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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 10449
Experience:  I have owned, bred and shown dogs for over 40 years.
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I was just reading about the licky fits another dog owner

Customer Question

I was just reading about the licky fits another dog owner described. I have a 6 month old healthy dog who started with this yesterday.
First she threw up, then she was hiccuping desperate to get outside and eat grass. I heard gurgling coming from the back of her throat. She was frantic! Hiccuping and almost gagging while trying to eat the grass. I took her to the vet, he did an X-ray and saw her intestines very dilated but could not see an obstruction. Because of the bloated intestine he kept her overnight and in the morning the X-ray showed normal intestine and she was fine. She was fine all day but is now it is afternoon and she is acting the same way. She is panting even though she has not been outside in a while. I'm bringing her in and out of the house to see if she needs to defecate. If she is not on the lawn trying to devour grass, she is grabbing at anything in her path.
I can tell she is anxious, her ears are back and usually aren't, she looks a little bloated, but she has not thrown up today. She is desperate to get outside.
Should I bring her back to the vet? He does see anything wrong with her, I'm the one starting to feel desperate.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 2 years ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Deb. Thanks for requesting me; I'll do my best to help you today.

I'm so sorry that your dog is experiencing such extreme behavior; I know how distressing it must be for the both of you!

The desperateness with which she's behaving and the intensity of her desire to eat grass and anything else she can find certainly sounds very similar to the Licky Fits I've personally seen in my own dogs and what clients have described to me about theirs.

The dilated intestines on the x-ray which your vet took is most likely secondary to all of the gas which was ingested during the episode. ..which can complicate the problem since the gas could also be fairly uncomfortable for her.

As to the underlying cause of these events, it's probably different for every dog: some of them will have motility disorders, others appear to have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), some may even have stomach masses (not likely in a dog this age) while others may have gas buildup as the primary problem.

Motility disorders are often difficult to diagnose without additional diagnostic studies and biopsies are needed to diagnose IBD...something many owners are reluctant to put their dogs through for understandable reasons.

Some vets even categorize these episodes as forms of seizure activity but I'm not sure I agree with this assessment for most dogs who experience these episodes.

If the current episode has been going on for a while, then it may not be possible to get her out of it so to speak without sedation or anti-anxiety medication but I do have a few suggestions which may help (although what works for one dog doesn't necessarily work for another one).

1. Give gas-x or what ever you would take for gas. Give 1/4-1/2 the dose of what you would take.
2. Let her eat bread soaked in milk.
3. Allow grass ingestion if it is untreated with chemicals. Vomiting may occur, but that’s fine since some dogs appear improved after this happens.

4. Ginger snaps have a calming effect on the stomach and can be given. 3-4 or even more as long as there's no xylitol in them (avoid low calorie options in other words).

5. Gentle massage of the abdomen can be of benefit for some dogs.

6. Antacids can be given such as Zantac (Ranintidine) which has a prokinetic property.
Dose would be 1 mg per pound of body weight and can be given twice a day.

I do have suggestions which may perhaps prevent other episodes from occurring but, again, each patient is different in their responses.

1. Consider a change in diet. Take the label of her current food and find something totally different. There are many, many options available at pet or grain stores.
2. Feed smaller meals through the day and before bedtime.
3. Use Zantac regularly or every day

4. Consider soaking the kibble in water for 15-20 minutes prior to feeding.
5. Consider Erythromycin which has better pro-kinetic properties if Zantac doesn't help.
6. Consider metronidazole for IBD.
7. Stress probably plays a role for some dogs; consider DAP diffusers or a collar if this might be the case.

For those dogs who have episodes frequently (once a week or more), I treat them with Xanax for 2 solid weeks. I also advise owners to modify the diet (as mentioned above). I've been fairly successful in reducing the number of subsequent events with this protocol.

I know how scary these episodes can be because the intensity is so extreme but I hope this helps you understand what might be going on and ways to deal with it. Deb

Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 2 years ago.

Hello again,
I'm just following up on your dog. How are things going with her? Deb