to come and go regularly and independent of cause, I wouldn't be sure if the quarantine was what was fixing the problem.
posted by starbaby at 4:29 PM on May 15, 2011

Is low-level carbon monoxide poisoning possible?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:33 PM on May 15, 2011

Do you have a veterinary college reasonably nearby? That's where I'd go next. I would also ask my vet to post your pets' histories on VIN for input from other vets, many of whom are specialists.
posted by biscotti at 5:04 PM on May 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Giardia can apparently get into your environs, so you cure them of it once and then they get it again. That'd be my non-veterinarian first guess as to why multiple animals are having those symptoms. Have you discussed attempting to sterilize your home/treat your yard with your vet?

Are you feeding once or twice a day? I've had a dog who got sick if he only ate once a day. It seems to be more common in smaller animals.

I have a dog who develops diarrhea if she gets too emotionally stressed.

I now have a dog with a recurring diarrhea problem. Here's what I tried in attempting to track it down:
* a course of metronidazole first
* two weeks of just chicken and rice (half and half, about the same amount of his regular meals)
* probiotics
* pepcid

During this time, he came down with diarrhea *again*. So either he'd developed an allergy to chicken or rice, or it's not really food related. If it weren't food related in theory the probiotics and pepcid should have had some effect. The vet said it could be a sort of doggy IBS, and that it's okay to keep dogs on a low level of metronidazole for months trying to clear something like this up. Obviously, if he gets diarrhea every week and a half, he's never really well long enough for his body to recover. So we're trying that. So far, so good.

So maybe that's an avenue to pursue if you can't isolate a particular food allergen, environmental allergen, environmental toxin, etc.
posted by galadriel at 5:07 PM on May 15, 2011

FWIW many years ago, I had a cat who unbeknownst to me, became sensitized to one or more of the ingredients of a supposedly nontoxic/green brand of carpet cleaner. The more he barfed, the more I used the cleaner to clean up his barf, which caused him to barf even moreā€”at the worst of it, he was projectile vomiting after every meal off the top of the tallest pieces of furniture in the house, where he had climbed up to avoid the treated rugs and carpet. I switched to cleaning up after him with vinegar and water and the crazy puke cycle finally stopped. Anyway, long story short, it can take a surprisingly small amount of a product to make a pet sick if the pet somehow becomes sensitized to it.
posted by jamaro at 5:23 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there new or new to you furniture in your new place?

Lots of furniture these days has been treated with polybrominated Biphenyl (PBB) fire retardants. These cause thyroid problems in cats, presumably dogs and people as well, and are probably hell on the liver, too.

I've also seen dogs and cats get sick from contact with certain kinds of treated wood commonly used in decks.
posted by jamjam at 6:43 PM on May 15, 2011

I'm not your vet, and this isn't medical advice.

Any observations from the explore? Did they biopsy the intestine?

Are all these vets in the same practice? You may want to consider having an internist review the records and take a look at the animals. A school of veterinary medicine would be a good place to seek further help.

Are you scooping all feces immediately? Have you tried switching to boiled water, washed bedding and restricted all food except kibble?
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:17 PM on May 15, 2011

My dog had very similar symptoms to yours, and after multiple vet visits and several courses of antibiotics, he was diagnosed with giardia. The vet prescribed Panacur, which is a very expensive powder that is mixed in with the animal's food. My vet had the dog do two 5-day courses of treatment two weeks apart to make sure we got all the parasites. Each 5-day course was $70, but I did find it cheaper on the internet (reputable pet medication sites, usually require a prescription--some vets charge you for this, others will give you the script free of charge so you can fill elsewhere). The antibiotics he was on previously did not kill the giardia--just like humans and human illnesses, sometimes the most common treatment doesn't work for some.

Since giardia can live for up to 30 days in infected areas, we had to keep him out of the back yard for 30 days (this was where he had had some bowel movements), wash his bedding with hot water/high heat dryer, and super clean the areas in the house where he had had diarrhea. If we had an outdoor run for him or any outdoor areas with hard surfaces, we were to clean them with a bleach solution and then rinse well.

We also switched him to a limited ingredient diet during the whole ordeal. Right now he is on Taste of the Wild's fish variety (can't remember the exact name), but he also did well on the Canidae limited ingredient salmon and potato formula. We also give him about 2 tbsp of plain yogurt per day, and if his stools seem to be getting squishy, we add about a tbsp of pumpkin puree per day. We have ceased giving him ANY table food at all, with the exception of the yogurt and pumpkin.
posted by catwoman429 at 9:29 AM on May 16, 2011

My 17 lb schnoodle had pancreatitis 3X (schnauzers are very susceptible) and HGE 2X (Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis). She is now on (daily) Royal Canin Low Fat Digestive, 5/6 Cup kibble mixed with 1/5 Can wet - fed 3 times a day - as well as 1/16 tsp Tylan mixed with her breakfast. NO people food at all. I have Metaclopromide and Pepcid on hand for flare-ups, but haven't used either in more than 6 months. Chloe is almost 11, happy and full of energy. Switching to the RC and feeding breakfast, small lunch and dinner has made a huge difference.
I wish you well as I know how heartbreaking it is to see a beloved pet in pain and distress.
posted by sushrob at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2011

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