What You Need To Know About Gastroenteritis In Dogs

gastroenteritis in dogs

Gastroenteritis in dogs is a disease where the predominant symptom is diarrhea … and perhaps vomiting. It’s a process of elimination to confirm it’s gastroenteritis and if it is, rehydration and rebalancing your dog’s electrolytes will be your main focus. 

So here’s how to tell if your dog’s bout of diarrhea is gastroenteritis.

What Is Gastroenteritis In Dogs?

Gastroenteritis in dogs is an acute illness involving inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It affects both the stomach and the intestines. Usually gastroenteritis is a defense mechanism that kicks in when your dog’s digestive system tries to cleanse itself from bad food or a pathogen.

Gastroenteritis can be caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, parasites or medications or food. New foods, food allergies and eating spoiled food can trigger infection or inflammation of your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.

Gastroenteritis is a form of self healing, so natural remedies are the best treatment. You really don’t need to know if it’s gastroenteritis. Just be prudent and ensure your dog gets plenty of fluids. But if the situation goes on longer than a few days or becomes chronic, it can lead to severe dehydration and renal failure … or even sepsis if bacteria goes unchecked. 

Symptoms of gastroenteritis in dogs are similar to other intestinal problems. Note that gastroenteritis is different from gastritis, which means inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining. 

RELATED: Read about gastritis in dogs … 

Signs Of Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Here are signs of gastrointestinal problems in your dog:

  • Abdominal pain (shown as discomfort or tenderness) 
  • Less active, lethargic
  • Decreased appetite
  • Intermittent episodes of diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Vomit may have foamy, yellowish bile, especially on an empty stomach
  • Large volumes of diarrhea several times a day, possibly in soft piles  
  • Dry heaving or gagging after eating or drinking
  • Dehydration after 24 hours
  • Low grade fever

There are many things that can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues in dogs. 

Causes Of Diarrhea In Dogs

To find out whether it’s actually gastroenteritis, you’ll want to eliminate other causes of diarrhea. Here are some things to consider:

  • Your dog’s diet, how much you feed and how often you feed
  • New foods, treats or rewards
  • Environmental contaminants like pesticides
  • Recent vaccinations
  • Cleaning agents or new materials in his surroundings
  • Recent contact with a new animal or person
  • A recurrence of a recent case of vomiting or diarrhea and the details
  • Recent illnesses
  • Existing chronic illnesses  
  • Recent medications, vitamins or supplements  

RELATED: How to stop dog diarrhea …

If after a few days, your dog is not recovering, your vet can do some additional testing to find the reason for an infection leading to gastroenteritis. 

Diagnosis Of Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Here’s what to look for:

  • Signs of dehydration
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Bloating, gas, swellings other physical issues
  • Temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate

If further testing is necessary, it should include: 

  • Complete blood cell count (CBC) which should show dehydration and infection
  • Serum chemistry tests to detect organ function
  • Electrolyte testing that might show an imbalance because of vomiting and diarrhea
  • Urinalysis for urinary tract infection, kidney disease, dehydration, diabetes
  • X-rays to look for intestinal obstructions or other findings
  • Ultrasound for intestinal obstructions or other findings

Veterinary Treatment For Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Conventional medical treatment can manage the symptoms but usually won’t get to the root of what’s causing gastroenteritis in dogs. These treatments include:

  • Antibiotics like Metronidazole for a bacterial infection … which kills good and bad bacteria and damages the microbiome and your dog’s immune system
  • Antidiarrheal drugs to slow down elimination … but often when the drugs stop, diarrhea can return.
  • Anti-vomiting medications … which don’t eliminate the reason for the vomiting
  • Antacids that have side effects such as constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea or vomiting … many of the things you’re trying to relieve
  • Human drugs like Pepto Bismol and Pepcid that should never be given to dogs

RELATED: Why you shouldn’t give your dog Pepto Bismol … 

Gastroenteritis In Dogs Treatment At Home

If your dog has gastroenteritis you need to watch for dehydration and be sure to restore the blood electrolyte balance. That involves the minerals sodium, potassium, and/or chloride which are vital to your dog’s metabolism, which can be included in the fluids suggested below. 

So here’s how to treat gastroenteritis in your dog at home.

Depending on the degree of dehydration, you can entice your dog to drink by giving him bone broth, which is also packed with minerals and nutrients. You can give fluids subcutaneously (under the skin). Your vet can provide you with sub-Q supplies and show you how to give it to your dog. You can also find many YouTube demonstrations online. If your dog’s condition is more serious, he might need intravenous (IV) fluids at a clinic.

If your dog is in medical distress, he will usually stop eating … and fast himself. This will give his digestive tract a break and time to heal. He will be able to eliminate, via diarrhea, any food or bacteria that caused the problem. However, there are some breeds that by habit or nature, are chow hounds and want to eat even if they don’t feel well. These dogs may need their owners to enforce fasting! You should have them fast for about 24-48 hours … but be sure they get plenty of water or broth to avoid dehydration. Once the fasting period is over, you can introduce small, frequent meals of low fat, easy to digest foods. 

Caution: Don’t fast puppies under 6 months old. Go straight to the next step, and ask your vet if you’re unsure. 

Natural Remedies For Dogs With Gastroenteritis

There are other natural remedies that can help address gastroenteritis in dogs, including puppies. Here’s what you can use:

Fibrous Food
If your dog is still eating a bit, you can add fibrous food like fruits and vegetables to slow down digestion and allow nutrients to enter the bloodstream. This is a good approach for a puppy as you don’t want to withhold food and nutrients from a dog under 6 months old. 

RELATED: Find the best sources of fiber for dogs…

Probiotics are strains of beneficial bacteria that support the microbiome of your dog’s gut where 90% of his immune system lives. A healthy level of beneficial bacteria will help crowd out pathogenic bacteria that can lead to disease and infections … like those related to gastroenteritis. 

And if your dog has been given antibiotics for gastroenteritis, S boulardii is a probiotic yeast that will survive antibiotics as well as the digestive process. But S boulardii has even more value in cases of gastroenteritis. It helps manage diarrhea … especially antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

RELATED: Here’s why your dog needs Saccharomyces boulardii …

Garlic is antibacterial, antimicrobial and it can support the digestive system in several ways, especially by fighting possible infections. Garlic is safe for dogs. Use it in moderation by chopping up a half to a full clove, depending on your dog’s size, and adding it to your dog’s food every day.

RELATED: Give your dog the benefits of garlic … 

If your dog comes down with a case of gastroenteritis, it’s one of those illnesses that should resolve quickly. Just make sure your dog stays hydrated and rested and he should be back to normal in a day or two.

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