The dog's stomach is a sac-like structure designed to store large volumes of food and begin the digestive process. Once eaten, most food leaves the stomach within twelve hours after entering. The esophagus (muscular tube) carries food to the stomach, where it enters via a valve-like structure called the cardiac sphincter. On the interior surface of the stomach is a series of folds called gastric folds. These folds function to help grind and digest food. The inner stomach lining secretes acids and enzymes to break food down as the initial step in the digestive process. Once the initial stomach digestive process is complete, the partially digested food exits the stomach through the pyloric sphincter area and then enters the duodenum (small intestine).
Gastritis describes an inflammation or infection of the stomach. As in humans, viruses and bacteria can irritate the stomach and cause gastritis. Additionally, the ingestion of spoiled food, garbage, etc., can irritate the stomach lining.
What are the symptoms?
A dog with gastritis will generally vomit, not eat, and be lethargic. The temperature is usually elevated above the normal 101.5 degrees. If a virus or bacteria is involved, the gastritis may eventually progress to the intestines and cause diarrhea. Infectious canine parvovirus is a classic example of a viral infection, which occasionally begins as gastritis.
What are the risks?
Most instances of gastritis are not serious. However, if the vomiting becomes severe, or if signs persist for more than twenty-four hours, then veterinary attention should be sought.
What is the management?
A dog with a mild upset stomach can benefit from a gastric coating of soothing preparations such as Pepto-Bismol. Generally, it is best to withhold food, but not water. Withholding food will allow the stomach to rest. Bland diets such as chicken and rice can be fed once the stomach has settled down. Rather than allowing the animal to drink a lot at one time, water should be given often and in small amounts.
If vomiting persists, diarrhea develops, or if the body temperature is excessively high (greater than 103 degrees), veterinary attention should be sought. A veterinarian will observe the dog for dehydration resulting from lack of fluid intake, or through diarrhea and vomiting. Intravenous fluids can be used to replace lost fluids. Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria if necessary. Various medications are available to decrease vomiting.