Symptoms and Signs of Upset Stomach (Gastritis) in Dogs
Effects of Gastritis
Gastritis, which refers to irritation and inflammation of the sensitive lining of the stomach, can come on suddenly (called “acute gastritis”), or can develop slowly over time (called “chronic gastritis”). Either way, it is always an uncomfortable condition for affected animals, who will be nauseous and have mild to severe stomach pain, depending upon the nature and extent of their gastrointestinal inflammation. They probably will lose their appetite and become listless, lethargic and depressed. They just will feel lousy. These fairly classic symptoms are pretty much the same as those experienced by people who develop gastritis. They are never pleasant and, in rare cases, can become extremely dangerous to the animal in question.
Symptoms of Gastritis
The hallmarks of both acute and chronic canine gastritis are vomiting and intense abdominal pain. Owners of affected animals will probably notice one or more of the following clinical signs:
- Vomiting (severe; persistent in chronic cases; sudden onset and extreme in acute cases; may be tinged with bile [be yellow-ish], flecked with fresh blood [this is called “hematemesis”] and/or contain digested blood [this looks like used coffee-grounds])
- Abdominal pain (can range from mild to extremely severe; can be debilitating; head hanging over the water bowl; “praying” or “bowing” stance)
- Dehydration (from fluid loss due to vomiting)
- Loss of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea (+/-)
- Blood in the stool (melena; caused by stomach ulceration; not especially common except in severe cases of gastritis)
- Dull hair coat; unkempt condition
- Pale mucous membranes (pallor; associated with blood loss)
- Yellow mucous membranes (jaundice; usually associated with ingestion of toxins)
- Drooling; excessive salivation (ptyalism; usually associated with ingestion of toxins)
Most dogs with gastritis produce a frothy, bile-tinged vomitus, and in many cases there are flecks of blood in the vomitus as well. Sometimes, if the stomach lining becomes so disrupted that it bleeds, the vomitus will be very dark and the digested blood will look like wet coffee grounds. Any dog with persistent attacks of vomiting should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Chronic vomiting must be distinguished from chronic regurgitation. Vomiting is an active event almost always accompanied by strong, unpleasant abdominal contractions. Regurgitation, on the other hand, is a passive reflexive process where undigested food suddenly “comes up” through the esophagus and out the mouth, without much prior warning or abdominal force.
Dogs at Increased Risk
There is no particular breed or gender predisposition to developing gastritis. Dogs that enjoy rummaging around in garbage, eating spoiled food or swallowing indigestible foreign objects are at an increased risk of gastrointestinal irritation and inflammation, as are dogs that eat animal feces or plant matter on a regular basis. Small, flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds, such as Boston Terriers, Pugs and Bulldogs, as well as Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Basenjis, Drentse Patrijshonds and Miniature Poodles, are prone to developing hypertrophic gastropathy, which is a thickening of the stomach lining that tends to occur in middle-aged dogs and causes vomiting several hours after a meal. The cause of this particular type of gastritis is not well understood. Young, large-breed male dogs living along the Gulf Coast of the United States may be predisposed to developing a type of granulomatous gastritis that is caused by certain species of fungal microorganisms, especially during the fall, winter and spring months.