Gastritis in dogs: how to recognize and treat it.

Dr. Elena Mascherpa, DVM
Master in Cat and Dog Nutrition and Dietetics

One third of dogs that are taken to the vet show symptoms attributable to gastrointestinal disorders. Among the latter, gastric problems are increasingly being diagnosed.
The reasons are probably due to an increased diagnostic sensitivity, an increased attention by owners for their pets and lifestyle changes that, being far removed from the ethology of dogs, may predispose to the development of gastric problems.
Under optimal conditions, the stomach works in perfect balance in the digestive processes, and performs functions that are essential to the subsequent absorption of food, through the gastric musculature and acid secretion. The acidic pH of the stomach is not only useful for digestive processes, but also serves as a defence against pathogenic bacteria, which are, in fact, neutralised.
When the physiological balance is disturbed, various pathologies can develop, including the gastritis, i.e. inflammation of the stomach lining, which can take an acute or chronic form.

Acute gastritis

The acute gastritis occurs frequently in dogs, especially as they are particularly prone to food indiscretion, a term used to indicate the ingestion of food in large quantities, and/or spoiled or raw food; but also of non-food substances (litter, litter, various objects, plants) or inappropriate food (scraps, leftovers).
Inoltre, la gastrite acuta può essere causata anche dall’utilizzo di farmaci antiinfiammatori non steroidei e, più raramente nei cani, da virus o batteri.

The symptoms are vomiting (frequent or intermittent), nose licking, sialorrhoea and abdominal pain.
In the case of acute gastritis, most dogs recover within a few days with supportive treatment.

The supportive treatment includes:

  • specific nutrition (in case of vomiting, fasting), Kcal introduced gradually, reduced-fat and highly digestible foods)
  • drugs (antiemetics), in the event of an ulcer or the presence of bleeding, consider the use of antacids
  • parapharmaceuticals: to improve symptoms (pain and nausea) it may be useful to use functional ingredients.

Chronic gastritis

The chronic gastritis, characterised by gastric inflammation that does not resolve over time, is common in dogs and may be associated with other gastrointestinal disorders. It can be caused by:

  • food or drugs
  • various medical conditions: systemic diseases (kidney or liver), immune disorders, infections, congenital disorders (hypertrophic gastritis)
  • food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (most common in dogs under five years of age and in predisposed breeds (such as brachycephalic dogs, Weimaraners, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Shar-Pei)
  • chronic stress: it has been shown that dogs that play competitive sports and those with behavioural disorders are more prone to develop chronic gastritis.

The symptoms are more varied than in acute gastritis and include sialorrhoea/low stomach pressure, grass ingestion, vomiting (especially on an empty stomach), increased thirst, swollen abdomen with borborygmus, attempted biting in the flank and/or abdomen, lack of appetite and slimming.

The treatments vary according to the underlying cause and include:

  • diet: highly digestible, mono protein, hydrolysed
  • drugs: antiemetics, antacids, gastroprotectants may be needed to treat different pathologies
  • parapharmaceuticals: symptomatics, antacids, probiotics and prebiotics.

In humans, it has been noted that gastritis causes intestinal dysmicrobialism and the latter can cause and/or worsen gastric problems.
Given the frequent presence of symptoms, including enteric ones, and noting the scientific evidence, prebiotics and probiotics are proposed in human medicine as treatments for gastritis.
In veterinary medicine, chronic gastritis (particularly atrophic gastritis) has been identified as a cause of dysbiosis; in fact, chronic pH changes can induce significant changes in the gut microbiome.
Drugs used to treat gastritis (proton pump inhibitors mainly) have also been included among the causative factors of intestinal dysbiosis in dogs.

Based on scientific publications, we can state that it is important to treat not only the symptoms, but also the intestinal dysbiosis in dogs with chronic gastritis.

Read more

• Nelson RW, Couto CG. Small animal internal medicine -E-book. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2019.

• Patel PK, Patel SK, Dixit S, Rathore R. Gastritis and Peptic Ulcer Diseases in Dogs: A Review. Int. J Curr. Microbiol. App. Sci. 2018;7:2475-2501.

• Garcia-Mazcorro JF, Suchodolski JS, Jones KR, et al. Effect of the proton pump inhibitor omeprazole on the gastrointestinal bacterial microbiota of healthy dogs. FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2012;80(3):624-636.

• Suchodolski JS. Diagnosis and interpretation of intestinal dysbiosis in dogs and cats. Vet J. 2016;215:30-37.

• Beasley DE, Koltz AM, Lambert JE, Fierer N, Dunn RR. The Evolution of Stomach Acidity and Its Relevance to the Human Microbiome. PLoS One. 2015;10(7):e0134116.

• Gorkiewicz G, Moschen A. Gut microbiome: a new player in gastrointestinal disease. Virchows Arch. 2018;472(1):159-172.

• He C, Yang Z, Lu N. Imbalance of Gastrointestinal Microbiota in the Pathogenesis of Helicobacter pylori–Associated Diseases. Helicobacter. 2016;21(5):337-348.

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