Dr. Marty Becker
Q: My 1-year-old puppy, Esther, has been getting what we think are stomachaches on and off for the past couple of months. Most days she’s fine, but then out of nowhere she’ll be lethargic and in pain. She’s a heavy chewer and is always destroying her toys, but she doesn’t appear to be eating them. The vet hasn’t found any issues. We’re hesitant to pay $200 for X-rays every time she’s in pain, because she’s fine within 24 hours. Are there signs we need to look for that may indicate this is something more serious? Should we be more concerned?
A: While dietary indiscretions are very common in adolescent dogs, the fact that your dog is suffering from fairly regular bouts of what you describe as “lethargy and pain” is concerning to me. Is there vomiting, weight loss, and/or diarrhea associated with these bouts? Do the problems follow meals, or happen in the morning after a night without food? Are any household items going missing, such as underwear, socks, or remote controls? Have you noticed the remains of any foreign objects in her feces? Is she possibly eating one of the products currently tied to illness or recalls—which include several brands of kibble or jerky treats?
When this has happened before, what diagnostic tests were performed and what was found? Did she see the veterinarian after just one of these incidents, or more than one?
Trying to figure out what’s wrong with a pet is something akin to solving a crime. You need all the evidence to point the finger at the culprit. And while I suspect Esther is probably chewing up and swallowing a lot more than you may realize, I can’t discount that there’s not something else going on. Some possibilities include certain infectious agents like Giardia or other parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, and a whole host of other things.
That means you need to head back to your veterinarian’s office with your dog, and discuss that her previous issue wasn’t a one-time problem. Yes, you may need radiographs, blood work, or other diagnostic tests like ultrasound, but it’s the only way to have a chance of finding out what’s going on.
I wish I could just say, “Don’t worry about it,” but I can’t. Your dog has been sick repeatedly, and in pain. Those aren’t things you want to ignore.
ABOUT the Vet
Dr. Marty Becker is the author of the new book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual: Hundred of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat (Grand Central Life & Style). For 16 years, Dr. Becker has been the popular veterinary contributor to ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. Currently he is a member of Core Team Oz on The Dr. Oz Show and is the veterinary spokesman for VetStreet.com. His last book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, is now available in paperback.