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Gastric Ulcers in Dogs

Posted May 29, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

The chances are good that at some time you have said, “I must have an ulcer” or, “That gives heartburn.” So what is a gastric ulcer?

Gastro duodenal ulcers (stomach ulcers) are relatively common in humans, and potentially in dogs. Subjective symptoms are well recognized and stomach discomfort (heartburn) sends people reaching for antacids and stomach-acid blocking agents. Using special instruments called endoscopes, doctors can easily see the lining of a stomach and small intestine to confirm an ulcer.

While we tend to blame stress and anxiety for these ulcers, there is also an infectious component (Helicobacter pylori) to gastric ulcers in humans. Smoking and alcohol consumption can also play a role in people. In dogs, the primary culprit is Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS). These drugs may be prescribed to treat inflammation or fever in your dog.

How common are gastric ulcers in dogs?
The incidence of gastro-duodenal ulcers in dogs is not known. After all, animals cannot tell us they have heartburn. In addition, few of the inciting factors for humans play any role in dogs. What we do know is that because more and more animals are being administered NSAIDS, the incidence of ulcers is increasing.   

What is the cause of gastric ulcers in dogs?
Although organisms similar to Helicobacter pylori can be found in biopsies obtained from dogs, they do not appear to cause gastric ulcers. The use of NASIDS is the primary cause. NSAIDS are sometimesDog looking sad used along with other drugs, such as corticosteroids, that increase the risk of gastric inflammation. Metabolic disease states, such as hyperadrenocorticism and liver diseases, may also increase the risk. Stomach cancer is yet another cause, but relatively uncommon in dogs.

Symptoms of gastric ulcers in dogs
The clinical signs in dogs are similar to those of humans, but may manifest differently. Clinical signs noticed by pet parents may include:

  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Melena (black, tarry stool)
  • Pallor of mucus membranes
  • Varying degrees of lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

Diagnosis of gastric ulcers in dogs
These signs might raise a suspicion of significant inflammation but further confirmation is necessary to diagnose a gastric ulcer. While there are no diagnostic blood tests, blood tests should still be run to determine if other diseases are present. The only confirmatory ulcer test is to look directly at the lining of the stomach. Endoscopy is the least invasive method of visualizing an ulcer and confirming a

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.