If your dog developed an upset stomach, you may have heard about the importance of fasting. Fasting is the term used to depict being off food. If you ever visit a veterinary hospital, you may see dogs in cages with NPO written in big letters. NPO stands for “nil per os” which means nothing by mouth. These dogs may be fasting prior to surgery or may be suffering from some form of digestive upset where feeding food may exacerbate their condition. Following are the benefits of fasting a dog with upset stomach.
Helping the Gut Recover
If your dog has an upset stomach, you may have noticed how often fasting is often recommended by vets. There are good reasons for this. Fasting in a dog with an upset stomach will allow his gastrointestinal system to rest. When a dog suffers from an upset stomach, his stomach and intestines are likely irritated and need time to recover. Giving food during this time further increases the burden on the gastrointestinal tract and may cause dogs to develop more vomiting and diarrhea. In many cases, the dog feels like not eating on his own, a natural reaction due to nausea; however, some times dogs may feel compelled to still eat which delays recovery time and may further cause dehydration if the dog is vomiting and having diarrhea.
Different Fasting Times
When it comes to fasting dogs for an upset stomach, certain guidelines must be followed. The general guideline is to fast a dog for 12 to 24 hours, but there are several variabilities based on breeds, age and medical conditions. Because fasting decreases the concentration of the dog’s blood glucose concentration and insulin secretion, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s guidelines based on age, breed and over all health status.
For instance, in very young puppies such as those between 6 weeks and 16 weeks, food should not be withheld food for too long. According to veterinarian Dr. Olson fast 6 hours for a puppy less then 16 weeks and no more 12 hours for a puppy over 16 weeks to 6 months of age. Other dogs at risk that should be fasted with caution are toy breeds which are also prone to hypoglycemia and dogs suffering from diabetes. Consult with your vet for advice to see if fasting is an option and what you can do to prevent problems.
New Guidelines for Dog Pancreatitis
While in the past it was common to fast dogs with pancreatitis for 24 to 48 hours, nowadays, there are new guidelines. The past 24-48 hours fast made sense as it prevented increasing the inflammation of the pancreas considering how food stimulates this organ to secrete digestive enzyme, but today, it has been discovered that prolonged fasting can be counterproductive. Here’s why…
It has been discovered that when a dog doesn’t eat, changes occur in the intestinal tract, the villi responsible for absorbing nutrients shrink, the wall of the intestine becomes leaky and the chances for inflammation increase. Also, there’s evidence that the presence of food doesn’t stimulate the inflamed pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes as as previously thought, explains veterinarian Jennifer Coates. Fasting times are therefore decreasing for dog suffering from pancreatitis and generally, with the aid of antiemetic drugs, low-fat food can be gradually reintroduced in small, more frequents meals as early as within 24 hours.
Since studies have now shown, that adequate nutrition improves survival in pancreatitis; therefore the only reason for fasting dogs with pancreatitis would be in the case of severe vomiting or pain associated with eating, explains David C. Twedt, a veterinarian specializing in internal medicine at Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO.
The Problem with Water
Water can be troublesome too when a dog has an upset stomach. Gulping water when the stomach is upset may trigger another bout of vomiting which can predispose to dehydration. For this reason, giving ice cubes to lick a little at a time may be a better option. Generally, dogs should not have anything to eat or drink after a dog has vomited. After a couple of hours have passed without vomiting, ice chips can be offered. Then, little amounts of water can be offered. Veterinarian Dr. Debra Primovic suggests giving about 1/4 cup of water of Gatorade. If the dog can keep it down, offer a little more again in about 10 to 15 minutes. If the dog cannot keep water down at this stage, you should try to re-offer it later or seek your vet for advice.
Wolves, the dog’s ancestor and closest living relative, tend to undergo periodic fasting as a kill is made about every 2 to 3 days. At the beginning they will feast eating high calorie organ meats and muscle masses, but then, at the end of the second or third day, they will consume the low calorie bones, fur and hides, explains veterinarian Nancy Scalan.