Dog: Gastritis

General information

The normal stomach is located high in the abdomen and contains a small amount of gas, mucus and any food being digested. The lining of the stomach is called the gastric mucosa which secretes acids and enzymes to break down food. It is protected by gastric secretions to neutralize irritants and a protective lining of cells. The blood supply to the lining helps remove toxins and irritants and the immune system provides protection from foreign substances and infection.

Gastritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach. It results when the protective mechanisms of the stomach are overwhelmed resulting in damage to the stomach lining. Once the mucosa is damaged, the stomach acid may cause further insult to the underlying tissue resulting in a gastric ulcer.

Gastritis can be either acute (sudden and lasting less than 7 days) or chronic (lasting longer than 7 days). Acute gastritis is a very common disorder in dogs due to their indiscriminate eating habits. It is not uncommon for a normal healthy dog to have occasional bouts with acute gastritis.


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Abb. GG20W3DW: Foreign Body.
This is a radiograph of a stomach. The arrow points to a foreign body.

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Abb. GG20XTN7: Foreign Body.
This is a photograph of a foreign body which was surgically removed from the stomach.


Viral and bacterial infections which cause gastritis can be spread from dog to dog through fecal material, respiratory secretions and urine.

Cardinal symptom



Clinical signs of gastritis can vary depending on the cause. Acute gastritis tends to have more severe signs than chronic cases. Vomiting is the most common sign. The vomit may contain mucus tinged with yellow bile and digested food. Fresh red blood or digested blood (coffee ground appearance) may be present in the vomit. Other clinical signs include abdominal pain, lethargy and lack of appetite. Weight loss can occur with chronic gastritis.


Acute gastritis can be diagnosed by physical examination and history. Many cases are short lived and diagnostic tests are not needed. However, when clinical signs are severe and persisting, diagnostic testing should be performed. A fecal examination is used to detect parasite eggs. Other tests include a complete blood count (CBC), serum biochemistry and electrolytes and a urinalysis. Radiography, upper gastrointestinal study with contrast and ultrasonography is used when a foreign body or tumor is suspected. Endoscopy uses a flexible tube with a lighted scope which is passed through the esophagus and into the stomach to visualize the lining and lumen of the stomach. It is used to identify and retrieve small foreign bodies and to diagnose stomach ulcers. Endoscopy can also be used to obtain tissue samples for cell identification.


Treatment of gastritis will depend on the cause. Mild cases without underlying disease are treated by withholding food for 24 hours. Afterwards, a bland diet of rice, boiled chicken and cottage cheese can be fed in several small meals to allow the stomach to heal. Antiemetics can be administered to help with nausea and vomiting. Dogs with intestinal parasites should be dewormed. Severe cases of gastritis may need hospitalization along with intravenous fluid and electrolyte therapy. Foreign body ingestion and gastrointestinal obstructions usually require abdominal surgery to remove the foreign object or correct the obstruction. Other treatments and medications may be needed depending on the exact cause of gastritis.


Most cases of gastritis in dogs are mild and resolve completely with minimal treatment. However, prolonged symptoms may be an indication of a serious disease requiring intensive treatment or possibly surgery.


Gastritis due to parasites can be prevented by regularly deworming your dog. Many of the monthly medications used to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm disease also treat intestinal endoparasites. Veterinarians recommend that most dogs be given these monthly medications year round. All dogs should have an annual fecal examination performed.


Many anti-inflammatories used to control arthritis cause inflammation to the lining of the stomach. Before administering these medications, consult your veterinarian.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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