Hi Dr. Barchas,
Yesterday my dog Geronimo got into the trash, which had some leftover steak in it. Today he has had diarrhea six or seven times. The last few times, not much came out except for mucus, but I noticed some blood in it. What is going on, and how worried should I be? He feels perfectly fine in between episodes of diarrhea.
San Mateo, CA
Geronimo is suffering the consequences of dietary indiscretion. The syndrome, also known as “garbage gut,” is a result of the fact that dogs exercise very little common sense when they decide what to eat and what not to eat. It is one of the most common problems I see in my practice.
When dogs eat garbage, leftover picnic foods that they find in the park, or other noxious items, they may give themselves food poisoning. Some dogs are especially sensitive and can suffer the same problem if they eat too many treats, eat the wrong type of treat, or are fed a novel diet.
In mild cases, the result is diarrhea, usually accompanied by cramps. The cramps cause dogs to attempt to defecate frequently, even if there is no feces to eliminate. As a result of repeated straining, they may defecate a bit of mucus and blood. Usually this does not represent a serious problem.
Most dogs will recover from mild cases of dietary indiscretion if they skip a meal and then eat an easily digestible food, such as steamed white rice with low fat cottage cheese, for a few meals.
Please be aware that dietary indiscretion can sometimes lead to much more serious problems, such as pancreatitis. If your dog is vomiting, lethargic, weak, or not interested in food, you should contact your veterinarian.