Petfoodology

the scientific study of pet nutrition by veterinary nutrition specialists and experts.

Stomaching the Problem: Could Your Pet Have Bilious Vomiting Syndrome?

Stomaching the Problem: Could Your Pet Have Bilious Vomiting Syndrome?
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What is Bilious Vomiting Syndrome?

 Bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS) is a term sometimes used to describe a condition where dogs vomit yellow fluid (called bile) or froth but not food after not eating for a long period of time (which for most dogs is typically early in the morning after not eating overnight). Other signs a dog with BVS may have include obvious nausea or reduced interest in food, especially first thing in the morning. Dogs sometimes show they are nauseous by smacking their lips, drooling, or just by showing less interest in food. For some dogs, it is thought that the fasting period between dinner and breakfast the following morning can result in some of the fluid from their intestines flowing backward into their stomach, which can lead to irritation, nausea, and vomiting.

Although BVS often has these typical signs and is typically not life-threatening, it is important to consult your veterinarian to rule out any other causes of vomiting in your pet, some of which can be serious, so they can recommend testing and treatment that is right for each individual dog. If standard diagnostics such as a blood panel and physical exam are suggestive of BVS rather than something more serious, your veterinarian may recommend dietary adjustments or medications.

 How might my veterinarian recommend treating it?

 There are many approaches to treating BVS, and it is important to consult with your veterinarian about which options might be best for your dog. One study reviewed dogs who were suspected to have BVS. Two of the most common treatments that stopped or reduced the vomiting were smaller, more frequent meals and adding an additional late-night meal right before bedtime to reduce the fasting period. Sometimes giving a small amount of food first thing in the morning, then waiting a little before giving a larger meal is also helpful. If your veterinarian diagnoses BVS in your dog and recommends a late-night meal, you’ll want to be careful with your food measurements! More frequent feedings should not mean additional food, but spreading out what she currently receives into more feedings. The total amount she gets per day should not go beyond your pet’s calorie needs that keep her at an ideal body condition.

Your veterinarian might also consider a change in diet or adding in medication, but each dog may have different needs.  You should always consult your veterinarian before making any diet change to ensure it meets the nutritional and health goals for your dog.

References:

Leah Ferguson, Sara A. Wennogle, Craig B. Webb; Bilious Vomiting Syndrome in Dogs: Retrospective Study of 20 Cases (2002–2012). J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1 May 2016; 52 (3): 157–161

This article was written in conjunction with veterinary student, Rachel Hanford.

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Deborah E. Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN

Dr. Deborah Linder, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, is the head of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals and has had articles appear in Eating Well, the Boston Globe, AARP, SHAPE, and XM Sirius Radio Doctor Channel. She has spoken at national and international conferences and a Capitol Hill briefing, and is an expert in pet obesity, nutrition communication, and in the human-animal bond. 

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