Causes of Canine Gastritis
Gastritis, which means inflammation of the stomach lining, can be either sudden (acute) or slow (chronic) in onset. Acute gastritis almost always involves severe abdominal pain and persistent vomiting and is most commonly associated with poisoning from drugs or other toxins, serious organ disease (kidney failure, liver failure, hypoadrenocorticism/Addison’s disease), internal parasites, binging or overeating, eating the wrong thing (“dietary indiscretion”) or infection with bacterial or viral microorganisms. Acute gastritis commonly occurs when dogs eat garbage, rotting or spoiled substances, toxic plants, caustic household chemicals, antifreeze, fertilizers, rodenticides or inanimate objects such as plastic wrap, bones, toys or needles. Some dogs develop sudden stomach inflammation from eating the feces of other animals or other unnatural articles of food; this unpleasant habit is called “pica.” Irritating medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, corticosteroids and some antibiotics, can also cause acute gastric inflammation.
Chronic gastritis is caused by long-term disruption of the mucosal lining and normal bacterial flora of the digestive tract. Many of the things that can cause acute gastritis can also cause the chronic form of the condition. Prolonged gastrointestinal inflammation can be caused by ingestion of indigestible materials, such as plastic, rubber, paper, carpet remnants, hairballs or string. These items can remain in the stomach without being passed through the pylorus, causing increasingly severe inflammation of the lining of the stomach, with associated inflamation and physical discomfort. Bacterial and viral infections can also cause chronic gastritis. Parvovirus is a fairly common cause of severe gastritis, particularly in puppies that are not properly vaccinated. Distemper is another viral disease associated with chronic gastritis. Neoplasia (cancer), food allergies, chemical irritants, fertilizers, immune-mediated abnormalities, liver disease and kidney disease are common causes of chronic gastritis. Cancers that can cause long-term gastritis include gastrointestinal lymphoma, gastrinoma, plasma cell tumors, mast cell tumors and gastric adenocarcinoma. Gastric polyps and internal parasites are also on the list of possible suspects. Dogs that frequently eat grass or other plant material are prone to developing chronic gastrointestinal discomfort, as well. Stress is another culprit that can contribute to chronic inflammation of the sensitive stomach lining.
Prevention of Gastritis
The best way to prevent both acute and chronic gastritis is to keep dogs away from garbage and other inappropriate, indigestible but potentially swallow-able things. Dogs should not be allowed to roam freely around the neighborhood without supervision, because dietary indiscretion is much more common in those animals. Food and medications that a dog is known to be allergic to should obviously be avoided whenever possible. Appropriate vaccination of puppies, and booster vaccinations of adult dogs, can help prevent infectious causes of gastrointestinal disturbances and discomfort.
Gastritis is always uncomfortable for affected animals, but fortunately it usually is not life-threatening. The actual prognosis will depend upon the underlying cause of the condition. Unfortunately, in many cases, the cause of the dog’s gastrointestinal discomfort will never be determined. However, regardless of the cause, most dogs with gastritis respond well to treatment, and the vast majority of them can be well-managed and successfully treated by owners at home, with the help of their veterinarian.