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Health & Wellness

How does gastroenteritis affect dogs?

A vet-approved, bland diet might help.

When a dog vomits or has diarrhea, it can take a toll on them in more ways than one. Not only is it super uncomfortable, but it can also cause secondary symptoms like gastroenteritis, a common condition where a dog experiences internal inflammation, a sign of other diseases or illnesses.

And if your pup struggles with gastroenteritis, there are ways to help them feel better. It might even be wise to change their diet (with your vet’s approval). 

What’s gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis means a dog’s stomach or small intestines are inflamed, Dr. Elizabeth Devitt, a general practice veterinarian and veterinary consultant for Fetch, shares. There are two types: acute, which has a quick onset, and chronic, meaning it lasts longer.

Most pups with gastroenteritis usually vomit or have diarrhea (bloody stool is called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis). And unfortunately, it’s unknown why, but some dog breeds are more susceptible to the condition than others. 

What causes gastroenteritis in dogs?

Several underlying conditions upset dogs’ stomachs or upper intestinal tracts, causing gastroenteritis. Pups who enjoy scavenging for food scraps on walks or eating things they’re not supposed to can develop the condition. Food allergies, intolerance, intestinal parasites and bacterial or viral infections can also be culprits.

“With hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, toy or miniature breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers and Miniature Poodles, and younger pups may be more affected than others,” Dr. Devitt says.

Parvovirus can cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to gastroenteritis. Certain breeds, like Rottweilers, American Pitbull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, have an increased risk of developing the condition, so it’s important to vaccinate them to avoid secondary illnesses. 

RELATED: What can I give my dog for an upset stomach?

Symptoms of gastroenteritis in dogs

Pups with gastroenteritis show symptoms commonly associated with stomach upset.

“Dogs may have diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, poor appetite, nausea, which can sometimes be seen as licking their lips or frequent swallowing, or lethargy,” Dr. Devitt says. If you suspect your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have or is having an allergic reaction, seek veterinarian care.

How is gastroenteritis in dogs treated?

While treatment varies depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s gastroenteritis, most recommendations will include a low-fat, high-fiber, bland diet to help settle your dog’s stomach and alleviate further distress.

Anti-nausea medication or secondary medicine to treat underlying causes like parasites, bacteria or viruses might also be necessary. In cases of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, treatment may include hospitalization.

Feeding your pup a vet-recommend bland or prescription diet can help support your dog throughout their recovery. While they're getting better, avoid physical activity to decrease the risk of stress. And as tough as it might be to resist treating your sick pup to pet-friendly snacks, give them cuddles instead.

“Don’t be tempted to give your dog any treats until all the symptoms have resolved and your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is completely back to normal,” Dr. Devitt says.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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