Gastroenteritis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Gastroenteritis in dogs is a fairly common condition which can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting and other symptoms. Find out all you need to know about what causes it, the most common symptoms and the current veterinary treatments available.
gastroenteritis in dogs
gastroenteritis in dogs
gastroenteritis in dogs

Diarrhoea and vomiting are fairly non-specific symptoms, and can have a range of underlying causes. However, there’s a chance it may be dog gastroenteritis, meaning that your pet has inflammation of their stomach and intestines. This is a relatively common condition, and often resolves well if appropriate veterinary advice is followed.

At Purina, we’ve put together this guide to tell you all you need to know about gastroenteritis in dogs including the most common causes and the current treatment options available.

What is gastroenteritis in dogs?

Gastroenteritis in dogs is a condition that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines). It will often cause diarrhoea either with or without vomiting. Gastroenteritis can be chronic (where it lasts for more than two weeks) or acute (occurs suddenly and tends to resolve quickly).

What causes gastroenteritis in dogs?

There can be many causes of gastroenteritis in dogs, including:

  • Eating food that’s gone bad
  • Ingesting foreign bodies
  • Ingesting toxins
  • Certain viruses or bacteria, such as parvovirus
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Intestinal parasites, such as worms
  • Food allergies
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Certain cancers of the gastrointestinal tract

Symptoms of gastroenteritis in dogs

  • Vomiting (may appear foamy and yellow in colour once the stomach has been emptied)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach pain (your dog may be restless or adopting a praying position with the front legs stretched and the back end raised)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Gagging or non-productive heaving
  • Lethargy
gastroenteritis in dogs symptoms

Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs

If you notice blood in your dog’s vomit or poop, it may be a sign of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs. Most commonly, this will appear as almost a raspberry jam consistency in your dog’s stool and there may also be droplets of blood around your dog’s rectum. Stools can also look black and tarry. Often this is accompanied by severe vomiting. There are other causes of a small amount of blood in the faeces, but true haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is very serious and can be fatal if left untreated. You should contact a vet straight away for advice if you notice blood in your pet’s vomit or faeces so they can triage the likelihood of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and advise whether an emergency appointment is needed.

Diagnosing gastroenteritis in dogs

Your vet will carry out a full examination, review your pet’s medical history and will likely ask you about their behavioural and eating habits over the past few days. They will want to know if your dog has eaten anything odd or if new foods have been introduced into their diet.

Treatment for gastroenteritis in dogs

The treatment will depend on the suspected or diagnosed underlying cause of the gastroenteritis. Often a bland diet will be advised, such as boiled chicken and rice or a therapeutic diet that’s specifically developed to be gentle on the gastrointestinal tract. Veterinary medication may be prescribed such as anti-sickness or anti-inflammatories

Luckily, with prompt treatment, gastroenteritis in dogs can clear up within a few days to a week. However, if your pet’s symptoms worsen or you notice blood in their stool, you should get back in touch with your vet. If your vet suspects a case of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs, they may carry out further diagnostics such as blood tests or X-rays. Your dog may also be admitted for intravenous fluids and other supportive treatment.

Preventing gastroenteritis in dogs

The long-term prevention of gastroenteritis in dogs can be challenging, especially if it has not been possible to identify the original trigger, but there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of it returning in the future.

Discourage scavenging

If your dog’s a keen scavenger, try and discourage this while out on their walks. This may be difficult if they’re off the leash and tend to run off for a munch. However, if you believe this is the cause it may be best to speak to a qualified dog behaviourist for tactics such as the ‘leave it’ command, and to keep them on the lead in the mean-time.

gastroenteritis in dogs treatment

Introduce any new foods slowly

Avoid abrupt dietary changes, and if it is necessary to introduce a new diet, make the change gradually over a period of a couple of weeks. You can gradually mix in a larger proportion of the new food into their old diet. This allows your dog’s system time to adjust to the different food and minimises the risk of gastroenteritis.

Keep up to date with vaccinations

Make sure you keep up to date with your dog’s vaccinations to help reduce the risk of parvovirus. Parvovirus is a very contagious virus that can cause gastroenteritis in dogs and, in many cases is fatal.

Ensure regular worming treatments

Always ensure your pet is up to date with their worming medication and follow the veterinary recommended frequency and dosing.

Now you know more about gastroenteritis in dogs, why not find out more about dog illness symptoms to watch out for with our guide on pancreatitis in dogs?