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canine health problems

Gastritis in dogs: Causes, treatment, and prevention

Here’s what you need to know about this condition, what it can do to your pup, and what you can do to help

Updated September 16, 2021

Created By

Jared Wilder,

The essentials

  • Gastritis is common Most dogs will have a case of acute gastritis at some point in their lives, and it usually isn’t serious.
  • Vomiting is the biggest sign Vomiting, black stool, and lethargy are all signs that your dog may have a case of gastritis.
  • Small breeds are most vulnerable Breeds as shih tzus, bulldogs, and pugs are more likely to get gastritis than large dog breeds.
  • It can be acute or chronic Acute gastritis only lasts a few days. Chronic gastritis, on the other hand, is a serious condition that requires veterinary assistance.
  • It’s usually treated at home — Minor cases of gastritis are typically treated at home through hydration and close monitoring. However, serious cases need to be seen by a vet.

Is your pup throwing up or acting like they have an upset tummy? Did you catch them digging in the trash can or eating something they shouldn’t have? Gastritis could be the cause of your pup’s discomfort.

What is gastritis?

Gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach and is very common in dogs. It can be caused by various things, but is usually closely related to diet and the digestive system. Gastritis can only be diagnosed by a vet after testing, but you can do your part as a pet parent by recognizing the warning signs early.

This condition isn’t usually dangerous when treated early, but it can be very detrimental to your dog’s health if left unchecked. Untreated gastritis can lead to stomach ulcers and polyps; it’s important to get your dog help if symptoms last longer than a day or two.

Gastritis vs. gastroenteritis

Many pet parents can’t tell the difference between gastritis and gastroenteritis. The two words are very similar, and the symptoms can overlap, too. Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and bowel, but not the stomach lining. Both conditions have similar symptoms, but gastroenteritis is typically accompanied by diarrhea, and gastritis isn’t.

There are two types of gastritis

Acute gastritis

Acute gastritis is commonly brought on by exposure to viruses, bacteria, fungi, spoiled food, household or outdoor plants. Eating hair or string and swallowing bad things like cleaning agents or human medications can also cause acute gastritis in dogs.

When a dog has acute gastritis, symptoms appear quickly and may disappear quickly, too. Mild cases of acute gastritis usually resolve themselves after a day or so, but if your dog’s symptoms don’t clear up, head to the vet.

Chronic gastritis

Chronic gastritis is a long-term illness that requires ongoing treatment. If your dog’s gastritis symptoms last more than 24 hours or keep coming back despite treatment, it’s considered chronic.

Chronic gastritis tends to be caused by long-term exposure to any common acute causes, as well as IBS or stomach cancer. This type of gastritis should be taken very seriously. It’s diagnosed by a veterinarian after blood and urine tests are completed.

🚨 If your dog doesn’t recover on its own within 24-36 hours, take them to the vet.

Which is more serious?

Both acute and chronic gastritis can be mild or very serious. For example, a dog that consumed a poisonous plant will have acute gastritis that can be very serious. Similarly, a dog with a mild food sensitivity will have chronic gastritis that isn’t necessarily life-threatening.

What causes gastritis?

Gastritis is very commonly caused by ingesting things that contain bacteria or chemicals, such as:

  • Antibiotics
  • Cat litter
  • Garbage
  • Mold
  • Household cleaners
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Raw food, especially chicken

Most of these ingested materials won’t require a trip to the vet if your dog’s symptoms clear up within 24 hours. Make sure to monitor your dog’s condition and give them plenty of clean water to drink. If their symptoms seem extreme or your dog doesn’t get better within a day, you should take them to the vet for treatment.

🚨 If your dog consumed something toxic, like antibiotics or household cleaners, call the ASPCA Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 and your vet immediately.

Chronic gastritis has different causes, though repeated or prolonged exposure to the causes of acute gastritis can also be responsible. Additionally, chronic gastritis takes much more than just rest and water to recover from. If you think your dog might have chronic gastritis, get them to the vet as soon as you can. The most common causes of chronic gastritis are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Infections
  • IBS
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Food allergy

What signs of gastritis should pet parents look out for?

Vomiting is the big, waving red flag for gastritis. If your dog vomits up their food, it’s possibly being caused by gastritis, but it’s not the only explanation. Here are other symptoms of gastritis you should be on the lookout for besides sudden vomiting:

  • Decreases in appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Black stool

👉 Don’t mistake bilious vomit for “regular vomit” (vomit containing food). Yellow, thin vomit could be a sign of bilious vomiting syndrome rather than gastritis.

How is gastritis diagnosed and treated?

Vets will run tests on urine, fecal matter, and sometimes blood to diagnose gastritis in dogs. Gastritis is diagnosed using abdominal x-rays, blood tests, and urinalysis; severe or chronic gastritis may take more tests. Your vet will know how many tests are necessary to make a complete and accurate diagnosis.

Mild gastritis doesn’t always require veterinary treatment, but it’s still a good idea to bring your pup in to rule out any serious issues that may be occurring. If your dog gets mild gastritis, it should be much better by the next day. However, if your pup is getting sick over and over again, or isn’t improving, it’s time to see the vet.

Gastritis can be cured with proper treatment. If your vet diagnoses your pup with gastritis, they’ll recommend two types of treatment: symptom management and medical treatment.

Symptom management from home

If your dog has a mild case of gastritis, they’ll generally start feeling better after one day, though their full energy levels might take two to three days to come back. Your vet may advise you to keep an eye on your dog at home.

Vomiting might look worrisome, but it’s part of a dog’s natural response to sickness and is the main way they remove the substance that is making them sick. Still, though, vomiting takes a toll on your pup’s body by draining fluids and preventing food digestion. Here’s how to help your sick dog recover from home:

Keep the water flowing Make sure your dog has constant access to clean water to quench their thirst and replace lost liquids (change their water often). Give them only small amounts of water at first, increasing intake over time.

Try ice chips If your dog has trouble keeping water down, try giving them ice chips.

Withhold food Until your dog’s symptoms subside, it’s best to keep food to an absolute minimum. When you reintroduce food, increase the amount slowly and give them small meals.

Bland diet Your vet may recommend temporarily feeding your dog a bland diet of chicken and rice when they begin eating again (this should only be used for a short amount of time as it’s not a well-balanced diet).

Watch them Make sure they stay out of the trash and dirty things, especially if they’re still vomiting.

Stay alert Monitor their symptoms and behavior for changes and be ready to call the vet if they worsen.

Be a calming presence Spend time with your dog to help them feel safe.

Medical treatment for gastritis

Recovery from severe cases of chronic gastritis can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the case. Sometimes, the symptoms may never fully disappear, but with proper treatment, your dog can still live a semi-normal life.

Medical treatment for gastritis (whether acute or chronic) in dogs includes:

  • Anti-vomiting medications. Anti-vomiting (antiemetic) drugs such as maropitant and metoclopramide are helpful when dogs with acute cases of gastritis need to keep food down and fluids inside.
  • Antacids. These drugs, such as famotidine, are used to help treat chronic gastritis and keep the dog’s stomach calm.
  • Gastrointestinal protectants. Sucralfate and other stomach-protecting medications are also used to treat chronic gastritis by forming a protective coating around the stomach lining.
  • Fluid therapy. Vets will monitor your dog’s fluid levels and make sure they stay hydrated as they recover; this therapy is most commonly used for moderate-severe acute gastritis.
  • Proton pump inhibitors. These drugs, like omeprazole, prevent certain cells from pumping acid into the stomach, helping the pup’s stomach feel more stable.
  • Diet changes. Dogs with chronic gastritis may need a bland diet or a diet customized for their stomach sensitivities.

Can it be prevented?

Sometimes, gastritis can be prevented if you’re able to keep your dog away from any substance that causes the condition. Other, more complicated causes of gastritis (chemotherapy, kidney disease, IBS, etc) are out of a pet parent’s control.

Tips to prevent gastritis in your dog:

Choose quality food Feed your dog a high-quality diet and avoid giving them human food, especially leftovers (or licking dirty plates).

Give lots of water Provide plenty of clean and fresh water, and make sure your dog has 24/7 access.

Hide any temptations Keep your dog away from the trash and raw food.

Remove chemicals — Make sure all household cleaners are kept away from your dog.

Block access to the toilet — Keep your bathroom door closed to limit access to toilet water.

👉  Check out our guide on what to give your dog for an upset tummy for other helpful tips.