Hello, I'm Dr. Deb.
I recently came online and see that your question about Zorro hasn't been answered. I'm so sorry that you've had to wait for a response,but if you still need assistance, I'd like to help if I can.
This is actually a common problem in a fair number of dog, believe it or not.
I've labeled them "Licky Fits" since it tends to capture the behavior fairly accurately.
As to the underlying cause, it's probably different for every dog who has one of these episodes: some of them will have motility disorders, others appear to have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), some may even have stomach masses while others may have gas buildup. Dogs who are nauseous will often eat things that are not nutritious (it’s called pica when they do) but these events are much more intense and set themselves apart from “simple”nausea.
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. Stomach masses are often diagnosed with endoscopy.
Some vets even categorize these episodes as forms of seizure activity but I'm not sure I agree with this assessment in most cases.
However, having said that, since Zorro's episodes only last for such a short period of time (they can often last for hours in most dogs), then this may be underlying cause for him....although it will be difficult to prove unless you put him on anti-seizure medication and his episodes never recur.
Since the largest percentage of dogs will have a gastrointestinal basis for this behavior, I've put together a list of things owners can do which may help with this problem.
1. Consider a change in diet. Take the label of his current food and find something totally different. There are many, many options available at pet stores.
2. Feed smaller meals through the day and before bedtime.
3. Use Zantac (which has a prokinetic property to help food move out of the stomach).
Dose would be 1 mg/lb and can be given twice a 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.
Short term solution (what you do can to help during an episode)
1. Give gas-x or what ever you would take for gas. Give1/4 of what you would take.
2. Give 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 .
5. Ask your vet about dispensing Xanax for anxiety for the next episode.
I have had a great deal of experience with dogs who behave as you describe (I have a breed that is genetically prone to IBD and frequently have these "attacks"). In my experience, these episodes are often managed but not prevented and are rarely "cured".
What appears to work for one dog will not work for the next. You have to try different things to see what helps.
Many of these dogs will not have episodes that are quite as severe as they age while others will continue to experience them their entire lives....there's just no way to predict.
For those dogs who have episodes frequently (once a week or more) and I suspect a gastrointestinal basis, I treat them with Xanax for 2 solid weeks. So far, I've been fairly successful in reducing the number of subsequent events.
If an underlying neurologic basis is suspected, then I run blood work to evaluate the liver and then start Phenobarbital. I don't know if this is something you'd want to consider for Zorro, just yet; I might wait to see if the frequency escalates before considering this step.
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. Again, my apologies for the delayed response. Deb