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Guide to Dog Stomach Problems

Summary:

"Dog Stomach Problems and aches can have multiple causes including ulcers, blockages, tumors, bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus), Addison's disease and gastritis. Dogs can also exhibit vomiting and diarrhea as a reaction to a problem in the intestines, food allergy or food intolerance. The most common stomach related symptom is vomiting with or without diarrhea which should resolve itself within 24 to 48. Be sure to differentiate vomiting (which is related to stomach problems, with regurgitation – see below for differences). Risk factors for stomach or abdominal problems include any dogs that take corticosteroids or anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), eating garbage or other unusual foods (pancreatitis), eating a foreign body which causes an obstruction, injury to the abdomen and a hernia, which is a bulge in the wall of the abdomen. Note that if your dog licked antifreeze in the street, this is a poison and requires immediate treatment.

When to Call the Vet:

Be sure to call your veterinarian immediately if your dog is under age 6 months, you see objects in the vomit such as plastic or worms, your dog swallowed an object, you see blood, you see the stomach getting larger, your dog has other health problems or if the vomiting is persistent for a period of 4 hours or longer."

Video on Dog Stomach Upset and Aches



Overview

A dog's digestive system is made up of several organs including the:

  • anus
  • rectum
  • intestines
  • pancreas
  • liver
  • stomach
  • esophagus

Within these organs, the body digests, absorbs nutrients, moves waste through the body and then eliminates it through liquids and stools. Dog stomach problems and related issues involve identifying where in the process things went wrong and then to seek the appropriate treatment for each underlying cause.  Symptoms provide the best clue.

For example, vomiting digested food (undigested food refers to regurgitation, see below) indicates some type of stomach inflammation such as gastroenteritis.  The challenge becomes differentiating a simple stomach issue from something that requires an advanced treatment approach such as liver or kidney disease.  If vomiting for less than 4 days and there are no other symptoms, then treatment is usually withholding food and water until the vomiting stops, and then water only for 24 hours.  If other symptoms such as weakness, weight loss, drooling, or trouble walking, lack of energy, then consult with a veterinarian.  Also if you dog vomits everyday for more than 4 days, then a detailed veterinary exam is needed.

Other symptoms such as diarrhea usually indicate some type of bacterial infection, virus or parasites. Diarrhea color and consistency are important clues in reaching a diagnosis.

As a rule of thumb, if your dog is in , or if there is blood in the vomit or diarrhea then contact the vet. Behavioral changes, , pain, or a distended abdomen also indicate that a veterinarian should be consulted.  Note that an enlarged and/or painful abdomen is considered to be an emergency and requires immediate medical care.

Causes of Dog Stomach Problems

Dog health stomach issues can be due to many different types of dog stomach problems including:

Acute Gastritis 

  • Cause:           Inflammation caused by foreign objects, bad food, food allergy, infections, toxins

  • Symptoms:    Appetite loss, vomiting, abdomen pain

  • Diagnosis:     Blood, Urine tests

  • Treatment:     Nothing by mouth until vomiting stops followed by sips of water and fluid therapy. Antiemetics such as Chlorpromazine used to stop vomiting. Stomach calmed with over-the-counter products such as Kaopectate and pepto-bismal.

  • Prevention:    If changing diet, make switch gradual, If vomiting 2 to 3 times, nothing by mouth for 24 hours. Watch dog like a hawk if prone to swallowing objects.

For additional reading on .

Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Colitis, Enteritis)

Canine inflammatory bowel disease (also called immune-mediated inflammatory bowel disease) happens when the stomach or intestines suffer from inflammation. It is caused by either eating table scraps or by a parasitic infection.

  • Symptoms:      Symptoms of dog IBD include chronic vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, straining to defecate and mucus in the stool

  • Diagnosis:        Fecal tests for parasites, blood and urine tests, endoscopy to check the stomach, small intestine and colon, biopsy if needed
  • Treatment:      Treatment includes limiting food intake and eliminating the underlying cause. Medications are used to inhibit the immune system response (Cyclophosphamide). Sulfa drugs (Sulfasalazine) are used to address an inflammation, bacterial problems and colitis.  Hypoallergenic diet with highly digestible proteins is recommended (chicken, duck, lamb, rabbit). Patient will need special diet and be monitored for life.

For additional reading on .


Gastric Ulcers (Ulceration)

Dog Gastric Ulcers


Left: Gastric Ulcer (GU) and Right: Duodenal Ulcer (DU)

  • Symptoms:    Dogs can have no symptoms to vomiting mixed with blood. Dog may have abdominal pain. Blood poisoning can occur if ulcer causes any perforations in the stomach.

  • Diagnosis:     X-ray images and endoscopy

  • Treatment:     Fluid therapy to rehydrate the patient. Medications for HCI production (Omeprazole and H2 antagonist (Cimetidine). Avoid use of NSAIDS unless instructed by Veterinarian (provide only with food unless instructed otherwise)

For additional reading on

Bloat (Gastric Dilation - Volvulus)


Bloat or Gastric Dilation Is Caused by Fluid and Gas Buildup in the Abdomen, Treatment is Required on an Emergency Basis

  • Symptoms:    Distended abdomen (enlarged). Dog will exhibit weakness, depression, excessive salivation

  • Diagnosis:      X-rays to indicate air or gas filled stomach. Blood test to measure electrolyte levels, physical examination.

  • Treatment:      Decompress stomach with tube or surgery if needed.

  • Prevention:     Provide smaller meals, avoid exercise 1 hour after meals, provide high quality diet

For additional reading on .

Gastric Neoplasia (Tumors)

Tumors are usually seen in older dogs. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Symptoms:     Vomiting (with or without blood), weight loss

  • Diagnosis:      Biopsy to confirm diagnosis, endoscopy, Contrast X-Ray

  • Treatment:      Surgical removal of tumor unless inoperable in which case supportive care is provided

For additional reading on .

Motion Sickness

Like people, your dog stomach problems can be due to motion sickness.

  • Symptoms:     Symptoms of dog motion sickness include excess salivation, yawning and vomiting. Young dogs that are not used to being in a moving car sometimes get motion sick. Once your dog gets used to the motion, they should be fine. Until then your veterinarian can prescribe common motion sickness drugs such as Dramamine.
  • Treatment:     Treatment is also similar to humans with the use of Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) and Gravol. The dosage for dogs is 2 to 4 mg for every pound of your dog's body weight every 8 hours. Give your dog the mediation 1 hour prior to traveling. Never give your dog an over the counter medication without consulting your veterinarian.
    Other tips for canine motion sickness are to give your dog a ginger snap cookie and have her travel on an empty stomach. Dogs can outgrow the problem as they get used to car travel.

Addison's Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)

Canine Addison’s Disease is a dog stomach problem that impacts your dog's adrenal glands. These are the glands that sit on top of the kidneys and are located in the abdomen. The glands secrete hormones that help the body regulate itself. The disease occurs when the body's own immune system attacks the glands and causes them to shut down. When a dog collapses with no known cause, canine Addison's disease is usually suspected.

Adrenal glands excrete hormones that help the body function. This is not a stomach problem, but the symptoms are similar, such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Addison’s can be triggered by other illnesses and toxins that destroy the adrenal glands (toxic medications, tumors, infections). The glands can also be damage by an autoimmune reaction or in dogs that take corticosteroids (side effect of steroids).

  • Breeds predisposed to Addison’s include:
    •  Standard Poodles
    •  Portuguese Water Dogs
    •  Bearded Collies
  • Symptoms:

    • Intermittent diarrhea and vomiting
    • Slow pulse
    • Lethargy
    • Muscle weakness
    • Collapse

  • Diagnosis: Diagnosis is made with a ACTH stimulation test.

  • Treatment: Treatment includes the use of corticosteroids and intravenous fluids. Prescription medications such as Florinef and Percorten can treat this condition along with intravenous fluids. Chronic cases are treated with oral cortisone. Dog's respond will to this approach and require treatment for the rest of their life.

For additional reading on .

Other Causes Include:

Other Diseases With Similar Symptoms

Dog Esophageal Obstruction


Esophageal Obstructions are Caused by Dogs That Eat A Foreign Object
Shown: X-Ray of Foreign Object

Sometimes dog stomach problems are confused with problems that affect the different places along the digestive tract (GI disease), such as in the small intestine, large intestine and colon. Common causes and problems include:

The key to understanding these issues is the severity of the symptoms and how long they last. If the stomach is the problem, then the most common symptom is vomiting. If the problem is due to inflammation in the digestive tract then vomiting is often accompanied by diarrhea, weight loss, appetite loss, avoidance of eating (anorexia).



Diagnosis: Dog Stomach Problems Caused by Ingested Rubber Ball. Rubber Ball Being Removed Surgically From Dog Stomach

Signs of Dog Digestive Problems

If you see these signs related to a dog stomach problem, then take your dog to a veterinarian:

  • Shaking or seizures
  • Drinking unusual amounts of water
  • Diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination
  • Passing gas more than usual
  • Burping more than usual
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Changes in behavior:
  • Lethargy (acting tired)
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Acting uncomfortable
  • Vocalizing
  • Depression
  • Abnormal postural changes (praying position or others in order to find a comfortable position)
  • Stomach that is hard and round

Vomiting vs. Regurgitation

The most common symptoms of a dog stomach problem is vomiting. It is important to distinguish between regurgitation and vomiting. In regurgitation food that enters your dog is rejected before it enters the stomach. It is due to an issue with the esophagus, which is the tube that leads from the mouth into the stomach.

Regurgitation happens when there is something blocking the esophagus such as something your dog has eaten. Another accompanying symptom is drooling. A partial blockage will result in a persistent problem.

Vomiting is when the contents of your dog’s stomach is expelled by the body. It usually has a bad smell and looks like it contains food that hasn't been digested all of the way.

Stomach problems are related to vomiting. Other illnesses related to dog vomiting includes diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, liver disease or a problem with your dog's electrolytes (the sales and minerals that help the body conduct electrical impulses).

Dog Stomach Ultrasound



Dog Upset Stomach

Upset stomach is a general description of many possible dog stomach problems. For example if your dog persistently vomits after eating it could be caused of any of the problems listed below including some type of blockage, a thickening of the stomach wall or even a problem with the way the stomach empties.

Vomiting can be a sign of a simple problem (eating fast or eating grass) or something more sever such as pancreatitis, kidney disease and liver disease.

Your veterinarian will take x-rays or use ultrasound to see inside the stomach to determine the route of the problem.

Home Remedies and Dog Stomach Problems

If your canine has persistent dog stomach problems and medical causes have been ruled out (see following pages), one option is to try a remedy formulated to strengthen the dog's dietary system.

When your dog isn't eating right, or not getting the right foods/ingredients it could result in digestive imbalance. In the wild dog's naturally can select those things that are required to balance the diet. Household pets rely on pet parents.

Herbs and other natural ingredients act as a substitute for things in your dogs diet that might be missing, but that occur naturally in nature. There are several natural herbs that have been shown to support the stomach lining and digestive tract. These include:

One product worth researching and discussing with your veterinarian for dog stomach problems is called . Discuss this and other options with your veterinarian so that he or she can track your dog's progress.

Preventing Stomach Problems

Prevention of dog stomach problems includes feeling your dog a balanced diet and avoiding opportunities for your dog to over eat or ingest a foreign object. A balanced diet contains:

As long as you are feeding your dog a reputable commercial brand that is AAFCO certified. then you should be providing the necessary nutrients for dog stomach health. The biggest difference between types is the amount of water in the food, which isn't an issue if your dog is drinking properly. Dry dog foods tend to cost less and are fine for most dogs. If you believe diet is a problem your veterinarian can recommend a Prescription Diet that limits certain parts of the diet.

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