Stomach ulcers in dogs

Stomach ulcers in dogs

Health & Safety

Many of us know a friend, relative or colleague who suffers from a stomach ulcer or seems to have a recurring problem with them, and the same problem can also affect dogs. However, while many people associate stomach ulcers with stress-and it is certainly true that stress and anxiety can worsen or contribute to ulcer development in both people and dogs-there is usually an underlying condition or problem that causes stomach ulcers to develop in dogs.

Having a stomach ulcer can of course be very painful for your dog, as well as causing a range of other problems and symptoms too. However, because internal problems can be hard to diagnose from external symptoms alone, stomach ulcers in dogs often become quite acute before the dog’s owner realises there is something wrong, and the condition can easily be confused with other types of stomach upsets, and problems such as allergies.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of a stomach ulcer in your dog is necessary in order to ease the pain and other problems they can cause, and keep your dog healthy-which means knowing how to spot a potential problem in the making, and getting your dog checked out by your vet.

In this article, we will look at stomach ulcers in dogs in more detail, including what they are, the symptoms they produce, and how they can be treated. Read on to learn more.

What are stomach ulcers?

Stomach ulcers may also be called gastrointestinal ulcers or gastric ulcers, as they can also develop in the small intestine as well as the stomach. They are ulcers or sores that form on the lining of the stomach or wall of the intestine, and over time, they can penetrate very deeply into the lining or wall as they develop, causing a very acute and distressing pain.

Stomach ulcers develop when the mucosa that protects and lines the stomach, and which is designed to protect the stomach wall from acids in food, becomes exposed, perforated, damaged or otherwise compromised, which can cause an ulcer or sore to develop.

What sort of dogs are at risk of stomach ulcers?

Stomach ulcers can affect dogs of any breed, size, age and type, although they are more common in mature and senior dogs than their younger counterparts.

However, certain breeds of dog are more at risk of developing stomach ulcers than others, such as the Rottweiler, who tends to be more at risk of the perforation of the stomach lining that enables ulcer formation to develop than most other breeds of dog are.

What causes stomach ulcers in dogs?

Whilst stomach ulcers in dogs are not the most common digestive complaint or problem, there are a wide range of different things that can cause or contribute to ulcer development. Some of the main causes are:

  • Eating something toxic or poisonous, including certain plants.
  • Heavy doses or prolonged use of certain medications such as Ibuprofen.
  • High levels of acidity in the stomach.
  • Extreme levels of stress or anxiety.
  • Tumours, cysts or other growths in the stomach that compromise the stomach lining.
  • Serious injuries to any part of the body.
  • Infestation with intestinal worms, particularly heavy infestations that are left untreated.
  • Various types of viral, bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Liver or kidney disease, or other conditions that affect the urinary tract, bladder or bowels.
  • Untreated food allergies, which can sensitise the stomach lining.

What are the symptoms of stomach ulcers in dogs?

The symptoms of stomach ulcers in dogs can be easy to miss until the ulcer is quite well developed, as well as being easy to confuse with symptoms of a great many other digestive and stomach problems that can affect dogs. It is important for dog owners to learn the common symptoms of stomach ulcers in dogs, and to get the dog examined by the vet promptly if something seems to be wrong.

Some of the most common symptoms of canine stomach ulcers include:

  • An acute pain and discomfort in the stomach and abdomen.
  • Loss of appetite and an unwillingness to eat.
  • Frequent or acute vomiting, particularly if this involves vomiting blood.
  • Blood in the stools, which will usually appear black and tacky or like coffee granules, rather than red and bright.
  • Weakness and lethargy.
  • Depression.
  • Anaemia.

If your dog is suffering from a combination of these symptoms, a stomach ulcer will be something that your vet considers.

Definitively diagnosing an ulcer relies on a combined approach including taking into account the dog’s symptoms and medical history, and will usually require urinalysis, blood tests, stool analysis, and potentially an ultrasound or X-ray examination too, to confirm or rule out the presence or absence of an ulcer.

Can stomach ulcers in the dog be treated?

Stomach ulcers themselves cannot be removed or eradicated by means of surgery or medications, and so treatment depends on diagnosing the root cause of the problem and addressing it, while supporting the dog to aid with recovery by means of pain management, dietary changes, and whatever else is required.

If the ulcer bleeds heavily, your dog may require a blood transfusion or platelet therapy, and in the cases of perforated stomach linings or an underlying issue such as tumours in the stomach, these may require surgery too.

Your vet will talk to you in detail about the likely cause of the ulcer and any problems that may have caused or contributed to it, and advise you on the best way to proceed.



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