My 7 1/2 year old cocker spaniel came in from a walk last night with a stomach that felt too firm and was quivering. He seemed distressed and wanted to lie down near us and not eat. His nose was dry and warm. We gave him a Gas-X and his stomach felt softer and he didn't shake as much and then ate. He always eats slowly and we feed three small meals a day of dry food. He went to bed and slept well. This morning I got him up and his nose was cold and wet and he seemed fine. I invited him and his brother up onto the furniture, and he came. While he sat there next to me his nose turned dry and warm and he began shaking again-the back half of him. His stomach feels tight, but not large. He's obviously in distress, though not severe distress, which is relieved somewhat when I rub his stomach and back. At least, he stops licking and doesn't shake as hard. We are from the US, but are living in rural China. We have no access to medical care for the dog.
Dr. Marie replied:
Oh, I am sorry to hear that Plato is having these problems. It sounds like he is really uncomfortable.
There are a few things that can cause the symptoms that you have described but it will be hard to say for sure what the problem is.
It is definitely possible that this is some stomach upset. It could be a gastritis which is usually the result of eating something unusual to him. However, it could also be pancreatitis which is more serious. Dogs usually get pancreatitis from eating something fatty. However, often we don't know the cause.
You may want to try giving him some pepcid (famotidine). In the US it is available over the counter but I am not sure if it is in China. It comes in a 10 mg strength. If your dog is around 20 lbs I would give 1/2 tablet, or 40 lbs would be 1 tablet. You can give it twice daily and this will help with stomach upset. However, if this is pancreatitis most dogs need intravenous fluids and injectible medications.
It is also possible that this is an issue with pain, such as back pain. However, dogs with back pain don't usually want to jump up and as he was able to jump on the couch this is unlikely. Unfortunately there is no pain reliever that I would consider safe to give him at this point without a prescription. Sometimes aspirin is safe, but if there is gastritis or pancreatitis then this could make it worse.
Bloat is possible, but this is uncommon in a small dog. Bloat happens where the stomach twists and bloats up. It is a serious emergency and often needs to be treated with surgery. Usually dogs with bloat will have pale gums and often will be acting as if they are trying to vomit but nothing comes up.
I wish I could give you more advice. It does sound like he is uncomfortable and I wish there was medical help available for him.
For tonight I would try the pepcid. I would also advise no food for 24 hours and then give him small meals of chicken and rice which will be bland on his stomach.
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Thank you, Dr. Marie. We'll try Pepcid, which I think we do have. I probably should have mentioned that although he jumped up on the couch earlier, when we invited him to do that again after he seemed distressed, he tried but failed. I appreciate your advice, and we'll try it.
Dr. Marie replied:
You're very welcome. Ah, it could very well be back pain.
Here's something I'd like you to try. Stand Plato up on all 4 legs. Put your left hand under his belly to support his weight and then with your right hand push one by one down his vertebrae. What we are looking for are signs of pain or discomfort. Sometimes when there is pain the dog will buckle down under the pressure of your touch. Or, sometimes the dog will lick his lips consistently when you push on a particular area. The most common area to notice pain is over the space between the vertebrae where the ribs meet the lumbar spine (i.e. just after the last rib).
If it is pain then I usually advise a prescription medication such as Metacam, Rimadyl, Deramaxx, or Previcox. However, you likely don't have access to these.
I am reluctant again to advise aspirin in case there is gastrointestinal distress.
If you do feel back pain he may get some relief if you can ice the area for 5-10 minutes a few times per day. Also, do your best to keep him quiet and don't allow him to jump or do stairs for several weeks.
If you are noticing him having difficulty moving his back legs or being wobbly in the back end then this can be a serious sign of a spinal cord injury which may require surgery. But in most cases of back pain there is complete recovery within a few days to weeks.
I hope all is well!
Thanks. We tried having him stand and press on his vertebra. He showed no distress at all. He's also feeling much better. His nose is cool and wet, he's walking around fine and has stopped licking, panting or whining. My roommate was rubbing his belly and back, which seemed to make him stop panting and shaking so much and he now seems much better. THanks, and we'll be really careful with him and his diet for a while.
Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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