Many dogs suffer from gastroenteritis at some point in their lives. Gastroenteritis refers to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. This is comprised of the stomach and the large and small intestines. It can be caused by a multitude of issues, including infection by a bacteria, a virus, or a parasite. In addition, this issue can even be caused by a change in your dog’s diet or the introduction of a new medication.
Typically, gastroenteritis is followed by a multitude of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, as well as other clinical signs that we will discuss later on. The typical treatment for gastroenteritis is rehydration and symptom management. It is important to replace the electrolytes that were lost in the body through vomiting and diarrhea. Most cases of inflammation do not require further treatment and resolve themselves rather quickly.
What is gastroenteritis in dogs?
Gastroenteritis in dogs is a condition that refers to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract; including the stomach and the large and small intestines. Most commonly, this condition presents itself through diarrhea and vomiting, however, diarrhea is the most common symptom. This inflammation can either be chronic gastroenteritis, meaning it lasts for more than a two-week period, or acute, meaning that it does not last long and goes away by itself within a short period of time and no longer affects the digestive tract.
Gastroenteritis is the name used to characterize and type of illness that results in the inflammation of the dog’s stomach or intestines. Most commonly, this inflammation is found in the small intestine as well as the stomach. If the inflammation is also found within the large intestine, this is a separate condition referred to as colitis.
The stomach and small intestine of every mammal, in this case, dogs, is particularly important in the digestive process and in regard to the dog’s general health. The stomach is the organ responsible for the temporary storage of food, where it is broken down by strong acid before being passed into the intestine. When food leads the stomach, it is then transferred into the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed from the food.
The parts of the food that are beneficial to the dog’s body will be removed within the intestine, including vitamins and carbs. These are absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body where they are needed. Any distribution to this process can be harmful to the dog’s health. It will affect the dog’s ability to digest its food and receive the proper nutrients that it needs; leading to nutrient deficiency and dehydration.
Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in Dogs
The illness presents some common signs when it affects our canine companions. It typically starts with soft stools that progressively become more watery. If the illness progresses, you may notice that there is mucus in the stool of your dog or that your dog is straining to produce bowel movements. Below we have listed some more common symptoms of gastroenteritis:
- Explosive or frequent bowel movements
- Tarry feces
- Large volumes of water in the stool
- Blood in the feces
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
How is Gastroenteritis In dogs diagnosed?
It is often difficult to determine what exactly your dog is suffering from, as many different things can cause gastroenteritis. It is typically diagnosed by the sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea within your furry friend. As the symptoms that are common with gastroenteritis are common within other illnesses as well, you will likely need to provide your vet with more information to narrow down what your dog may be suffering from and get your dog back to its healthy self.
Be sure that your go to your vet’s office prepared with information. Your vet is going to want to know everything about your dog to determine why they may be suffering from it. The information that your vet will likely want to know is:
Have there been any changes to the dog’s diet, including the introduction of new food?
What brand of dog food has your dog been consuming over the past few days?
Do you know what ingredients are in the food that you are giving your dog?
What food and liquid have your dog consumed within the past 24 hours?
Has your dog recently started taking any new medication within the past few weeks?
These are just a few questions that you should be prepared to answer when you take your dog in for a visit to the vet. If you are able to answer these questions, the vet will be able to provide your dog with a more comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan.
Causes of gastroenteritis in dogs
There are many things that may lead to the formation of gastroenteritis within your dog. Some of the more common conditions that your vet may try to determine are if your dog is suffering from some sort of infection (bacterial infection, viral infection, fungal infection, or parasitic infection). In addition, your dog may be experiencing symptoms of gastroenteritis due to foreign objects within its stomach or throat. The vet will likely use a telescoping technique to determine if there is a blockage within your dog’s stomach or intestines that is causing vomiting and diarrhea. Food allergies have also been known to cause inflammation.
Sometimes there are more severe causes for the inflammation, including tumors, cancer, kidney disease, or poisoning. These causes typically require more than symptom management and usually require additional surgery or monitoring to get the dog back to its healthy self.
Treating Gastroenteritis in Dogs
The treatment for gastroenteritis will likely depend on what has caused the inflammation to occur. If the cause of the inflammation is related to a change in diet or the introduction of a new medication, the vet will likely prescribe an alternative diet or medication along with a medication to make the dog stop vomiting. In addition, they may want you to switch the dog to a diet that is blander; this could include boiled chicken and rice.
With proper treatment, gastroenteritis in dogs typically clears up within a few days, and your dog will be back to normal in no time. However, if the symptoms of gastroenteritis do not diminish with a few days or they become worse, it is important that you take your dog back to the vet to check for additional illnesses. The vet may order an x-ray or a blood test to determine what else your dog may be suffering from. Additionally, it’s likely that your dog will need an intravenous drip to administer fluids to its body.
Acute gastroenteritis can usually be treated at home and are no cause for major concern. Most dogs will recover within a few days. However, you should always consider calling your vet if you suspect that your dog is suffering from a more serious illness. Some at-home methods you can try to decrease the symptoms within your dog are:
- Feeding your dog a bland diet for a few days
- Add canned pumpkin or easily digestible fiber to your dog’s food
- Add an electrolyte supplement to their water to prevent dehydration
- Keep exercise to a minimal level until symptoms disappear