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Help! Chronic Stomach/Intestinal Issues

I Love Justice
December 7th, 2006, 07:41 PM
Hi everyone,
I am hoping someone out there can help me. My dog, Justice, a 5 and a half year old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has been having stomach/intestinal issues since he was about 4 months old. I have been to numerous veterinarians and still have no found a solution.

Justice has these "episodes" that start with incessant swallowing and licking. He will constantly lick the floor or anything else he can. Then he bloats up and his stomach gets hard as a rock. Usually he will vomit several times and sometimes he will have bouts of diareahea as well. He is clearly in a lot of pain and extremely uncomfortable, and he burps and passes a lot of gas. These episodes usually last about three hours and most often happen between the hours of 10:00 pm and 3:00am. During these episodes, he will cry and bark and want to go outside to eat grass. I try to keep him from doing that since it is not good for him. I usually just sit with him and rub his stomach and try to keep him calm as best I can until it ends.

When this first started happening five years ago, I was extremely concerned that the bloat would cause stomach torsion which I was told is life threatening, so every time it happened I rushed him to the emergency vet clinic. When it continued to happen regularly I took him to a specialist center and they did a biopsy of his intestines and found helicobacter bacteria. While they were doing the biopsy, they also tacked his stomach down so that even if he bloated I would not have to worry about the stomach torsion killing him. They treated the helicobacter and he was okay for a little while but soon the episodes began again. They would come anywhere from a few times a day to once a month, and nothing in particular seems to trigger them, in fact they often happen when he was sleeping. I have tried every possible prescription diet and combination of medications and sometimes he seems to get a little better and won't have an episode for a few weeks or so but then they just start up again. The odd thing is that once the episode ends, he is absolutely fine, like he was never sick. He is a very happy, loving, wonderful dog who is the love of my life and he has never had any other medical issues other than these mysterious episodes.

I am so frustrated because I can't bear to see him going through this over and over, it's just so horrible. I spend every night sitting up with him so I rarely get any sleep which obviously effects my work and other aspects of my life. I have tried everything I or the vets can think of and nothing is working. Does anyone out there have any idea or suggestions on what else I can try? I just don't know what else to do. I would greatly appreciate any assistance anyone can offer. Thank you.

December 7th, 2006, 08:27 PM
What kind of food does he eat? Has he always been on the same kind?

Sometimes an intolerance to an ingredient in food can cause major gastro problems. We did a switch last year from the chicken based food he was on (and is now back to) to a lamb based food.

Well it didn't go over very well to say the least. He got really sick, vomited a lot, drooled a lot, and started licking his lips a lot. We actually thought that he had gotten into some sort of poison somehow and were really scared. He was fine after a couple of days, and a trip to the vet for some meds to reduce the stomach discomfort. A week later we tried the lamb food again (just a very small amount) and got the same results.

So I am not sure if this could be your dog's problem or not, but it is something to consider as a food intolerance can cause some major trouble.

December 7th, 2006, 08:34 PM
It's so odd to read this, as one of my dogs does a very similar thing, though it doesn't result in the extreme bloating of the stomach that you're describing, and I've never heard another person describe such episodes.

I don't know if this will be of much help to you, but since you've tried everything else, maybe you'll gather something helpful from my experience.

Streets has suffered from colitis for the entire time I've had him. The licking/gulping/vomiting/etc. episodes have, in his case, always come when the colitis has, or is about to, flare up. Because of this I've always dealt with them as somewhat of a package, so I guess take that into consideration when reading the things we've done that have about 95% eliminated both issues.

We switched the dogs to a homemade food, which made the most drastic difference of anything. I make it using a pre-bought base called Essex Cottage Farms Gastro Formula, though similar, if heavier on the grain, recipies can be found in Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats .

I also split his meals up into 3 portions, fed morning, evening and right before bed. This helped as it seemed like what would happen would be that Streets would have an empty stomach over night and get a bit nauseous and start licking anything he could get his tongue on. His own fur, rugs, the floor, anything. That would lead to a hair and air filled belly, making him feel worse and not wanting to eat, which would eventually lead to vomitting. Soooooo, the idea was to keep something in his stomach at all times.

I also started adding organic plain yogurt to every meal, aswell as supplementing with a pro-biotic/digestive enzyme supplement if ever his GI system seemed a bit off.

For the most part the above things took care of the problem, though every once in a while it still occurs, either because Streets decides to spend too much time licking himself, getting fur in his throat and starting the whole gulping routine, or because he ate something that threw his system out of whack (which cold even just be the wrong kind of cookie).

If I do see him start gulping (and it's funny you mention not sleeping, because the gulping sound can wake me from a dead sleep at this point), I immediately feed him something. A cookie, a small portion of yogurt, a piece of cheese, whatever I have. Usually this will take care of the problem if I catch him fast enough.

Hope some of this might help, it's a weird thing really.

ETA: I just wanted to note, incase it looked as though I never sought vet care for any of this, that for a while we were at the vet's almost weekly. However, what ended up working in my case was largely dietary, which is why there is no mention of vets in the post.

I Love Justice
December 8th, 2006, 07:52 AM
Thank you for your information. I have had Justice on numerous different foods and now he is on a food that is pretty much pre digested for him, but clearly that isn't really even working. Just yesterday after a few bad episodes I decided to try boiled rice. And I was considering trying a homemade diet as well.

Pitgirrl, I am sorry to hear that you have had a similar problem, because I know how awful and frustrating it is. But the info you provided sounds like something worth a try. And as you mentioned, we are also at the vet pretty much every week as well, but they just really haven't had any answers. The only thing they suggested was possibly Crone's Disease (sp?). I gave Justice the boiled rice last night and I put in some crushed up Pepto Bismol. Sometimes that seems to help a little too. He didn't have an episode, so I actually got some sleep, which was nice.

I'm going to try some additional diet changes to see what that does as you suggested, and splitting up his feeding so that he doesn't have an empty stomach to see if that does anything. It sure sounds like Streets has a similar problem and if it worked for him it's worth a try.

Thanks again.

December 8th, 2006, 08:33 AM
i would strongly suggest you check out the Raw Feeding sub-section of this board and see what it could do for your dog... you would be surprised at the number of dogs with tummy troubles who, when switched on a raw natural diet, started being normal and healthy again. some dogs just cannot ever tolerate processed, cooked foods (an artificial diet) and need to be fed real food. it's worth a try... go read the posts and asks questions :)

December 9th, 2006, 01:23 AM
Hello, I'm new here. I have been reading this forum for a little while now and when I read your post I was moved to reply. My last dog had a remarkably similar problem.

She was a very large (about 115 lbs) and deep chested Great Pyrenees/Borzoi/Lab cross, and she would regularly have these episodes where she would start by licking her lips and gulping and become extremely uneasy. Then she would want to go out and eat grass by the bucketful. Her tummy would get hard and I would also sit and rub it for her. It never progressed beyond that though, thank heavens for that.

I tried everything over the years. I could never link it to any particular cause. She was fed a raw diet and was extremely healthy otherwise.

I finally found the only thing that helped when I bought some DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) extract for my own stomach problems. I still use it but now I chew the tablets instead. A lot of people use it for ulcers, as it inhibits the H. pylori bacteria, lessens gas, and promotes healing. I checked to make sure it was safe to use for dogs. I found that if I caught it when she was getting that look and starting to lick her lips, I would squirt a dropperful into her mouth and wait a few minutes. Often that would be enough and the symptoms would subside. If not I would give her another, and sometimes a third. Occasionally it only lessened it, but usually it cleared her up.

I don't know if this would help your dog, but I know how hard it is to see your pup like that and not be able to do anything, so I thought I would share my own experience. If your intrested there is a lot of info on the DGL on the net.

December 9th, 2006, 02:53 PM
I just reread my post and wanted to add that my dog had been seen by a veterinarian, who could not help, and said it was common in deep-chested breeds. They could only recommend tacking the stomach if it got any worse.

I was not suggesting that anyone use DGL on their dog if you suspect bloat. Get your dog to a vet immediately in this case.

I also wanted to add that her stomach issues did seem to lessen and happen less frequently in the later part of her life, though I don't know why.

I Love Justice
December 10th, 2006, 02:19 PM
Thank you everyone again for the advice. I'm sorry to hear that others have gone through similar problems, however, I appreciate the insight into the issue. I am going to do some research into DGL. Where do you buy the DGL? Is it readily available or do you have to go to specialty stores?

December 10th, 2006, 02:30 PM
You might also try slippery elm, which is the ground-up root of the plant. It is mucilagenous, which is to say it thickens when mixed with water, and coats the digestive system. It is both healing and protective. I give it to one of my cats, who sometimes has a bad stomach (probably acquired when he was a stray and ate anything he could find), and I'm convinced it helps.
You can get it at the health food store or those specialty herb stores. Just a quarter teaspoon mixed with water, then squirted into the mouth with a syringe (available from the vet), really helps my cat. Since your dog is so much bigger, I would up the dose. It is absolutely harmless.

December 11th, 2006, 12:19 PM
Actually, I was thinking the same as Badger. Funnily enough I've just come back from the health store with more Slippery Elm powder - My youngest poodle has colitis and this stuff really helps. I put 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of the powder mixed in with her food. If you do an internet search you will find out all the good things that Slippery Elm does for the body, even a friend I know with Colitis uses it for herself.

Also, another thought - have you tried find a holistic vet! Probably expensive, but it might be an option if you try everything suggested here and none of them work.

December 11th, 2006, 01:08 PM
To get the best results, boil some water and dissolve some slippery elm powder in it, while stirring & simmering, until the mixture thickens. add a drizzle of honey to get the pets to accept a dose from the spoon. place the unused, cooled mixture in the fridge for the next day. I used this when dakotah had all those tummy problems as a puppy and it appeared to help :pawprint:

December 12th, 2006, 11:39 AM
You can get DGL at the health food store. I did a google search for 'DGL for dogs' and discovered a couple of DGL products made specifically for dogs as well (DGL Plus was one).
I had also tried slippery elm, but found it did not help much. I've found when I take DGL myself, I chew a couple of tabs up about 20 minutes before a meal and my stomach is fine. If not it gets very upset. After about a month of this the problem will go away entirely, and generally doesn't return for a few months.