Gastrointestinal Infection in Dogs

A gastrointestinal infection is a broad term that may refer to infections of varying natures caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. The infection can be cured most of the time, but the infectious agent has to be detected first. If the infection is caused by the parvovirus, the dog may require special attention and treatment is not always possible.

Causes of Gastrointestinal Infection

The gastrointestinal tract contains the stomach and the intestines and may be affected by infections. The infections can be caused by:

  • Viruses (such as the parvovirus, which can be fatal in puppies)
  • Bacteria, which may be present in the different items the dog may swallow or also in food gone bad
  • Fungi such as yeast cells, which are normally present in the gastrointestinal tract, but may overgrow due to an injury or an underlying condition
  • Parasites such as hookworms or tapeworms that may be positioned in the dog's intestines
  • The presence of tumors in the gastrointestinal tract, which disrupt the normal balance and cause infections

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Infections

The symptoms of gastrointestinal infections may vary according to the causes of the infection and can include:

  • Vomiting, if the stomach is more affected
  • Diarrhea, if the intestines are affected, but the dog may have both vomiting and diarrhea
  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • Pot bellied appearance
  • Worms or blood in the vomit or feces
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale gums and mucous membranes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Lack of coordination
  • Coma

The more severe symptoms are only present if the dog is affected by the parvovirus.

Diagnosing a Gastrointestinal Infection

A gastrointestinal infection can be diagnosed by running a few tests:

  • Feces sample test
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays and ultrasounds, needed if the dog is suspected to have a tumor
  • Biopsy of the tumor cells

Treatment for a Gastrointestinal Infection

The treatment for a gastrointestinal infection can be effective and can result in full recovery. However, if the dog has the parvovirus, the full treatment may not be possible and the virus may be deadly. The treatment may consist of:

  • Liquid therapy for dehydrated dogs
  • Antibiotics for viral and bacterial infections
  • Fungicides for fungal gastrointestinal infections
  • Deworming pills, if the dog has internal parasites

The length of the treatment may vary. A cure with antibiotics is typically recommended for 10 to 14 days, while a deworming cure may only require a few days.

Dogs affected by the parvovirus will require hospitalization, liquid therapy and intravenous feeding. The virus can attack the dog's system and often, the virus is fatal. Support must be offered to make the dog more comfortable. Even if the virus doesn't cause death, it may result in permanent damage to the nervous system or other vital organs.