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Gastroenteritis in Dogs: Diarrhoea, Vomiting and Stomach Pain in Dogs

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Gastroenteritis in dogs is not a particular infection or disease. Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach, small and large intestines. It can be due to infection(s) or toxicosis (eating something toxic). 

Gastroenteritis typically causes (loose motion) diarrhoea and vomiting in dogs. 

If there is blood in the vomit or diarrhoea (loose motions) of your dog or pup, it is an aggressive form of gastroenteritis in dogs – haemorrhagic gastroenteritis, which requires aggressive treatment. 

Brown and white puppy, approximately 60 days old, held up by one gloved hand and examined by another with a stethoscope. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to gastroenteritis. Even after vaccination, gastroenteritis in dogs can happen due to toxicosis, poisoning, indigestion and protozoal infections.

Gastroenteritis in dogs can be present at any age, but puppies are particularly predisposed. Gastroenteritis demands immediate veterinary attention. 

Take your dog or puppy to emergency veterinary care if the symptoms begin late at night. Waiting is never a good idea once these symptoms emerge. 

What causes gastroenteritis in dogs and puppies?

There can be one or more causes of gastroenteritis in dogs and pups. In many cases, the term is used by veterinary professionals to describe the inflammation of the GI tract and not a particular infection. 

The causes of gastroenteritis in dogs and puppies can include –

  • Eating toxic food
  • Food poisoning (eating bad/spoiled food)
  • Viruses (canine parvovirus or canine coronavirus)
  • Health complications (chronic kidney disease and/or cancer in older dogs)

What are the signs of gastroenteritis in dogs? 

Shih Tzu looking low, lying down on a white table with a folded stethoscope kept beside them. Gastroenteritis in dogs can make them lethargic due to the dehydration and pain.

The telltale signs of gastroenteritis in dogs include –

  • Diarrhoea (loose stools)
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the stool (sometimes, vomit)
  • Bloating may or may not be present 
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite

Initially, your dog may simply experience foul-smelling poop with some bloating and inappetence. If your dog is having loose stools and rejecting food, it’s time to take them to the veterinarian. 

Waiting only makes the internal swelling worse. It can lead to internal bleeding and cause what experts call haemorrhagic diarrhoea. 

Does your dog have gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis diagnosis involves a complete veterinary checkup. Your vet may run tests to check if your dog is positive for viral infections, including canine parvovirus and canine coronavirus

The veterinarian may also recommend further diagnostics, such as X-rays and USGs to check the extent of inflammation inside your dog’s intestines. 

Blood tests are mandatory and all experienced veterinarians recommend multiple blood tests to check the type and extent of infection. 

Diagnostic testing is mandatory along with physical checkups to confirm a gastroenteritis diagnosis in dogs. 

How does a veterinarian diagnose gastroenteritis in dogs?

The diagnosis of gastroenteritis in dogs involves a process of elimination. Your veterinarian needs to eliminate the possibility of other infectious and acute causes to give you this generic diagnosis. 

Adult female dog, mostly white with brown patches on her head, being examined with a stethoscope held by two gloved hands. Gastroenteritis in dogs doesn't depend on age or gender. it is an emergency condition that demands veterinary attention

The veterinarian will ask several questions about your dog’s vaccination and deworming status, diet, general health and other signs. 

Some of the critical information regarding your dog’s health should include –

  • The current diet of your dog and what they have eaten in the past 48 hours
  • Introduction of any new food or treats
  • Beginning of any new medication or supplement
  • History of any liver or kidney disease
  • Any recent exposure to fertiliser, pesticides, human medication or cleaning products
  • The last episode of vomiting and diarrhoea, and its diagnosis

Prepare a list of all the relevant information before you meet the veterinarian. It is entirely possible for you to forget a few key points while your dog is in pain. Prepare a list of signs, symptoms, eating habits, and medicines and collect your dog’s previous prescriptions and reports before the scheduled appointment. 

What is the treatment for gastroenteritis in dogs and puppies?

Since gastroenteritis is more of a generic diagnosis, the treatment of gastroenteritis in dogs remains symptomatic. 

The principal aim of gastroenteritis treatment is preventing dehydration, halting blood loss and restoring the loss of electrolytes. 

Most puppies and dogs experiencing the symptoms of gastroenteritis will be put on intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent added trauma to their stomach and intestines. 

adult labrador lying on the treatment table. two gloved hands applying the adhesive tape on top of the cannula that carries fluids directly into the bloodstream. IV is a primary choice for the treatment of dehydration due to gastroenteritis in dogs.

Visiting the veterinarian is extremely important once your dog begins showing the above-mentioned signs of gastroenteritis in dogs, since they are the only ones who can prescribe the correct type and volume of replacement fluids. 

Along with fluid therapy, your dog or puppy may also need –

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-diarrhoeal medicines
  • Antacids (and PPIs)
  • Antiemetics (medicines to stop vomiting and nausea)
  • Additional supplements

Your veterinarian may tell you to withhold food for at least 24 hours since the onset of symptoms. During this time, do not let your dog eat or drink even in minimal amounts. Fasting will help their stomach settle and reduce the risks of haemorrhaging. 

Reintroduce easy-to-digest and soft food only after your veterinarian gives the green signal. Speak to your veterinarian to know about the best-suited diet for the quick recovery of your dog. Generally, low-fat, low-fibre and highly digestible foods are recommended. 

What’s the cure for gastroenteritis in dogs?

The prognosis of gastroenteritis in dogs depends on how quickly your dog has begun receiving the correct treatment. Quick diagnosis is the key to a better prognosis. 

Mixed-breed dog, mostly white with one brown patch on the right eye sitting with a quizzical expression, and one gloved hand holding a syringe filled with medication. Gastroenteritis in dogs responds better to IV fluids and injections. Vaccines can keep your dog safe from gastroenteritis symptoms caused by viral infections.

Gastroenteritis is indeed curable. Symptoms should improve rapidly with rehydration (fluid therapy). 

If vomiting and diarrhoea persist even after 24 hours of receiving the initial treatment, speak to your veterinarian immediately. Rush your dog to an emergency and critical care clinic with complete medical infra, if necessary. 

Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis can have an extremely poor prognosis in very young puppies who do not receive adequate medical care at the correct time. 

How can you prevent gastroenteritis in dogs?

Since gastroenteritis can happen due to multiple reasons, the preventive measures need to be multi-step as well. 

  • Get your dog vaccinated against canine parvovirus and canine coronavirus on time
  • Always keep your dog’s deworming up-to-date
  • Maintain a strict, vet-recommended diet 
  • Do not overfeed or underfeed your puppy or dog
  • Do not start any medication or supplement without consulting your veterinarian
  • Do not let your dog or puppy sniff, lick or lift anything from the ground while they are outside
  • Keep a keen eye on their appetite and energy levels
  • Do not change their diet or food overnight
  • Discourage scrounging habits (scavenging from the dustbin) 
  • Do not feed a raw diet to your dogs

Sometimes, following all these steps to the T cannot prevent gastroenteritis especially if it’s of contagious, viral or bacterial origin. 

Conclusion

Gastroenteritis in puppies and dogs is always serious, irrespective of the cause. If your dog has diarrhoea and vomiting, contact the nearest veterinary clinic immediately. Your pooch will need multiple diagnostic tests, so ensure that you pick a pet clinic with in-house diagnostics and IPD facilities.

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