What should I know about “gastritis” (dog or cat upset stomach)?
By: Ernest E. Ward, Jr., DVM
What is dog and cat gastritis (stomach upset) all about?
- Gastritis is a stomach inflammation that causes vomiting and other problems related to an upset stomach in dogs and cats. See Vomit Causes on Dogs and Cats.
- It can be a minor one-time incident or a chronic condition, and it may be associated with serious medical issues.
It’s important to call your vet if you see the symptoms in your pet.
What are the symptoms of gastritis?
Acute (sudden) vomiting and decreased appetite (anorexia) are the two primary causes of dog and cat stomach problems. Other symptoms may include:
- Lethargy or depression
- Increased thirst
- Blood in the vomit or feces
- Abdominal pain
What causes a sudden stomach upset in dogs and cats?
“Dietary indiscretion” is a major cause. Dogs, kittens and “curious adult cats” eat spoiled or raw food, non-food items such as garbage, cat-litter, foreign objects, and plants, exposure to toxins, molds and fungi, inappropriate foodstuffs such as table scraps or leftovers, or large quantities of food.
Some of the other possible causes or conditions associated with “sick dog and cat symptoms” include:
- Addison’s disease
- Anti-inflammatories (especially NSAIDs)
- Bacterial infection
- Bilious vomiting syndrome
- Chemical irritants
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Dietary indiscretion
- Endocrine disease
- Eosinophilic gastroenteritis
- Food allergy
- Foreign body
- Fungal infection
- Fungal toxins
- Gastrinoma or other neoplasia
- Granulomatous gastric disease
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Idiopathic (unknown cause) gastritis
- Immune mediated disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intestinal parasites
- Liver disease
- Lymphoplasmacytic gastritis
- Mast cell tumor
- Poisonous plants
- Water molds
- Spoiled food
- Viral infections
How does my vet diagnose the condition causing stomach upset in a dog or cat?
Sudden vomiting or gastitis is typically self-limiting and only lasts 24 hours or less… even before a diagnosis can be made. If you do bring your pet to the vet clinic at this time, your vet may start with minimal diagnostics including blood and urine tests.
If the gastritis is chronic (frequent or lasting), your vet will recommend testing that can help determine the exact cause of your dog’s or cat’s vomiting. These tests include:
- Blood tests
- Abdominal x-rays
- Abdominal ultrasound
How is gastritis treated?
Most dogs and cats recover from acute stomach upset in 1 to 3 days with treatment that follows these guidelines:
- Withhold food for 24 to 48 hours.
- Offer small amounts of water frequently during the first 24 hours (if vomiting continues, call your vet immediately).
- If vomiting has stopped for 24 hours, feed a small amount of a highly-digestible, low-fat food.
- Resume feeding with small meals given frequently (usually about ½’ of the normal daily amount of food, divided into 4-6 meals).
- Gradually increase the amount of food over the next 2-3 days.
- If vomiting returns, call your vet!
If your pet needs medical treatment for stomach upset problems, your veterinarian may recommend:
- Gastrointestinal protectants – such as sucralfate
- Anti-emetic or anti-vomiting medications - such as metoclopramide
- H2 receptor antagonists - used for stomach ulcers (cimetidine, ranitidine, nizatidine or famotidine)
- Proton pump inhibitor used in severe cases with stomach ulceration
It can be difficult to provide a prognosis for pets needing medical treatment for underlying causes. It really depends on each case.
The good news is -your veterinarian can help if your dog or cat is vomiting.
Call your vet if the symptoms continue beyond 24 hours, or if you’re concerned at all.