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Gastritis in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Diagnosis In-depth

A tentative diagnosis of acute gastritis is usually made on the basis of history and clinical findings, and no specific diagnostic work up is warranted. If the dog is not responding to symptomatic therapy, and/or the signs are severe, diagnostic tests should be performed. In cases of chronic gastritis, a full diagnostic work up is most always recommended.

  • A complete blood count (CBC) will evaluate for the presence of infection, inflammation and anemia, associated with some diseases that cause gastritis.

  • A biochemical profile evaluates the kidney, liver, electrolytes, total protein and blood sugar status. All of these parameters are important to establish in the dog with gastritis.

  • A urinalysis helps evaluate the kidneys and hydration status of the dog.

  • Multiple fecal examinations are important to rule out gastrointestinal parasites as a cause of gastritis.

  • A fecal Parvo antigen test should be performed on any young puppy that presents with acute gastritis, regardless of their vaccination history.

  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) evaluate the abdominal organs (kidneys, liver) and may help visualize the presence of a foreign body or tumor.

    Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests to ensure optimal medical care. These are selected on a case-by-case basis.

  • An ACTH stimulation test may be recommended to rule out hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's disease). It is a combination of 2 blood tests that measures adrenal function. It is safe, and can usually be performed at your local veterinary hospital.

  • Bile acids are paired blood tests obtained before and after a meal that evaluates liver function. The test is very safe and can be performed at your local veterinary hospital.

  • A blood lead level may be indicated in the dog with gastritis, where there has been known or possible lead exposure.

  • A gastrin level should be run on any dog with multiple or recurrent ulcers or signs of gastritis. Elevated levels are usually seen in dogs with gastrinoma (a tumor that secretes gastrin, causing ulceration.)

  • An upper gastrointestinal (GI) barium (dye) series may be considered in those cases where baseline diagnostics do not confirm a diagnosis, and gastritis persists. It may help diagnose foreign objects or tumors that are not apparent on radiographs, or confirm a diagnosis of GI ulceration. A safe dye is given to the dog by mouth, and is then watched as it travels through the GI tract. It is a non-invasive test that can often be performed by your regular veterinarian, although in some cases may necessitate transfer to a specialty hospital.

  • An abdominal ultrasound evaluates the abdominal organs and helps assess for the presence of tumors. Organs, lymph nodes, and masses can be sampled with a needle or biopsy instrument with the guidance of ultrasound. This procedure is relatively safe, however may necessitate a mild sedative. It is often recommended that a specialist perform the procedure.

  • Gastroduodenoscopy (upper GI endoscopy) may be of benefit in the dog with gastritis. It may facilitate the removal of foreign bodies, help evaluate for ulcer disease, and sample tissue for the presence of inflammation or cancer. Hospitalization is brief, and healing is generally quick and uneventful. It does, however, necessitate general anesthesia, and therefore is associated with minor risks. It is often necessary to refer the dog to a specialist, and is performed when other diagnostics are either inconclusive or support the diagnosis of a gastric foreign body.

  • Lastly, an exploratory laparotomy should be performed as a diagnostic tool in any individual that has had an extensive diagnostic, and sometimes treatment, course with little or no response. It is an invasive procedure but is necessary in a handful of cases for a definitive diagnosis.

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