Could eating human food one time cause bloating and soft stools in my dog and should she be taken to the vet?

Original Question: I am wondering if my dog has "bloat". She was very thirsty last night after I fed her some marinated shrimp that had been sitting out of the fridge a day or two and it may also have been spicy. I also fed her some new dog food. Then she was up all night and wouldn't settle and was very thirsty. I took her out several times and she pooped. She seems her normal happy self but still panting a bit more than normal and pooped again a lot this morning and had a soft stool. She does seem bloated but has been so for a couple months since I got her home from a dog sit arrangement where she didn't have as much exercise as usual. I'm wondering if I should take her to the vet asap or see if she gets better. I gave her some charcoal last night in case the shrimp was bad. - Angie

Could eating human food one time cause bloating and soft stools in my dog and should she be taken to the vet? May 26, 2017

Hi Angie,

Before we dive into your dog’s particular situation, I want to discuss the condition we generally refer to as “bloat” as you mentioned in your question. The medical name for “bloat” is Gastric Dilation Volvulus or GDV. This condition is a true veterinary emergency, and if you think your dog may be experiencing this, she should be brought to a veterinarian without delay. GDV occurs when the stomach becomes full of air, fluids, food or a mix of all of these, and flips around such that the trapped material cannot escape. The stomach will continue to enlarge, causing the blood supply to become compromised, and if not treated swiftly, it can lead to permanent damage to the stomach and spleen (which is attached). The stomach may even rupture. The longer the stomach is twisted around, more damage occurs and the dog’s circulatory system will begin to go into shock.

GDV is most likely to occur in large or giant deep-chested dog breeds such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds and Standard Poodles. It is treated by quick recognition and decompression of the stomach, followed by surgery to de-rotate the stomach and perform a procedure called a “gastropexy” (tacking the stomach wall to the body wall), such that further rotation is prevented. The success of the surgery depends on how long the stomach has been rotated and how much damage as been done. The degree of circulatory shock that has occurred also plays a big role in post-op recovery.

So, you can see the importance of acting quickly in these cases! Signs to watch for include sudden onset of non-productive, continuous retching and vomiting, extreme lethargy, as well as severe abdominal pain and enlargement. Prevention is important for at-risk dogs – some giant breed owners may elect to have a preventative gastropexy performed at the time of spay or neuter in order to avoid GDV in the future. Avoiding large meals and playing, rolling and rough-housing after a meal is also recommended for these dogs.

Now, aside from the dreaded GDV, there is another, more benign condition referred to as “food bloat,” which is more common and less dangerous. This occurs when a dog consumes a very large volume of food (such as an ENTIRE bag of treats, or similar) and the stomach is over-filled. In these cases, the dog may feel nauseous, may vomit, be mildly lethargic and have a round belly. Unlike a GDV, the vomiting will likely be productive (material comes up) and much less severe. These dogs will usually recover on their own in a day or so, with minimal supportive care.

For your shrimp-eating canine companion, I have a few thoughts. First, I always recommended avoiding giving your pet “human” foods, and especially marinated or seasoned products. This can lead to an excess of salt intake, and in rare cases, cause a dangerous condition called salt poisoning. You mentioned she was very thirsty after, so I suspect maybe it was too salty for her. Dogs are also susceptible to food-borne bacterial infections or food-poisoning just like we are. Bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli can grow on food left out and can make them very ill.

I definitely suggest bringing your pup to the vet for an exam and assessment. Aside from dietary indiscretion or bloat, an enlarged belly can be a sign of many different chronic disease conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease, tumours and endocrine diseases. Your veterinarian will able to perform a thorough physical exam, bloodwork and x-rays in order to determine if your dog may be affected by one of these conditions. I hope this helps you and other pet owners understand and identify signs of bloat and the importance of seeking veterinary care when in doubt.  For more information about what foods to feed your dog, I encourage you to take a look at our video entitled ‘Can I Feed My Dog People Food?’

All the best with your pup!

Dr. Kimberly Hester

Disclaimer: and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.

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