Gastroenteritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Gastroenteritis in Dogs

Gastroenteritis in Dogs: Gastroenteritis in dogs, also known as stomach flu, is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and other unpleasant symptoms. The most common causes are:

  1. Bacterial infections: Bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli or Campylobacter can infiltrate your dog’s gut, usually through contaminated food or water. An antibiotic treatment may be needed.
  2. Viral infections: Canine parvovirus, coronavirus or rotavirus often afflict young pups with gastroenteritis. While viral gastroenteritis usually clears up on its own in a few days, severe dehydration is a risk and may require hospitalization.
  3. Parasites: Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, whipworms or giardia can also trigger gastroenteritis. A deworming treatment kills the parasites and provides quick relief.
  4. Dietary indiscretion: Eating spoiled food, toxic substances, or foreign objects can disrupt a dog’s stomach and intestines. Withholding food for 12-24 hours then reintroducing bland meals helps settle the tummy.

The most common signs your dog may have gastroenteritis include frequent diarrhea or vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Mild cases can be managed at home with bland chicken and rice, probiotics, and hydration. But for severe or persistent gastroenteritis, especially in young or old dogs, see your vet right away. They can determine the underlying cause through tests and get your faithful friend back to full health.

Common Causes of Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis in Dogs

Gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines, can make your dog quite sick. The most common causes are infections, parasites, and diet changes.

1. Bacterial and Viral Infections

Infections from Salmonella, E. coli, and norovirus are frequent culprits. Your dog may have picked up bacteria from contaminated food or water, or contact with infected feces. Viruses spread through contact with infected feces or vomit. Signs appear within 6-24 hours and include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and lethargy. See a vet for diagnosis and treatment.

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2. Parasites

Parasites like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms or giardia can also cause gastroenteritis. Puppies often get worms from their mother. Adults may pick them up from infected feces in the environment. You may see worms or worm segments in the stool, diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting. De-worming medication from your vet will clear up the infection.

3. Diet Changes

Sudden changes to your dog’s diet can also trigger gastroenteritis. Whether switching brands, flavors or giving treats, do so gradually to allow their stomach to adjust. Diarrhea from diet changes will clear up in a couple days. Withhold food for 12-24 hours, then reintroduce their regular diet slowly.

By understanding the common causes of gastroenteritis in dogs, you can get your pup on the road to recovery and take steps to prevent recurrence. Be sure to keep your dog hydrated, and call your vet if symptoms are severe or last more than a couple of days.

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Recognizing the Symptoms of Gastroenteritis

When your dog has gastroenteritis, there are several symptoms to watch out for. Catching the signs early can help get your pup on the road to recovery quickly.

1. Vomiting and Diarrhea

The most common symptoms are frequent vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration if left untreated. Your dog may vomit unexpectedly, especially after eating or drinking. Diarrhea will be loose, watery stools that your dog seems unable to control. These symptoms are the result of inflammation in the stomach and intestines.

2. Loss of Appetite

Your dog probably won’t feel like eating and may turn up their nose at their regular food. Don’t force them to eat, as this can make the nausea and vomiting worse. Offer small amounts of bland, easy-to-digest foods like rice, boiled chicken, bananas when they do feel like eating.

3. Lethargy

Gastroenteritis often makes dogs feel pretty lousy, so you may notice your pup seems less active or playful. They tire more easily and want to rest. This is the body’s way of conserving energy to fight the infection.

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4. Fever

Some dogs may develop a fever, though not always. A normal temperature for a dog is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over 103 degrees can indicate a fever, which requires veterinary care. A fever means the body is trying to fight an infection and is a sign the gastroenteritis may be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites.

If your dog is showing multiple symptoms of gastroenteritis, especially vomiting/diarrhea that lasts more than a day, call your vet. They can examine your dog, run tests to determine the cause, and prescribe medications such as anti-nausea or antibiotics to get your faithful friend back to full health.

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Treating Gastroenteritis: Fluids, Diet and Medication

Once your vet has diagnosed your dog with gastroenteritis, treatment typically involves fluids, a bland diet, and medication as needed.

1. Fluids

Keeping your dog hydrated is crucial when dealing with vomiting and diarrhea. Your vet may give your dog intravenous (IV) fluids to combat dehydration and restore electrolyte balance. At home, encourage your dog to drink small amounts of water or an oral electrolyte solution frequently throughout the day.

2. Diet

For a few days, feed your dog a bland, easily digestible diet like boiled chicken, rice, and pumpkin. This helps rest the GI tract while still providing nutrients. Gradually reintroduce their regular diet over 3-4 days. Some vets may recommend a hydrolyzed or hypoallergenic diet for dogs with chronic or recurrent gastroenteritis.

3. Medication

Your vet may prescribe medication such as:

  • Antibiotics if bacteria are present. Common antibiotics for gastroenteritis include metronidazole and amoxicillin.
  • Probiotics to restore healthy gut bacteria.
  • Anti-nausea medication like famotidine or ondansetron to control vomiting.
  • Antidiarrheal medication such as loperamide to reduce diarrhea, but only under vet supervision. Too much can be constipating.
  • Other medications like sucralfate to coat and protect the GI tract or metronidazole for inflammatory bowel disease.
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Follow-up with your vet if your dog does not improve in a couple of days or shows signs of dehydration like lethargy, dry gums, or sunken eyes. Hospitalization may be required for severe dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. With prompt treatment and care, most dogs recover well from gastroenteritis. Call your vet right away if symptoms reappear or change in nature.


One of the most common illnesses in dogs is gastroenteritis, also known as an upset stomach. If your dog is experiencing frequent diarrhea or vomiting, they may have gastroenteritis. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about this condition.

What causes gastroenteritis in dogs?

The most common causes of gastroenteritis in dogs are:

  • Dietary indiscretion: Eating something they shouldn’t, like table scraps or garbage.
  • Bacterial infection: Bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, or Clostridium can infect the gut.
  • Viral infection: Canine parvovirus or coronavirus are common culprits.
  • Parasitic infection: Worms such as roundworms, hookworms or whipworms may be to blame.
  • Allergic reaction: Some dogs can have adverse food reactions or sensitivities that lead to GI upset.

What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?

Signs your dog may have gastroenteritis include:

  • Frequent diarrhea: loose, watery stools, especially if bloody or foul-smelling.
  • Vomiting: throwing up, especially if happening more than a couple times.
  • Loss of appetite: not wanting to eat their regular food.
  • Lethargy: lack of energy or enthusiasm.
  • Dehydration: dry mouth, sunken eyes, lethargy. Seek vet care immediately if your dog shows signs of dehydration.

How is gastroenteritis treated?

Treatment focuses on addressing the underlying cause, preventing dehydration and controlling symptoms. Your vet may recommend:

  • Withholding food for 12-24 hours to rest the GI tract, then a bland diet.
  • Oral electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte to prevent dehydration.
  • Probiotics to restore balance of gut bacteria.
  • Antibiotics if caused by bacteria.
  • Deworming medication if caused by parasites.

With proper treatment and care, most dogs recover quickly from gastroenteritis. But if symptoms worsen or last more than a couple days, consult your vet. They can examine your dog, run tests if needed, and determine the best course of treatment to get your pup back to full health.