Gastroenteritis may make dogs feel very ill
A guide about this major stomach upset
Have you ever wondered what a dog with gastroenteritis is really going through? By looking at the origins of the word "Gastroenteritis" we very likely will get an idea.
"Gastro" is the the Greek word for stomach, "Enteron" stands for intestine, and "itis" stands for inflammation, put the words all together and you will likely have a dog with inflammation of the stomach and the intestine. Not a very nice picture indeed.
A dog with gastroenteritis will very likely be rushed to the vet's office or emergency room because its symptoms can be really concerning for the owner. I have personally had a puppy affected by gastroenteritis and he quickly started deteriorating as he moaned in pain listless. Below are key symptoms that may suggest gastroenteritis in a dog.
- Copious vomiting
- Copious diarrhea
- Presence of blood in stool
A diagnosis for gastroenteritis is obtained mostly by exclusion. This means that other conditions producing similar symptoms are tested for first. When a puppy presents with vomiting, diarrhea and blood in the stool, a Parvo virus test should be run. Other conditions to be tested for would be ulcers, foreign body obstruction, presence of parasites, coagulation disorders, etc. So a series of tests will need to be run to rule out other possible conditions before coming to the conclusion that a dog is affected by gastroenteritis.
Many times dogs suffering from gastroenteritis will show a high red blood cell count and this may be the ultimate proof that will help the veterinarian confirm a suspected case of gastroenteritis.
But exactly what causes gastroenteritis in a dog?
Unfortunately, more often than not the cause may remain unknown (idiopathic). There are suspected triggers though that can provide some clarity on gastroenteritis flare ups. Here are some:
- Abrupt diet changes
- Dietary intolerance
- Food indiscretion
- Side effects from medications
- Exposure to toxins
While it may be normal for a dog to occasionally exhibit vomiting and diarrhea, dogs affected by gastroenteritis will show more dramatic and abrupt symptoms and the condition may not resolve on its own by offering a bland diet or fasting. Instead, vet treatment may be required to provide fluids and electrolytes and prescribe appropriate medications to sooth the stomach.
When blood is detected in the stools the dog may be suffering from HGE which stands for Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Aggressive supportive care is required in this instance and if treatment is provided promptly enough the dog will make a full recovery.
While an exact cause may not be identified, treatment is well known and will consist of:
- Sub Q fluids
- IV fluids
- Anti-nausea medications
- Keeping dog off food
Many cases of vomiting and diarrhea often resolve on their own. A dog suffering from stomach upset may benefit from the following:
- A 12 hours fast for puppies
- A 24 hour fast for adult dogs
- A bland diet
After fasting, a bland diet consisting of boiled chicken (with the sking removed) and rice or hamburger (with the fat drained off) and rice may help the stomach settle. It is important that the rice be the bulky part of the meal. This diet must be offered 2-3 times a day in small meals. Then if the dog gets better the regular diet may be reintroducing gradually over the next few days. Unflavored Pedialyte or Gatorade may be added to the water bowl to replace lost electrolytes.
However, when the vomiting is persistent and the diarrhea copious, the dog may dehydrate quickly and home treatments may not suffix. The dog may get lethargic, listless, refuse food, and blood may appear in the stools.
While the symptoms of this condition may be pretty worrisome for the owner, when caught early, treatment is much easier and effective. Cases left going on for too long may cause complications and also potentially death. The reason behind this is that untreated gastroenteritis will cause major dehydration. With major dehydration the red blood cell count will increase consistently causing the blood to concentrate and thus, become thicker. Thick blood will cause an often irreversible and deadly condition called "disseminated intra-vascular coagulation." So, the saying better safe than sorry proves very savvy when it comes down to a dog having serious "Gastro" and "Enteron" inflammation.