Treatment and Outlook for Upset Stomach (Gastritis) in Dogs
Goals of Treating Gastritis
There are a number of different treatment options for dogs with gastritis. They include restricting food intake, avoiding further contact with whatever caused the condition to develop in the first place, and in some cases stopping the administration of prescription medications. Of course, if cancer or some other systemic illness is causing the gastrointestinal discomfort, treatment options are more limited. Owners of affected dogs must discuss the appropriate treatment protocol with their veterinarian.
Irritation of the sensitive lining of the stomach is always uncomfortable. Sometimes, the discomfort becomes extremely severe and potentially can be quite dangerous, depending on the cause of the condition. The goals of treating a dog with acute or chronic gastritis are to provide good supportive care and remove the inciting cause of the condition, if it can be identified, so that the stomach lining and function can return to normal.
The symptoms of gastritis are usually first treated by withholding food from the animal for 12 to 48 hours. This is called “nothing per os,” or “NPO,” which means giving the dog nothing through its mouth. The purpose of this treatment is to give the dog’s stomach and small intestinal lining a chance to recover from whatever insult they have encountered. Food usually is withheld until the dog has not vomited for at least 12 hours. Dogs with gastritis have a tendency to drink large amounts of water all at once, which can exacerbate stomach irritation and promote vomiting. Accordingly, the attending veterinarian may suggest that water be withheld for a short period of time. More commonly, water or crushed ice will be offered multiple times daily, but in very small quantities.
Supportive therapies and nutritional management usually are also among the early therapies for dogs showing symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort. Supportive care usually involves administration of subcutaneous or intravenous fluids to rehydrate the dog and restore the proper balance of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes. Fluid and electrolytes are lost when an animal suffers from periodic or protracted vomiting. The initial diet after vomiting has stopped for at least 12 hours should be soft, low-fat and bland, ideally from only one easily-digestible carbohydrate and one low-protein source. Cooked rice, pasta and potatoes are common starch sources for this diet. Sources of protein include non-fat cottage cheese, skinless boiled white-meat chicken, boiled ground beef (hamburger) and tofu. Meals should be given in small amounts and frequently, for at least 2 to 3 weeks, to assess whether the dog’s gastritis has fully resolved. Sometimes, bland low-fat and low-protein diets must be continued for several months, especially if a food allergy is the underlying cause of the dog’s gastrointestinal inflammation.
Various drugs are available to treat stomach ulcers and other inflammatory gastric conditions. These include corticosteroids, antibiotics, anti-emetics (to alleviate vomiting), gastric protectants (to coat the stomach lining and prevent acid production) and medications that increase gastric emptying and intestinal motility. The attending veterinarian is the best person to prescribe the appropriate medications, if any, and to discuss potential side effects with the dog’s owner.
If gastritis is caused by an indigestible foreign object that has become lodged in the dog’s stomach or upper small intestine, surgery may be the only realistic therapeutic option. Occasionally, a small object can be removed through endoscopy.
Dogs with gastritis typically have a good prognosis, even if the cause of the condition is never fully identified. Acute gastritis often resolves on its own within several days. Chronic cases usually require treatment to resolve them completely.