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Gastrointestinal Ulcerations in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Gastrointestinal ulcerations are inflammatory lesions that extend into the deeper layers of the gastrointestinal tract, going beyond the mucosa (lining). They need to be differentiated from erosions, which are more superficial and involve only the mucosa. Gastrointestinal ulcers are uncommon in cats.

Causes

  • Drugs
  • Metabolic disease
  • Stress
  • Major medical illness
  • Foreign objects
  • Neoplasia (cancer)
  • Gastroenteritis - gastrointestinal inflammation
  • Lead poisoning
  • Helicobacter pylori bacteria

    What to Watch For

  • Vomiting, with or without blood
  • Melena, black, tarry stool that contains digested blood
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Shock
  • Sudden death

    Diagnosis

    Various tests are necessary to determine if an ulcer is present and the effects of the ulcer on the body. Tests may include:

  • A complete blood cell count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis should be performed in all cases.

  • Screening abdominal radiographs, although often within normal limits, may support the diagnosis of an ulcer secondary to a mass or foreign body.

  • Abdominal ultrasound may detect associated masses or changes associated with ulceration, however the test generally does not identify gastrointestinal ulceration itself.

  • A contrast upper GI study with barium may identify ulcers.

  • Gastroduodenal endoscopy is the most definitive means of diagnosing gastrointestinal ulceration.

    Treatment

    Individuals with gastrointestinal ulceration may be treated as outpatients if there are minimal signs, no systemic effects, and especially if there is a known cause that can be removed immediately. Specific treatments may include:

  • Restriction of all oral intake if there is active vomiting

  • An easily digestible diet slowly reintroduced as frequent small feedings

  • Avoidance of all gastric irritants like aspirin

  • Acid blocking and stomach coating drugs

  • In severe cases, hospitalization for intravenous fluid therapy and possibly blood transfusions

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication and dietary recommendations as directed by your veterinarian. If your cat becomes weak or pale, collapses, or vomits blood, seek veterinary attention at once.

    Avoid gastric (stomach) irritants and stressful situations. If an underlying disorder has been diagnosed, treat your cat as directed, so as to prevent the onset of secondary ulcers.

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