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Gastritis in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Gastritis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the lining of the stomach. The most common sign associated with gastritis is vomiting. Although signs may be mild and self-limiting in some cases, they can be debilitating and even life threatening in others, necessitating hospitalization and intensive supportive care. Acute gastritis is characterized by vomiting of less than 7 days duration. Chronic gastritis is characterized by intermittent vomiting of greater than 1-2 weeks duration. There are a variety of causes of gastritis, some associated with acute vomiting and some associated with chronic vomiting.

Causes of Acute Gastritis

  • Dietary indiscretion (ingestion of spoiled food, foreign bodies, plant material, hair or overeating)
  • Dietary intolerance or allergy
  • Ingestion of chemical irritants or toxins (fertilizers, cleaning agents, lead)
  • Drugs/medication (antibiotics, steroids)
  • Infectious agents (viral, bacterial, parasitic)
  • Shock or sepsis (systemic infection)

    Causes of Chronic Gastritis

  • Chronic or long term exposure to, or ingestion of, any of the causes listed for acute gastritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Stomach cancer

    There are some systemic diseases that can be associated with both acute and chronic gastritis. Those include kidney failure, liver disease, hypoadrenocorticism, neurologic disease and ulcers. Both dogs and cats can be affected and males just as often as females. Due to the increased potential for dietary indiscretion in younger animals, they are more likely to develop acute gastritis. Chronic gastritis can be seen in all ages.

    What to Watch For

  • Excessive vomiting
  • Excessive vomiting with blood (either red or "coffee-grounds")
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Melena (black tarry stool representative of digested blood)

    Diagnosis

    Many cases of acute gastritis are short lived, resolve easily, and an extensive diagnostic evaluation is seldom required. Diagnostics should be performed in those individuals whose gastritis is severe, chronic, or are exhibiting systemic signs of illness. A thorough history and physical examination is of paramount importance prior to diagnostic evaluation.

  • Complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, urinalysis, and fecal examination
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) +/- contrast/dye evaluation
  • Abdominal ultrasound in selected cases
  • Endoscopy in selected cases

    Treatment

    There are several things your veterinarian may recommend to symptomatically treat your cat. The principal goals of symptomatic therapy are to restore and maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, and to completely rest the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Nothing orally (NPO) for a several hours, with a gradual introduction of water followed by a bland diet
  • Fluid and electrolyte therapy as indicated in the dehydrated patient
  • Antiemetics (drugs that symptomatically decrease the frequency of vomiting)
  • Antacids (drugs that block acid production by the stomach)
  • Gastric protectants (drugs that coat and soothe the GI tract)

    Home Care

    The primary recommendation is to withhold all food and water until contacting your veterinarian. Administer medication and diet only as directed by your veterinarian and observe your cat very closely. If clinical signs are not improving, and/or your cat is getting worse, have your cat evaluated at once.

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