Gastritis in Dogs

Pug eating food off the table

One of the most common reasons dogs go to the vet when they are sick is for vomiting and/or diarrhea. Both of these are considered to be non-specific signs of a variety of illnesses and disease processes. One of these illness is a condition called gastritis.

What is Gastritis in Dogs?

Literally meaning inflammation of the stomach, gastritis can be an acute episode of an upset stomach in your dog. It can also be associated with more chronic conditions. It can be caused by outside influences, such as food and toxins but it can also be caused by metabolic disorders, intestinal parasites, and even cancer.

What Are Symptoms of Gastritis in Dogs?

Since your dog's stomach is part of his/her upper gastrointestinal tract, the primary symptom of gastritis is vomiting. Other symptoms can include a decreased appetite and lethargy. Sometimes multiple episodes of vomiting can irritate your dog's esophagus. When this happens you may start to see blood in your dog's vomiting. Of course, bloody vomit can be a symptom of something more serious, so always seek veterinary attention if you notice this symptom. If the gastritis is severe or chronic enough your dog may also exhibit blood in their stool. They may also have a painful abdomen and may stand in a way that guards their belly by arching their back a little.

What Are Causes of Gastritis in Dogs?

Acute gastritis is a commonly seen issue in dogs. The majority of these episodes are caused by dietary indiscretion, which just means your dog ate something that didn't agree with them. This could be anything from spoiled dog food, raw food (either meant for your dog or meant for human consumption) contaminated with bacteria, fatty foods, and even non-food items like garbage or cat litter. Other causes of gastritis can also be from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, molds, liver disease, fungal infections, mast cell tumors associated with your dog's gastrointestinal tract, and pancreatitis. If your dog suffers from vomiting that is either chronic or intermittent and also lasts two weeks or longer your dog may be suffering from a more chronic form of gastritis.

How is Gastritis in Dogs Diagnosed?

When you bring your dog into the vet for vomiting that hasn't been chronic, so less than two week duration, they will start with basic diagnostics like blood work and a stool check. The stool check will tell your vet if your dog has picked up an intestinal parasite outside. The blood work will give your vet a look at their organ function, let them know if your dog is dehydrated from all their vomiting, or if there are any electrolyte imbalances from all their vomiting. If your dog's abdomen is painful to the touch your vet may also want to take an abdominal x-ray and to test your dog for pancreatitis. An abdominal x-ray will help your vet to visualize if there is an abnormal gas pattern in your dog's intestinal tract or if there is a foreign body. If your dog's gastritis is more chronic your vet may want to perform more specialized tests.

How is Gastritis in Dogs Treated?

A lot of cases of acute gastritis are considered to be self-limiting and may get better without any actual veterinary medical attention. If your dog starts vomiting, immediately withhold food for 24 hours but allow your dog access to small amounts of water. If your dog still vomits on just water, seek out veterinary care immediately. If after 24 hours your dog doesn't exhibit any vomiting try feeding them a bland diet such as chicken or ground turkey with white rice or white potato. Give them small, frequent meals as opposed one or two meals a day. Gradually mix in your dog's regular food after a few days of the bland diet until they are back on their main food. If at any point your dog starts to have symptoms again seek veterinary care.

Veterinary medical care will involve fluid therapy to replenish the fluids your dog lost from vomiting. This can be given subcutaneously or, if your dog's case is more severe, this can be given intravenously. Your vet will also put your dog on medications to prevent nausea (i.e. Cerenia), GI protectants (i.e. Sucralfate), and medications that help ease any ulcers (i.e. Omeprazole, Pepcid).

Treatments for chronic cases of gastritis will depend on whatever is causing your dog's chronic symptoms. Similarly, the prognosis for acute gastritis is good, but the prognosis for chronic gastritis will depend on the underlying cause. If you have concerns about your dog's vomiting, speak to your veterinarian about their risk of gastritis.