What is gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is a common condition that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines). This inflammation causes vomiting and diarrhoea, which can be acute (occurs suddenly and resolves quickly) or chronic (lasting for two or more weeks).
What causes it?
While the exact cause often remains elusive, typical causes include:
- Scavenging or eating spoiled or rotten food
- Various toxins
- Certain viruses or bacteria e.g. parvovirus
- Sudden changes in diet
- Food allergies or sensitivity
- Foreign bodies
- Intestinal parasites e.g. worms
- Metabolic causes including liver and kidney disease
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
- Certain gastrointestinal cancers
What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
Typical symptoms include:
- Vomiting or nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in stools or dark tarry stools
- Weight loss
There is a more severe version of gastroenteritis called haemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) where there are variable amounts of blood in the diarrhoea. This condition tends to have a rapid (acute) onset and can be very severe in some dogs, leading to severe dehydration, pancreatitis and systemic disease. Dogs with HGE often needs to be hospitalised for intravenous fluid therapy and can require intensive care. The cause typically remains unclear.
How is it diagnosed?
Your vet will carry out a full examination of your pet and ask you some questions about the last few days to try and determine whether they could have eaten something unusual or that they shouldn’t. If the animal is quite unwell, or if it has been going on for a few days, then they may well suggest some abdominal imaging such as an ultrasound scan and/or x-rays.
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How is it treated?
Treatment will depend on the severity and the cause. If your pet is only mildly affected then the vet is likely to suggest a bland diet, some anti-sickness medication and some treatment to help with any diarrhoea. Have a look at our shop for some fantastic products to help with gastroenteritis, including our TummySOS, which is specifically designed to help with tummy upsets (a great product to have in the cupboard as you never know when a bout may strike!).
With more severe gastroenteritis and if your vet is concerned about dehydration, your pet may need to be hospitalised for an intravenous drip to make them feel better. They would also receive additional medication as needed during their stay.
Most cases improve within a few days, but please monitor your pet carefully and contact a vet if you have any concerns with their condition.
Can gastroenteritis be prevented?
While it cannot be prevented - due to the number of different causes – the risk of gastroenteritis can be reduced by doing the following:
- Try to prevent scavenging where possible (consider muzzle training if they are a repeat offender!)
- Only make diet changes very gradually – do not suddenly switch their food
- Ensure they are up to date with vaccinations and worming