A gastric ulcer (also called a gastroduodenal ulcer) describes disruption in the tissue layer that lines the stomach. Several different diseases can cause gastric ulcers in dogs, including certain cancers and liver disease. A gastric ulcer can be a painful condition for a dog that may require drug therapy or even emergency surgery, depending on the circumstances.
Do what you can to detect the signs of a gastric ulcer in your dog for prompt treatment and the best odds of a positive prognosis.
What causes dog ulcers?
Gastric ulcers are common in humans and only somewhat common in dogs. The causes of gastric ulcers are different in humans vs. dogs. While many people associate ulcers with stress or anxiety, canine gastric ulcers are caused by infections or diseases. The most common cause is Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), often prescribed to treat an infection, fever, or inflammation in a dog. Other possible causes include:
- Plant intoxication
- Kidney or liver failure
- Tumors in the stomach
- Gastrointestinal parasites
- Strenuous exercise
- Severe physical trauma
Although the exact relationship between NSAIDs and gastric ulcers in dogs is unclear, there is a documented correlation between more animals being administered these drugs and more gastric ulcers occurring. NSAIDs are often administered with corticosteroids, which can increase the risk of inflammation in a dog’s gastrointestinal system, along with the risk of gastric ulcers.
How do you know if your dog has an ulcer?
An ulcer can cause some abdominal pain or sensitivity. Your dog may or may not show signs of pain with a gastric ulcer. If your dog has stomach pain, you may notice whining or your dog sitting in a prayer position, with their front legs on the ground and their rear end in the air.
Check for other potential symptoms of a gastric ulcer in your dog as well, such as:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Black, tarry stools (melena)
- Diarrhea, with or without blood
- Rapid heart rate
- Weakness or collapse
Gastric ulcers are most common in German Shepherds and Rottweilers, especially when heavily medicated on anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or ibuprofen. If you believe your dog may have a gastric ulcer, see a veterinarian immediately.
How long does it take for an ulcer to heal in a dog?
A dog’s prognosis with a stomach ulcer is generally positive, except in the most severe cases. A typical gastric ulcer is treatable with noninvasive care, such as drug therapies. If a veterinarian diagnoses a gastric ulcer in your dog, expect an average treatment time of a few weeks. Sadly, a severe ulcer that has resulted in perforation has a worse prognosis for recovery.
What do you feed a dog with ulcers?
If your dog has gastric ulcers, adjust his or her diet to facilitate gastrointestinal healing. Your vet may recommend a bland diet for dogs. A simple, bland diet can be easiest for your dog to digest while healing from an ulcer. A bland diet should be rich in carbs and low in protein, fat, and fiber for the best digestion. Examples include plain boiled chicken breast mixed with white rice and raw fish with mashed sweet potatoes.
Some experts say to have your dog fast for 12 hours after an episode of vomiting or diarrhea. Others do not find that this makes any difference. Note, however, that this is not the general opinion for a weak dog or a puppy. Ask your veterinarian for specific details about your dog’s diet with a gastric ulcer, including how long to keep up a bland diet before slowly transitioning back to a regular diet.
How do you treat stomach ulcers in dogs?
A veterinarian will treat a canine gastric ulcer by addressing its root cause. If your vet associates the ulcer with NSAIDs, for example, he or she will discontinue the use of these drugs immediately. Your veterinarian may also try to lower the level of gastric acid in your dog’s stomach using an H2 blocking agent to facilitate healing. Other drug therapies may also be necessary to alleviate pain and inflammation. A dog with a gastric ulcer and organ perforation may need to undergo emergency surgery in the most severe cases. Talk to your vet about gastric ulcers in dogs for more information.
Alana Redmond is a content writer that specializes in law and consumer safety. She also works with Douglas, Haun & Heidemann, P.C a personal injury law firm in Springfield, MO that specializes in dog bite injuries and accidents.