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Gastroenteritis in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

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    What Is Gastroenteritis in Dogs?

    vizla dog squatting and pooping on a leash Gastroenteritis

    Gastroenteritis in dogs is an inflammatory illness of the gastrointestinal system (stomach and intestines). It will most usually manifest as diarrhoea with or without vomiting; while it might manifest as simply vomiting, this is significantly less common. Gastroenteritis can be chronic (lasting more than two weeks) or acute (lasting less than two weeks and normally going away on its own, but may worsen over time).

    What Causes Gastroenteritis in Dogs?

    Gastroenteritis in dogs can have a variety of reasons. Anything that drastically affects a dog’s microbiota can cause the disease. Here is a list of potential causes: 

    • Consuming spoiled food
    • Ingesting strange substances
    • Toxin ingestion
    • Parvovirus and other certain viruses and bacteria
    • Kidney and liver disease
    • Worms and other intestinal parasites
    • Food sensitivities
    • Ulcers in the intestine
    • Certain types of gastrointestinal cancer

    What Are The Symptoms Of Gastroenteritis?

    In dogs, gastroenteritis often begins with soft feces that grows progressively wetter. You may detect mucous in the stool, your dog struggling to have a bowel movement, and/or feces in the home later on. Here are some more frequent warning signs:

    • Bowel motions that are explosive and/or frequent
    • Tarry feces
    • Large amounts of watery feces
    • Blood in stool
    • Lethargy
    • Restlessness
    • Pain in the abdomen
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

    Depending on the degree and course of the condition, dogs may exhibit one or more of these symptoms.

    How Do You Know When To Go To The Vet?

    husky on a table at the vet for Gastroenteritis

    Dogs with gastroenteritis can appear completely normal. They may not exhibit any symptoms other than a change in the quality, amount, frequency, or placement of their feces. As previously stated, dogs with HGE will exhibit more visible symptoms.

    Because it’s impossible to predict if a dog’s health will worsen, veterinarian care should be sought in all episodes of diarrhea, especially in puppies, senior dogs, or small breed dogs that are more prone to dehydration. If your dog exhibits symptoms of vomiting, nausea, bleeding, discomfort, or lethargy, he or she must seek veterinary attention immediately.

    How Is Gastroenteritis Diagnosed?

    Gastroenteritis diagnosis is done via the process of exclusion.  Essentially, this implies that before establishing a generic diagnosis such as gastroenteritis, your veterinarian will rule out or remove alternative more serious causes of the clinical indications. A thorough medical history is the first step in diagnosing what is causing a dog’s vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and other accompanying clinical indications.

    Among the most important pieces of information in your dog’s medical history are:

    • Your dog’s current diet, how much and how frequently you feed your dog
    • Everything your dog ate or drank in the last 48 hours
    • Any new meals, treats, or incentives.
      Any recent exposure to pesticides, drugs, cleaning agents, or other new materials in your house.
    • Any recent contact with a new animal or human.
      Previous bouts of vomiting and diarrhea (including their cause and treatment).
    • Any disease that occurred within the last month.
    • Any chronic ailments that your dog may be suffering from.
    • Any drugs, vitamins, or supplements used in the previous month

    Your veterinary health team may have you fill in a questionnaire prior to your visit. 

    Following the completion of the medical history, your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination. Your veterinarian will examine your pet for signs of dehydration, belly discomfort or soreness, bloating or gas, swellings, or any other physical anomaly. The temperature of your dog, as well as other vital indicators (heart rate and respiration rate), will be recorded.

    Diagnostic testing will be advised at this point, and may include:

    • The presence of dehydration and infection is indicated by a complete blood cell count (CBC).
    • Serum chemistry and electrolytes – identifies organ system abnormalities as well as electrolyte imbalances caused by vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Urinalysis identifies urinary tract infections, renal illness, dehydration, urine glucose for diabetics, and other conditions.
    • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are used to look for gastric (stomach) or intestinal obstructions, as well as other abnormalities.
    • Ultrasound of the abdomen to search for intestinal blockages or other abnormalities.

    How Is Gastroenteritis Treated?

    female vet giving a boston terrier a pill

    The principal treatment of gastroenteritis is rehydration and restoration of blood electrolyte balance (sodium, potassium, and/or chloride). Depending on the degree of dehydration, this fluid replacement will be given orally, subcutaneously (beneath the skin), or by intravenous (IV) treatment.

    Medical treatment may also include:

    • Antidiarrheal drugs may be used to alter intestinal motility (activity) after intestinal obstruction or other mechanical and anatomical issues have been ruled out. If your dog is experiencing severe colitis, motility-modifying agents are generally not recommended.
    • Anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medications, for example, maropitant (brand name Cerenia®) or metoclopramide (brand name Reglan®) may be given to your dog.
    • Gastrointestinal protectants are used to prevent stomach ulcers, for example, famotidine (brand name Pepcid®) or ranitidine (brand name Zantac®).

    Food is often withheld during the initial stages of treatment for 24-48 hours and then slowly reintroduced. Small, frequent feedings of a highly digestible, low fat diet are generally prescribed. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best diet to feed your dog for a speedy recovery.

    What Is The Prognosis For Gastroenteritis?

    The majority of instances of acute gastroenteritis improve quickly following rehydration. Call your veterinarian if the vomiting and diarrhea do not improve dramatically within 48 hours of therapy.

    Gastroenteritis is a prevalent problem in veterinary medicine. Early detection and treatment are critical to restoring your dog to their usual healthy state as soon as possible. Please contact your veterinarian if you have any more questions or concerns.