Stomach Ulcers in Dogs

Much like in humans, ulcers are a common cause of discomfort in canines. However, the similarities end there as stomach ulcers in dogs are quite different from those in humans.


Stomach Ulcers in Dogs

An ulcer, for those unaware, is an erosion of gastrointestinal lining caused by a variety of things. This erosion is like an open sore which is constantly irritated by stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

Dog ulcers vary in severity, shape, and size. Ulcers range from small ulcers resulting in mild discomfort or large ulcers resulting in internal bleeding and potentially death.


Dog Stomach Ulcer Symptoms

Unlike humans, dogs cannot describe their symptoms. Some stomach ulcer symptoms in dogs to look out for include:

  • Vomiting, especially if blood appears in vomit (occasionally red but frequently black)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Bloody stool (generally black with the appearance of tar)

If your dog experiences any of these symptoms he should be examined by a veterinarian. Examination is necessary as there are a multitude of dog illnesses which could also cause similar symptoms. A proper diagnosis can only be achieved through further testing.


Cause of Stomach Ulcers in Dogs

The majority of ulcers in humans are caused by the bacterium H pylori. However, in dogs, this is not the case. H pylori does not colonize dogs.

However, relatives of H pylori have been recently found to colonize the digestive tracts of dogs, but it is unclear how this bacteria influences ulcer formation. It is thought to play a role in the formation of ulcers but the extent of which is unknown.

The role of bacteria in the formation of ulcers in dogs is an area that needs more research. Ulcers in dogs have only recently begun being diagnosed, so the research just is not there to say conclusively whether these relatives of H pylori cause most dog ulcers or not.

The primary cause of ulcers in dogs is actually thought to be NSAIDs and corticosteroids. These drugs are typically prescribed for dogs with chronic inflammation. The most common reason is arthritis of varying types, but these drugs are also prescribed for drugs with breathing difficulties (bronchitis) and other conditions.

The use of these NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen) and corticosteroids can lead to ulceration over time. Due to differences in gastric physiology, canines are more susceptible to the negative effects of these drugs than humans are (at least in terms of ulcers).

The result is that canines get ulcers of the stomach (gastric ulcers) as their most common type of ulcer, whereas humans are more likely to get ulcers in the initial part of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers).

Due to high risk for ulceration, many vets prefer that dogs be given these types of medications on an as needed basis, every other day, or recommend cutting pills to find the smallest dose required for the condition.

On the other hand, many dog owners mistakenly self-medicate their animals with aspirin and ibuprofen when their dog is experiencing joint pain. This can be a mistake due to high risk for ulceration. Be sure to allow your veterinarian to decide your animal’s treatment procedure.

If your dog experiences any dog ulcer symptoms and is regularly taking NSAIDs or other medications, bring up these side effects to your vet as soon as you can. It is much easier to treat an ulcer in the early stages than it is after it advances.


Dog Ulcer Treatment

Once diagnosed, ulcers in dogs are treated much like ulcers in humans, typically with a proton-pump inhibitor. This is typically omezaprole (available over the counter and known as Priolosec). In the future when more is known about the relationship of bacteria and ulcers in dogs, perhaps antibiotics will be added as well.

We strongly recommend not trying to medicate your dog but rather let your veterinarian decide if PPIs are appropriate and if so what dosage to take. Dogs do not dose the same way as humans. Additionally, you can often save money by going to the veterinarian as veterinarians often have much cheaper medicine than the local pharmacy.

Related posts:

  1. Ulcers in Horses
  2. Stress Ulcer
  3. How Ulcers Form
  4. Does Smoking Cause Stomach Ulcers?
  5. Types of Stomach Ulcers