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Gastric Motility Disorder in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Gastric motility disorders are abnormalities that result from conditions that disrupt normal emptying of the stomach resulting in distention and subsequent abnormal function of the stomach.

There are many causes of gastric motility disorders, including:

Metabolic Disorders

  • Hypokalemia (low potassium)
  • Renal (kidney) failure
  • Hypothyroidism (sluggish thyroid)

    Nervous Inhibition

  • Stress
  • Fear
  • Pain
  • Trauma

    Primary Stomach Diseases

  • Blockages
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
  • Ulcers
  • Parvovirus
  • Previous gastric surgery

    Miscellaneous

  • Gastroesophageal reflux (backward flow) of gastric/intestinal juice
  • Dysautonomia (dysfunction of a part of the nervous system)
  • Primary idiopathic (Unknown cause)
  • Drugs

    Gastric motility disorders are seen in both dogs and cats. There are no sex, breed or age predilections; however it is uncommon to see primary disorders in younger animals.

    What to Watch For

  • Chronic vomiting after eating
  • Gastric distention
  • Nausea
  • Anorexia (poor appetite)
  • Belching
  • Pica (eating inappropriate things)
  • Weight loss

    Diagnosis

    A thorough knowledge of history and clinical signs is very important and is most helpful in making the diagnosis. Diagnostic tests are necessary to confirm a diagnosis of gastric motility disorders. They include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal flotation
  • Abdominal radiographs (x-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • A contrast (dye) upper gastrointestinal study
  • Endoscopy, specifically gastroscopy

    Treatment

    Treatment for gastric motility disorders is dependent upon the precise disease. In addition, symptomatic/supportive therapy may be indicated, regardless of the disease itself.

  • Most patients are treated as an outpatient
  • Hospitalization/supportive care in extreme/severe cases of disease
  • Dietary modification
  • Stomach acid blockers
  • Gastric coating agents
  • Prokinetic (promote movement) agents
  • Surgical intervention for certain disorders (blockages)

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer prescribed medication and follow all feeding instructions. Contact your veterinarian if signs continue or worsen.

    There is no specific preventative care available.

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