It's never fun to see our pets struggling with health issues. However, treating illnesses in animals is usually more complicated than with people. Knowing what's wrong, how to fix, and finding reliable treatment require extra effort.
If you've noticed that your dog isn't doing as well as they normally are, particularly when it comes to digestion, the issue could be gastritis. Gastritis in dogs is pretty common, especially when they are younger since they have a tendency to eat things without inhibition. So long as you monitor your dog's health and catch symptoms early, you should be able to get treatment for your pet without a hitch.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. What Is Gastritis In Dogs?
2. Types Of Gastritis
3. What Causes Chronic Gastritis?
4. What Causes Acute Gastritis?
5. What Causes Atrophic Gastritis?
6. Is Gastritis Preventable?
7. Symptoms Of Gastritis In Dogs
8. Managing Gastritis And Its Symptoms
What Is Gastritis In Dogs?
Gastritis is fairly common in dogs, particularly in longstanding small breeds, like miniature poodles, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih Tzus. It can still occur in larger breeds, however. Because gastritis is sometimes a symptom of a more serious condition, seeking a vet is a good idea to ensure that the source of the problem is identified and resolved. Gastritis is the technical term for an upset stomach. This can look like intermittent vomiting, stomach pains, or irregular eating habits. Gastritis occurs when the inner lining of your pet's stomach is irritated, either by chemicals, medication, allergens, infections, or other foreign bodies. Auto-immune diseases (where the body's own immune system is fighting itself) can also cause gastritis.
Types Of Gastritis
Gastritis comes in three different forms: chronic, acute, and atrophic. Acute is more common, and usually less serious, though you should be wary of any signs of gastritis. All three bear similar symptoms and have much in common; what sets them apart from one another is the length and severity of the symptoms.
Chronic gastritis is any form of gastritis that goes on for longer than seven days. Intermittent vomiting, digestive issues, and other symptoms of gastritis that go on for more than a week could be chronic gastritis.
Because chronic gastritis goes on for an extended period of time, it can lead to damage to the intestinal lining of your pet. Inflammation, gastrointestinal obstructions, and a compromised immune system could all occur as a result. Gastritis can also cause your pet's gastric glands to become smaller; because the glands play an important role in your pet's digestive process, they could experience difficulty using the restroom or a lack of appetite.
What Causes Chronic Gastritis?
Chronic gastritis can be a result of your dog eating rotten food, plants, hair, or even too much food during mealtimes for an extended period of time. Your dog could also develop gastritis from eating non-food items over a long period of time. If your dog is the kind that likes to get into things they shouldn't chew up furniture or household items, they could be at risk for developing this condition. Stress and anxiety in dogs is also another very common cause of canine gastritis.
Allergies to certain foods can also lead to gastritis. If you know or suspect that your dog has an allergy to a specific food, consult with your vet about switching to an alternative that will be easier on their system. There are also certain medications that can lead to gastritis, like ibuprofen, aspirin, steroids, or antibiotics. Ibuprofen is especially harmful to dogs, and it is not advised to ever give dogs this medication. These drugs can lead to ulcers in your dog's stomach, damaging the digestive lining.
Chronic gastritis could also be symptomatic of a more serious health issue with your pet. Parasitic, viral, and bacterial illnesses can all cause gastritis, as well as severe health conditions like stomach cancer, liver disease, kidney failure, hypoadrenocorticism, neurological diseases, ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disease. Because gastritis can indicate more concerning health conditions, it's important to speak to a vet as soon as possible to find out what is causing the issue. If you know that your dog has one of these conditions, and is experiencing gastritis, speak to your vet about how to treat the symptom, as it can cause harm to their digestive system over time.
The cause is usually a little harder to determine than chronic gastritis since it goes away so quickly, but if you are able to determine the cause (i.e., your dog trying a new food or eating something they weren't supposed to) then you can take measures to prevent it from happening again, saving your dog the problems of chronic gastritis. Acute gastritis is vomiting or decreased appetite that only lasts for a short period of time. Acute gastritis is fairly common and generally goes away within less than 24 hours. However, it can last up to a week without being classified as a chronic form of gastritis. While it's not the most pleasant experience for your dog, it is relatively harmless, and because it resolves itself, is not a reason to involve a vet.
What Causes Acute Gastritis?
Acute gastritis in dogs can be caused by many of the same things that cause the chronic form. Particularly, eating something they shouldn't. This is particularly common with younger dogs, as they have a tendency to get into things and chew indiscriminately. This includes things like trash, rotten food, plants, non-edible items, cat litter, and other foreign objects. Your dog could also develop acute gastritis as a result of eating toxins like mold, fungus, fertilizer, or scraps of food intended for people.
If your pet has been vomiting or having other digestive issues for a few days, it's usually nothing to sweat over. So long as they aren't exhibiting serious symptoms (excessive vomiting or stomach pain) they should be back to their normal selves in a few days.
Atrophic gastritis is late-stage chronic gastritis. It occurs when your pet has been dealing with gastritis for such a long period of time that serious harm has been done to the inner lining of their stomach. The walls of their stomach become so thin that ulcers and infections are a likely risk, and the glands that aid in digestion could be less effective, leading to long-term issues with processing food.
What Causes Atrophic Gastritis?
Aside from not seeking treatment for chronic gastritis, there is no definite cause for this condition. It is generally more common in older dogs that have a harder time fighting off chronic gastritis or have acid reflux disease.
Is Gastritis Preventable?
It depends on what is causing your dog's gastritis. For the most part, though, it is preventable. Especially if it's a result of a diet change, food allergy, or medication. If your dog keeps coming down with gastritis, try switching out elements of their routine until you notice that it doesn't make a return. This will help you pinpoint the problem.
If your dog develops gastritis as a result of getting into things they shouldn't, the issue can be a little harder to solve. Dogs love to get into things like garbage, plants, and food that isn't theirs, making it a difficult behavior to mitigate. You can take measures to lessen the issue, though. If your dog has a habit of getting into food, put the food in places where they are unable to access it. If your dog has a few specific things they like to get into, like a houseplant, you can purchase repellant sprays that should keep them from indulging the behavior.
A lot of times, these behaviors are also the result of anxiety, stress, or a lack of exercise. Make sure that you give your pet plenty of exercise and spend an appropriate amount of time with them.
Symptoms Of Gastritis In Dogs
Thankfully, most of the symptoms of gastritis are fairly visible and obvious, making it an easy condition to spot.
The most common and easily recognizable symptom of gastritis is vomiting, and often it is the only symptom. Vomiting is not the same thing as regurgitation, however. Regurgitation is performed from the esophagus, not the stomach, and is caused by different reasons than vomiting. To tell the difference, pay attention to your dog's abdomen when they are spitting food back up; if their abdomen is contracting, then they are vomiting.
Dog vomit is typically yellowish and foamy, with bits of undigested food throughout. Green vomit is also normal, and not a reason for concern. If you notice red or blood in your dog's vomit, especially if it has a "coffee ground," appearance, you should seek vet attention for your dog right away, as this means that there is a more serious underlying issue.
2. Decreased Appetite
Just like with humans, an upset stomach can lead to a lack of appetite, usually due to nausea or other abdominal discomforts. It is recommended to withhold food from your pet for a day or two when you first notice signs of gastritis to help their system rebalance; however, if their appetite does not return afterward, then you should seek a vet for assistance.
3. Stomach Pain
Stomach pain is another common symptom of gastritis. In humans, it's relatively easy to know if someone is experiencing stomach pain because all they have to do is tell you. Because dogs are not able to communicate so easily, it's up to you to keep a watchful eye on your pet. Unusual walking patterns, awkward movements, sitting/standing for long periods of time, and other strange behaviors can indicate that your dog is experiencing abdominal pain. Stomach pain usually occurs when dogs ingest something that is potentially harmful to them, like ibuprofen or naproxen, and can lead to a burning or cramping sensation.
4. Dehydration or Increased Thirst
A difference in your dog's appetite for fluids can also be an indicator of gastritis. This is very important to monitor since gastritis leads to a loss of fluids through vomiting or diarrhea. Always make sure that your pet is getting plenty of fluids, and consult with your vet if you are having a hard time getting them to ingest water.
5. Lethargy or Listlessness
Just like we lose our usual energy levels when under the weather, your dog may be more lethargic, depressed, or listless while going through gastritis. This is because your dog's body is hard at work removing any harmful substances, fighting off bacteria, and bringing their system back to the way it's supposed to be. It's important to note, however, that lethargy and listlessness on their own aren't necessarily an indicator of gastritis; they should be accompanied by other symptoms as well. If your dog is less energetic than normal and not showing any other signs of gastritis, then you should take them to a vet to get to the bottom of the issue.
6. Digestive Problems
Digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation are usually side effects of gastritis as well. This is because the condition causes the digestive glands and fluids to be less effective than normal. It could also be that your pet's system is trying to rid itself of whatever it is that made it sick in the first place. Either way, if you notice that your dog is experiencing digestive issues, make sure that you are giving them enough fluids to compensate for the issue.
7. Excessive Drooling
Excessive drooling or salivation is a common side effect of lots of health issues in dogs. While drooling itself is relatively harmless, look for other concurrent symptoms, as they will help you determine the root of the issue.
8. Weight Loss
Weight loss goes hand in hand with gastritis because your pet is not eating as much nor retaining food long enough to get all the nutrients from it that they need. So long as the weight loss doesn't become severe, it shouldn't be an issue and will return to normal once your pet is back in good health. Of course, if you notice that it is severe, take them to a vet to resolve the issue.
9. Abnormal Stool
Aside from diarrhea, an abnormal stool is a slightly less common symptom of gastritis, though it can still occur. If you notice that your pet's stool is black, tar-like, or contains blood, you should take them to a vet immediately, as it can indicate a more serious problem than just gastritis.
10. Diagnosing Gastritis
Determining if gastritis is the cause of your dog's symptoms is important, especially if they're experiencing symptoms over a longer period of time because there could be a more serious health concern behind the issue.
While the cause of acute gastritis usually goes undetermined due to its short duration, there are a few ways to determine the cause of chronic gastritis.
Your vet will most likely perform a chemical blood profile, which provides them with information like:
- Whether or not your dog has stomach ulcers
- If the issue is long-term
- How much blood your dog has lost
- How dehydrated your dog is
- If the issue is a result of a weakened immune system
- If the symptoms are a result of a more serious issue, like liver disease
Your vet may also choose to conduct other tests like urinalysis or a complete blood count, depending on the effectiveness of a chemical blood profile. Abdominal X-rays, contrast X-rays, and abdominal ultrasounds might also be used to determine the cause of inflammation in your dog's stomach. If your vet is concerned that the gastritis is a result of a parasite, they will use fecal floatation to check your dog's digestive tract. Depending on the severity of your dog's condition, your vet may also opt for surgery or an endoscopy to get a closer look at the affected areas.
11. Treatment And Diet
If your dog's gastritis is acute, no treatment is necessary since the issue will resolve itself. If the issue is more serious, though, you will need to work closely with your vet to monitor your dog's status and eliminate the problem. So long as your pet is not experiencing severe symptoms like excessive vomiting or blood in vomit/stool, they shouldn't need to be hospitalized for gastritis.
Non-Medical Treatments For Gastritis Include:
- Withholding food from your dog for 24 to 48 hours. If your pet goes 24 hours without vomiting, then giving them a bland, easily digestible food should be fine.
- Once this period of time has passed, resume giving your pet meals in smaller amounts throughout the entire day. For example, set out the meals that you would normally give your dog throughout the day, divide each in half, and give them at equal time intervals.
- Giving water to your pet frequently to counteract the loss of fluids (Note: If you are unable to give your dog water without inducing vomiting, speak to your vet immediately).
- For the next two to three days, gradually increase your dog's food back to normal portions. If vomiting resumes at any point, speak with your vet.
Medical Treatments For Gastritis Include:
- Gastrointestinal protectants
- Anti-emetic or anti-vomiting medications
- When stomach ulcers are believed to be involved, H2 receptor antagonists may be prescribed
- A proton pump inhibitor may be used in severe cases of stomach ulcers
It's important to mention that you should never give your pet a new medication without first consulting with your vet. Follow their directions for dosage and administration. Attempting to give your pet medication without a vet's supervision could result in more serious issues for your dog.
Managing Gastritis And Its Symptoms
Fortunately, gastritis is usually easy to treat and prevent. If your dog had a bad case of gastritis, you should get a checkup a few weeks after it is clear from their system to make sure that they are completely back to normal and on the right track. It's also especially important to get follow-up evaluations if your dog's condition does not clear up completely. Even if your dog's symptoms are minimal, it still qualifies as chronic gastritis and needs to be resolved before ong-term damage occurs.
Often, the cause behind gastritis is pet owners giving the dog's human painkillers. While these medications are relatively safe for us, they can often be harmful to our pets. You should never give your dog any medication without first consulting with your vet. A good alternative to painkillers for dogs is cannabidiol products. These are a natural way to reduce pain and discomfort in your pet, even if the pain is from a chronic condition like arthritis. Additionally, CBD oil for dogs and other products such as hemp treats and hemp chews are great for treating nausea and irritated digestive systems in pets.
You should also not allow your dog to roam without supervision. This is an easy way for them to ingest something they shouldn't, leading to parasites, infections, and an irritated digestive system.
Sources:Assessment of Chronic Gastritis in Pet Dogs
Quantitative Analysis of Inflammatory and Immune Responses in Dogs with Gastritis
Acute and Chronic Gastritis
Chronic Gastritis in Dogs
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
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