Canine Ulcers: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Gastric ulcers could be a ache – inflicting indigestion, reflux, and discomfort. But do you know that your canine good friend may also develop this drawback? It’s true! 

The drawback with gastric ulcers in canine is that they’ll’t inform us once they have heartburn. The signs could be very delicate and should typically be misdiagnosed or overlap with different situations. Further, the issues which might be typically related to ulcers in people (stress and Helicobacter pylori infections) usually are not well-described or understood in canine. 

Canine ulcers are normally gastroduodenal – which means they’re situated within the abdomen and higher intestinal tract, particularly the duodenum. 

The abdomen is comprised of 4 layers: The innermost is the mucosa, which is mostly protected against the abdomen acid by a number of essential physiological mechanisms. The subsequent layer is the submucosa, then the muscularis, the muscle that strikes and contracts to trigger peristalsis, the motion of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Lastly, on the surface, is the serosa. 

An ulcer is a spot wherein the conventional, wholesome tissue has been eroded away. The spot turns into irritated and friable, and bleeds simply. Ulcers can contain solely the mucosa or can go full thickness by to the serosa (or any layer in between). When the serosa is concerned, the ulcer is taken into account perforated, as now the abdomen contents can leak exterior of the GI tract. 


The signs of a canine ulcer are various and embrace decreased urge for food, frequent burping or regurgitation, lip licking and drooling, vomiting with recent or digested/darkish blood, weight reduction, belly ache, and darkish, tarry stool (known as melena). Of these, about 90% of canine will current with vomiting. 

Because these signs can characterize an especially giant number of issues, an intensive bodily examination together with your veterinarian is step one in addressing these issues.

There aren’t any particular breed, intercourse, or age variations in sufferers with gastric ulcers. It is attention-grabbing to notice, nonetheless, that extraordinarily athletic canine corresponding to Iditarod sled canine do have a better prevalence of gastric ulcers. If you’ve got an agility canine with these signs, gastric ulceration ought to be on the record as a attainable trigger. It will not be properly understood why that is the case. 

H Pylori and Canine Ulcers

Helicobacter pylori is properly often known as a reason behind gastric ulceration in people. This micro organism infects over 50% of individuals, although many by no means have signs. 

H. pylori has additionally been remoted in canine. However, its significance in relation to gastric ulcers in canine is unknown. The GI tract of some canine could be populated with H. pylori regardless that the canine by no means has signs of GI issues, whereas others have signs however no
H. pylori. 

If gastric ulcers are current, and a trigger can’t be discovered, H. pylori often is the perpetrator. It could be identified both with a biopsy taken throughout endoscopy or by applicable empirical remedy. Treatment is a month of the antibiotics metronidazole and amoxicillin, in addition to antacids corresponding to famotidine (Pepcid) or omeprazole (Prilosec).


There are quite a lot of issues that may trigger ulcers in canine.

 NSAIDs/corticosteroids. The best-known reason behind canine ulcers is using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids (corresponding to prednisone and dexamethasone). 

These medicine are wonderful and helpful for a lot of situations like acute harm and arthritis. As a consequence, they’re prescribed incessantly. Both lower irritation by inhibiting prostaglandins (PGs). However, if the canine’s prostaglandin ranges are decreased an excessive amount of and/or for too lengthy, abdomen ulceration can happen, since PGs are vital for sustaining a wholesome abdomen barrier towards acid. 

While NSAIDs are extraordinarily helpful medicine for the administration of ache, they don’t come freed from unwanted effects and dangers. Therefore, when managing painful situations, it’s cheap to start out with different and complementary therapies corresponding to bodily remedy, joint dietary supplements (e.g., glucosamine and chondroitin), fish oils, and acupuncture previous to utilizing NSAIDs.

Unfortunately, steroids are vital for the administration of sure autoimmune situations corresponding to immune-mediated hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia. In these instances, they can’t be prevented, so monitoring for the signs of gastric ulceration is vital. 

Important: Steroids and NSAIDs ought to virtually by no means be utilized in mixture. There are uncommon instances corresponding to autoimmune illnesses the place excessive doses of steroids shall be used with very low doses of aspirin, however these are particular situations. In most instances, the 2 ought to by no means be administered collectively. Doing so considerably will increase the chance of life-threatening ulcers. 

It can be essential to recollect to not administer over-the-counter merchandise to your canine. Ibuprofen, naproxen, meloxicam, ketorolac, and aspirin are all human NSAIDs. These could be extraordinarily poisonous to canine, resulting in gastric ulceration and kidney failure. 

Endocrine issues. Both Addison’s illness (an absence of cortisol) and Cushing’s illness (an extra of cortisol) are identified to predispose to gastric ulceration. If your canine has both of those situations, your veterinarian ought to be looking out for gastric ulcers.

Acute and power kidney illness. As kidneys fail, the physique loses its skill to rid itself of poisons. Gastric acid ranges go up, resulting in ulcers. The indicators of kidney illness could be precisely the identical as that of ulceration, so therapy for each is normally began.

Tumors. Mast cell tumors are widespread in Boxers and different breeds. They secrete histamine (chargeable for allergic reactions), which will increase gastric acid secretion and predisposes to ulcers. Gastrinomas are tumors discovered within the abdomen and also will launch giant quantities of gastric acid. 

Other, much less widespread causes. These embrace liver illness, inflammatory bowel illness, international our bodies, and ingestion of caustic supplies. 


If your canine has signs of gastric ulceration, step one is consulting together with your veterinarian. A radical bodily examination and diagnostics are wanted to rule out most of the above causes. This will embrace a nose-to-tail bodily and bloodwork corresponding to a whole blood depend and a chemistry panel. 

Findings could embrace anemia and low proteins (from blood loss although the ulcer) and an elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN). In some instances, white blood cell counts could also be elevated in response to irritation. 

Other exams that your veterinarian might be able to do embrace a barium research and belly ultrasound. In a barium research, a considerable amount of shiny distinction is given to a canine by mouth. Radiographs are taken instantly after which at varied predetermined intervals. The barium exhibits up shiny white on x-ray. It can present defects within the abdomen. 

Ultrasound can be used to guage for ulcers, though they are often very troublesome to see. If a abdomen mass corresponding to a gastrinoma is inflicting the ulceration, then ultrasound might be able to determine it. 

Specialized testing can extra definitively diagnose an ulcer. Endoscopy is the gold commonplace, however this isn’t accessible at many clinics. Generally, you have to be referred to a specialist for an endoscopy, which shall be executed beneath anesthesia. While asleep, a digital camera is handed down the esophagus and right into a canine’s abdomen and higher small gut. Frequently small samples are taken (biopsy) for definitive analysis. The outcomes can take one to 2 weeks. 


A canine is positioned beneath full anesthesia and intubated in preparation for an endoscopic examination. His mouth is held open with an instrument so the veterinarian has loads of room to insert and maneuver the endoscope. The instrument can be utilized to take footage and samples of the abdomen tissue for biopsy – the one certain option to 100% verify an H. pylori an infection.

Treatment for gastric ulceration is determined by the underlying trigger. If one will not be discovered, then basic therapy contains antacids, a bland weight-reduction plan, and gastroprotectants corresponding to sucralfate. If a bacterial trigger is taken into account (see “H. Pylori and Canine Ulcers,” web page 7), then a selected remedy with antibiotics is really useful. 

The main lessons of antacids are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 blockers. Both work in barely alternative ways to decrease gastric acid manufacturing. Famotidine (Pepcid) is an H2 blocker, whereas omeprazole and pantoprazole are PPIs. 

Carafate (sucralfate) is one other drug incessantly used within the administration of ulcers. It is a soothing agent that coats ulcerated areas. It is given as a pill dissolved in water (a slurry). It could be give as much as 3 times a day for reduction of discomfort. 

Other approaches could embrace a bland weight-reduction plan corresponding to boiled hen and rice. Probiotics could be added to meals to keep up regular GI flora populations. Slippery elm and ginger could have some optimistic results on GI ulcers, as properly. 

Perforated ulcers are extreme, life-threatening emergencies. A perforation happens when the ulcer has eroded fully by all 4 layers of the abdomen or gut. This permits leakage of bacteria-laden abdomen and intestinal fluid into the belly cavity, resulting in huge irritation, an infection, and sepsis. Treatment for perforated ulcers contains stabilization of shock and an infection adopted by surgical procedure to restore the ulcers. 


Prognosis varies and is determined by the underlying trigger. For uncomplicated ulcers and ulcers associated to H. pylori, prognosis is sweet with applicable therapy. It is essential to know that they’ll recur. Discontinuation of NSAIDs and steroids (when attainable) will enhance the prognosis for instances associated to those drugs. In the case of perforated ulcers, prognosis is guarded. 

After 9 years in emergency medication, Catherine Ashe, DVM, now works as a reduction veterinarian in Asheville, NC, and loves the GP facet of medication. 

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