Gastroduodenal Ulcer in Cats
Gastroduodenal ulcer disease refers to ulcers found in the cat's stomach and/or duodenum, the first section of the small intestine. These uclers often develop because the mucosal lining of the stomach or intestinal lumen (which comes in direct contact with food and is responsible for nutrient absorption) is exposed. There are various factors that may alter these protective mechanisms.
These ulcers are less common in cats as compared to dogs. If you would like to learn more about how the disease affects dogs, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
There are many symptoms that can develop as a result of gastroduodenal ulcers, of which some may remain undetected until the cat's condition becomes severe. For instance, cats are less likely to show clinical evidence of gastrointestinal bleeding.
The following are some of the more common symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Vomiting (most often seen)
- Blood in vomiting (hematemesis)
- Black tarry stool due to presence of digested blood (melena)
- Abdominal pain (animal may stand in praying position)
Accidental poisoning is one of the leading causes of gastroduodenal ulcer disease. This can be in the form of plant intoxication (e.g., mushrooms, castor beans, sago palm), pesticide or rodenticide toxicity, chemical poisoning (e.g., ethylene glycol, phenol), or heavy metal poisoning (e.g., zinc, iron, arsenic).
Other common causes of gastroduodenal ulcer disease include:
- Gastrointestinal obstructions (i.e., tumors)
- Hyperacidity of the stomach
- Severe trauma (e.g., shock, head injury, burns)
- Gastrointestinal parasites
- Infectious diseases (bacterial, fungal, viral)
- Kidney or liver failure
- Adverse drug reaction
- Pythiosis (a condition cause by water mold)
- Helicobacter infection
- Sustained strenuous exercise
Your veterinarian will take a detailed history and after conducting the physical examination on your cat, routine laboratory testing will be carried out. Complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis can help in diagnosing this problem along with complications, if any.
Blood testing, for example, may reveal anemia in patients with bleeding, whereas in cases with chronic blood loss, iron deficiency anemia may be seen. In some cats, decreased number of platelets (cells important for blood clotting) and white blood cells may be seen. Fecal material is also analyzed to see if blood is present in it or not, while abdominal X-rays and ultrasounds assist in diagnosing any foreign body, mass in the stomach or duodenum.
In case of tumor, thoracic X-ray may help in finding the metastasis of tumor to lungs. Endoscopy, a procedure in which a veterinarian will look directly into the stomach and duodenum using an endoscope, is the method of choice for definitive diagnosis. In addition, endoscopy allows the veterinarian to remove any foreign bodies and take a biopsy. A rigid or flexible tube will also be inserted in the stomach and duodenum in order to take photographs.
The ultimate goal is to treat the underlying cause while easing the cat's symptoms. However, gastroduodenal ulcers are sometimes associated hemorrhaging, shock, or severe abdominal infection. In these cases, intensive care is required until the cat becomes stable. Fluids are given to maintain body fluid level and in some patients blood transfusion may be required to overcome deficit cause by extensive bleeding.
If the bleeding continues, your veterinarian may infuse ice water in the cat's stomach for 20 to 30 minutes to help in stopping bleeding. Surgery may be also be required in cats with perforated stomach or intestinal ulcers, or if tumors are present.
Living and Management
The complete resolution of problem depends upon the underlying cause and extent of problem. However, it is best if you do not allow the cat to move much immediately after surgery. Regular monitoring, as well as repeat follow-up examinations, are required to verify the progress of the cat.
In cases of severe vomiting, oral feeding should be discontinued until the cat recovers. A low fat diet in small amounts will then be introduced slowly.
Never use over-the-counter pain relieving medicines in your cat without consent of veterinarian as some of these pain relievers can seriously damage the stomach wall and further aggravate ulcers.