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What Is Chronic Gastritis in Dogs?

A diagnosis of chronic gastritis generally applies to a dog that has been vomiting regularly over a long period of time, often vomiting once or twice per day for 7-14 days consistently.   

Dogs with chronic gastritis typically have an underlying illness and may have symptoms beyond simple vomiting. The major distinction is the length of the condition, which generally distinguishes chronic gastritis from an upset stomach due to something the dog may have eaten. 

There are four types of gastritis in dogs:  

  • Acute gastritis: a form of gastritis where the stomach is suddenly irritated and inflamed. This type often resolves without medical intervention. 

  • Atrophic gastritis: a rare, long-term, chronic condition in which the glands of the stomach are reduced in size or number. 

  • Chronic hypertrophic gastritis: a thickening of some of the tissues within the stomach, typically also a long-term chronic condition. 

  • Chronic eosinophilic gastritis: involving an abnormal number of a certain type of white blood cells in the tissues of the stomach. 

Symptoms of Chronic Gastritis in Dogs

Dogs with chronic gastritis will show a variety of symptoms, including the following: 

  • Abdominal pain and cramping 

  • Lethargy 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Bleeding from the intestinal tract (often seen as either black tarry stool or vomit that resembles coffee grounds) 

  • Weakness 

  • Fever 

  • Weight loss 

  • Poor hair coat 

  • Dehydration 

  • Electrolyte imbalance (which would cause weakness, imbalance) 

Causes of Chronic Gastritis in Dogs

Chronic gastritis is more commonly seen in cats than dogs. However, there are many reasons a dog may develop chronic gastritis: 

  • Food or medication: chronic gastritis may be related to something the dog is eating on a regular basis, or due to a medication or supplement. 

  • Illness: chronic gastritis can be related to other conditions, including systemic diseases (such as kidney or liver disease) or infections. 

  • Immune disorder: although less common, atrophic gastritis develops secondary to an immune disorder. This is commonly seen in the Norwegian Lundehund breed. 

  • Congenital disorder: the underlying cause for chronic hypertrophic gastritis is unknown, but it is thought to be a congenital disorder linked to release of histamines (biologically active substances found in the environment). Older, small-breed dogs are more prone to this condition, and it is more common in male dogs. 

  • Food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, parasites, and hypereosinophilic syndrome (a blood disorder): this type of chronic gastritis is most common in dogs under 5 years of age, and predisposed breeds are German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Shar-peis. 

How Veterinarians Diagnose Chronic Gastritis in Dogs

Most often, the diagnosis of chronic gastritis in dogs involves multiple stages and steps, and it is important to remember that the definitive diagnosis is often reached only after significant testing. 

Your vet may want to begin with some lab tests, including blood work (usually a complete blood count and a biochemistry profile) and fecal testing. Often, at this stage, food and medical trials are recommended.  

If the vomiting does not resolve, more advanced testing is often recommended, including endoscopy (passing a camera down the esophagus into the stomach and upper intestinal tract) and a biopsy.  

These tests will give the vet a better view of what is happening at the level of the problem (usually the stomach) and to sample the tissue for more information. Occasionally, more diagnostics are required to reach a diagnosis.

Treatment of Chronic Gastritis in Dogs

Treatment of chronic gastritis usually depends on the underlying cause. Typically, a special diet is used, which may involve a prescription product designed specifically for dogs with inflammation in their stomach. Occasionally, a homemade bland diet might be appropriate, but this should be used at the discretion of your veterinarian. 

Most of the time, a medication will be prescribed to try to reduce the vomiting. This may include an antiemetic/antinausea medication and/or an acid reducer. Depending on the diagnosis, a different anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed.

Recovery and Prevention of Chronic Gastritis in Dogs

In some dogs, the treatments mentioned above may provide a cure, but other dogs will need lifelong therapy to control their symptoms. 

There is no true prevention for chronic gastritis other than to feed your dog high-quality food, ensure your dog is appropriately dewormed, and maintain a consistent and healthy diet based on their needs. 

Chronic Gastritis in Dogs FAQs

How long does chronic gastritis last in dogs?

Chronic gastritis, by definition, is vomiting regularly (usually daily) for at least 7-14 days. Most dogs with chronic gastritis do have a long-term problem with vomiting.

What can I feed my dog with chronic gastritis?

Your vet will be able to advise you on the best food to feed your dog, once the cause of the chronic gastritis has been diagnosed. Most dogs will be treated with a prescription product, although some can be fed a homemade bland diet for a short period.

What is the life expectancy of a dog with chronic gastritis?

If the condition is properly diagnosed and treated, most dogs with chronic gastritis have a normal life expectancy.

Can stress cause chronic gastritis in dogs?

Dogs generally do not experience “stress” like people do, but an anxious dog is more likely to experience gastric upsets—which could, with time, become a component of chronic gastritis. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.

Featured Image: iStock.com/electravk

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