Q. My female Australian Shepherd-Labrador Retriever mix is quickly losing weight because she doesn’t want to eat. It started a few days ago, and now she’s vomiting a black substance and hasn’t had a bowel movement in about a week. What can the problem be? Is there some kind of medication I can give her?
A. This response may be too late to help you, but you should take your dog to your veterinarian immediately.
She is showing three serious signs of illness, that together, suggest a very guarded prognosis. I want you and other dog owners to be aware of the seriousness of these signs.
Loss of appetite, which is known as anorexia in dogs, can often occur for a day or two in many dogs who have upset GI systems from something they ate. However, after 48 hours or so, this would be considered a sign of significant underlying illness, since most dogs love to eat.
Weight loss is very concerning, because it can point to serious disease such as kidney failure, diabetes or cancer. Cachexia occurs when a tumor starts consuming nutrients in the body, leading to weight loss, even in dogs whoare eating. Kidney failure causes weight loss when protein leaks out of the body in the urine. Diabetes causes sugar to leave the body in the urine, also causing sudden weight loss.
Vomiting black material is very serious; black fluid that is vomited is often digested blood. It also is described as looking like coffee grounds. Digested blood is usually coming from the esophagus, stomach, or small intestines, and can be caused by bleeding ulcers or an invasive tumor. Sometimes an intestinal blockage can also cause vomiting.
Medications like aspirin or ibuprofen can cause bleeding ulcers, sometimes not until days later. If you have an older dog, I would be worried about cancer, as that is the most common serious geriatric disease in dogs.
In any event, please have your dog looked at, and immediately discontinue any medications you might be giving him.