Gastrointestinal Disease in Dogs

Gastrointestinal disease in dogs can be either minor or more serious in nature. Dogs most commonly suffer from dietary intolerance, toxicity due to ingestion of poisonous substances, inflammatory bowel disease and stomach cancer. In order to determine the severity of gastrointestinal disease present, the vet will perform various diagnostic tests to rule out life-threatening diseases. Pet owners should monitor their pets for unusual symptoms and seek prompt medical help to initiate early treatment. The symptoms vary according to the type and severity of gastrointestinal disease that develops.

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Disease in Dogs Include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody stools
  • Halitosis
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal enlargement
  • Pain and discomfort

Common Types of Gastrointestinal Disease in Dogs Include:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Food allergy
  • Stomach ulcers and tumors
  • Parasite infections
  • Intestinal blockage


This disease is characterized by inflammation of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Pets suffering from gastroenteritis exhibit symptoms of diarrhea, lack of appetite and vomiting. Gastroenteritis may develop due to various factors that include viral or bacterial infections, toxicity and pancreatitis.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD occurs when inflammatory cells begin to attack the intestine, often causing chronic inflammation. Although the cause of IBD isn't established, pets suffer from the disease due to genetic predisposition and abnormal immune system response. The diagnosis is complex and involves biopsy of the intestine to differentiate IBD from stomach cancer.

Food Allergy

Food allergy is the body's reaction to certain ingredients present in the food. Dogs develop hypersensitivity to certain ingredients consumed over a period of time. The allergy is often accompanied by skin reactions, redness, inflammation and hives. The vet will use a trial and error method to eliminate potential allergens from the dog's diet.

Stomach Tumors

Stomach tumors may develop as growths or masses in the digestive tract. Most tumors are surgically extracted and subjected to biopsies to determine the type and grade of cancer present. Dogs also require chemotherapy and radiation therapy to slow disease progression.

Parasite Infections

Worms such as tapeworms, hookworms and heartworms attach themselves to the lining of the intestine and multiply. They feed on essential nutrients and blood once attached to the lining. In order to detect parasite infections, the vet will conduct a fecal exam.

Intestinal Blockage

This condition develops if foreign bodies get lodged in the intestinal tract. Tumors large enough to prevent digestion of food also cause intestinal blockage. This is an emergency situation that requires prompt surgical intervention to prevent death.

Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Dogs

During diagnosis, the vet will perform a thorough physical examination and palpate the abdomen. In addition blood tests, a urine test and fecal exams are performed. If the clinical symptoms indicate abdominal tumors, the dog is subjected to fine needle aspirate tests and full thickness biopsy.

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Dogs

The treatment of gastrointestinal disorders varies according to the type of condition present. Minor food intolerance will be treated with dietary modification and oral medication. Pets suffering from inflammation are administered anti-inflammatory drugs as a course. Pet owners should administer medication on time and follow up with vet checks if necessary.

The prognosis for gastrointestinal disorders depends on initial response to medication and the presence of underlying health concerns. Chronic illnesses require lifelong medication and supportive care.