Goals of Treating Gastric Ulcers
Stomach ulcers usually can be well-managed medically. Ulcers that have perforated the stomach wall require immediate hospitalization and surgical correction. Severe stomach ulcers that have not yet perforated the stomach wall may also require hospitalization and intravenous fluid replacement therapies, blood transfusions and nutritional or electrolytic support. Other treatment options include supportive care, dietary modification, medication and lifestyle changes. The goals of treating gastric ulcers are to identify and remove the underlying cause of the ulcers, promote healing of the stomach lining, relieve pain and discomfort and stabilize the dog sufficiently to prevent further internal bleeding or stomach perforation.
Dogs suffering from acute symptoms of gastric ulcers, such as severe vomiting, dehydration and blood loss, require immediate supportive care and probably hospitalization. Intravenous fluid replacement, nutritional and electrolyte support, antibiotics, pain medication (analgesics) and medications to relieve vomiting (antiemetics), may all be helpful. Medications are a very common treatment for gastric ulcers, although certain drugs can actually cause or contribute to stomach ulceration, including NSAIDs and corticosteroids. There are a number of drugs that a veterinarian can prescribe to reduce the production of gastric acid and to coat the lining of the stomach, which helps to relieve the uncomfortable effects of ulcers.
Blood transfusions may be necessary. Dietary changes may help in mild cases and may reduce the severity of symptoms when dogs are suffering from severe ulceration. Highly digestible foods may help reduce inflammation and irritation of the digestive tract. Feeding small meals multiple times a day can also help reduce gastrointestinal irritation. Free access to fresh water should always be provided to companion dogs, unless a veterinarian recommends otherwise. Medications and foods which can cause or contribute to stomach ulcers should be removed from the dog’s regimen. Dietary modifications and prescription medications typically need to be continued for a period of time after a dog suffering from stomach ulcers is released from the veterinary hospital.
Surgery may be necessary, especially if the ulcers deeply penetrate the stomach lining, are bleeding profusely, have perforated the stomach wall or are otherwise resistant to healing. Surgical correction involves removing the tissue containing the ulcer and the tissue closely associated with it.
Prognosis for Dogs with Stomach Ulcers
The outlook for dogs with mild to moderate stomach ulcers is good to excellent, as long as the condition is diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion. The prognosis for dogs with severe stomach ulceration depends upon the dog’s response to treatment and its overall health.