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What is Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut)?

Dogs are known to get into the trash every once in awhile, and even to eat the feces of other animals (especially from cat litter boxes), but these animals are at a higher risk of an illness called garbage toxicosis or garbage gut. Eating dead animals, such as birds or other small animals may also be the cause of garbage toxicosis. This is most common in outdoor dogs because they are able to ingest spoiled food or waste as well as dead animals that can be full of bacteria and other harmful organisms. Feeding your dog table scraps or a raw food diet can also add to the chance of your pet getting garbage toxicosis. When your dog ingests food (or waste) that is contaminated or spoiled, the bacteria gets into the digestive tract where it can produce toxins that get absorbed into the bloodstream.

Garbage toxicosis, or garbage gut, is a condition caused by the ingestion of food, trash, or waste that is contaminated with bacteria or other toxic substances. This can be from eating spoiled food out of a trash can, table scraps, dead animals from outside, and vomit or feces from other animals. It is also known as gastroenteritis, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or food poisoning. Garbage toxicosis may be recognized by watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting, but can also be severe enough to cause inability to control body movements, hypothermia, and shock.

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Symptoms of Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

The signs of garbage toxicosis depend on what kind of bacteria is involved, but the most commonly reported side effects are:

  • Diarrhea (may be bloody or watery)
  • Vomiting (can be projectile vomiting with or without blood)
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Appetite loss
  • Sleepiness
  • High body temperature
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Panting
  • Flatulence (gas)
  • Weakness
  • Shock (cold extremities, weak pulse, inactivity, respiratory failure)
  • Seizures (rare)
  • Death (rare)

 Types

Garbage toxicosis is possible in any breed of dog at any age, both male and female, but there are certain high-risk categories, which are:

  • Outdoor dogs
  • Small and toy breed dogs (Maltese, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Pinscher, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire Terrier)
  • Young dogs under five years old
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Causes of Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

The cause of garbage toxicosis is eating food, waste, feces, or carrion that is infected with bacteria, such as:

  • Bacillus
  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Escherichia coli
  • Penitrem-A (a neurotoxin)
  • Salmonella
  • Staphylococcus
  • Streptococcus
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Diagnosis of Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

Most cases of garbage toxicosis are mild, but some can be serious, especially in a small breed, young, or older dog. Since two of the most common side effects are diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration is a serious worry in garbage toxicosis. The bacteria involved is also a concern because some types of bacterial infections may cause central nervous system symptoms such as loss of muscle control and seizures. The only way to determine which type of bacteria is involved is to take your pet to a veterinary professional. If you cannot get an appointment to see your veterinarian within 24 hours, you should go ahead and take your dog to a veterinary clinic or animal hospital.

The veterinarian will do a physical examination on your dog to check reflexes, temperature, body weight and height, breath sounds, pupil reaction time, abdominal palpation, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate. Afterward, the veterinarian will need to perform some laboratory tests.

A CBC (complete blood count) will show a decreased plasma volume and increase in red blood cells and neutrophils (certain white blood cells). A biochemical profile may show low glucose, sodium, chloride ion, albumin, potassium, globulin, and protein levels consistent with electrolyte disturbances. The PCV (packed cell volume) will be 55% or higher in most cases due to dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea.

A stool sample will be taken for a bacterial culture in order to determine the bacteria that is involved. A urinalysis may show decreased glucose and concentrated urine due to dehydration. Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasounds will also be performed and may show a partial or complete diffusion of the intestine and fluid in the loops of the bowel. If necessary, the veterinarian may need to get an MRI or CT scan for a better look at the intestinal tract and stomach.

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Treatment of Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

Treating garbage toxicosis in dogs is similar to treating a patient who has been poisoned. The best course of treatment will ultimately depend on the symptoms and health of your dog, but most often include getting the toxins out of the system and treating the symptoms.

Evacuation

If your dog has been vomiting already, there is usually no need to give an emetic, such as ipecac syrup, apomorphine, or hydrogen peroxide. In addition, activated charcoal will probably be given to absorb the excess bacteria or toxins.  

Detoxification

Intravenous (IV) fluids and electrolytes will be given to rehydrate and flush the kidneys.

Medications

Some medications that the veterinarian may give your pet are muscle relaxants to control seizures, H2 blockers for gastric upset, and antibiotics for infection.

Observation

The veterinarian may want to keep your dog overnight for observation and fluid therapy.

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Recovery of Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

Chances of recovery are good if you are able to get treatment before the toxins are completely absorbed into the bloodstream (about 8-12 hours). The veterinarian may send you home with antidiarrheal medication, antibiotics, and H2 blockers, so make sure you give as prescribed. Bring your dog back for a follow up as directed by the veterinarian and call if you have any questions.

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Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) Average Cost

From 438 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,000

Average Cost

$950

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Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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German Shepherd pitbull mix

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Seven Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My dog ate a dead deer, rabbit, and squirrel. He keeps getting into the garbage. He now has watery diarrhea and wouldn't eat his food. Could he have contracted something to make him sick? Could it be fatal? What to do next?

Nov. 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

Eating wild animals and garbage can absolutely result in stomach upset, infections and parasites. Be sure he is up to date with a good quality wormer. If he is very ill and not eating, there is always a risk of dehydration, shock and potential death (though this would not be common). If he is unwell and not eating, a vet should examine him and may prescribe medicine such as an anti diarrhoea paste, anti nausea injection and fluids (if needed).

Nov. 30, 2020

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mix

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Seven Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Refusing To Eat And Drink, Diarrhea, Nastalgic

What can I give her for nausea and vommiting. Something to help her keep food down

Nov. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

It is best thay she is examined by a vet so we can determine why this is happening. Treatment depends on the cause which can include parasites, an obstruction, toxicity, an infection etc. They may well prescribe some anti nausea medicine. At home, feed a bland diet of chicken and rice little and often and offer plenty of water.

Nov. 27, 2020

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Goldendoodle

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One Year

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

Friday and today came home to poop in kennel. It was part liquid diarrhea and part thick solid. He is completely house trained. He has been feeling fine and eating fine. He did get in the garage can one day last week.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he got into the garbage, it is possible that that is upsetting his intestines and that is causing the incontinence or soft stool. If it is something that continues to be a problem, you can try feeding him a bland diet of boiled white chicken and boiled white rice for 2 to 3 days, and see if that calms things down for him. If he continues to have a problem, it would be best to have him seen by his veterinarian to make sure that he is okay. I hope that all goes well for him.

Oct. 2, 2020

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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One Year

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0 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

Zelda got into our bathroom trash Thursday and threw up one time and has had diarrhea ever sense. What should I do?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If she is not vomiting, you can try feeding her a bland diet of boiled white chicken and boiled white rice for 2-3 days, and see if that helps. If it does not, and she continues to have diarrhea or vomit, then it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as she may need medications to help her.

Oct. 7, 2020

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German Shepherd

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Six Years

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My dog got into the garbage 2 days ago and he is now throwing it back up. Now he is only throwing up bile. His stool is normal (there are pieces of garbage in it) he is acting normal and ate some food. Is it necessary to take him in to see a vet?

Aug. 20, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. If he has vomited multiple times then yes I would recommend taking him to the veterinarian. Even if he is drinking he can become dehydrated quickly. Your veterinarian can examine him, take x-rays to make sure there is not an obstruction present and prescribe anti-emetics for him to help settle his stomach and stop the vomiting. I hope he feels better soon!

Aug. 20, 2020

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Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) Average Cost

From 438 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,000

Average Cost

$950

Protect yourself and your pet. Compare top pet insurance plans.

Compare Pet Insurance & Wellness Plans

Save up to $273 per year

Compare plans
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