Canine Ulcers: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments

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

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

Canine ulcers are often 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 usually 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 skin, is the serosa. 

An ulcer is a spot through which 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 outdoors of the GI tract. 


The signs of a canine ulcer are assorted and embody decreased urge for food, frequent burping or regurgitation, lip licking and drooling, vomiting with contemporary or digested/darkish blood, weight reduction, stomach ache, and darkish, tarry stool (referred to as melena). Of these, about 90% of canine will current with vomiting. 

Because these signs can signify a particularly massive number of issues, an intensive bodily examination along with your veterinarian is step one in addressing these considerations.

There are not any particular breed, intercourse, or age variations in sufferers with gastric ulcers. It is fascinating to notice, nevertheless, that extraordinarily athletic canine corresponding to Iditarod sled canine do have a better prevalence of gastric ulcers. If you have got an agility canine with these signs, gastric ulceration ought to be on the listing as a potential trigger. It just isn’t properly understood why that is the case. 

H Pylori and Canine Ulcers

Helicobacter pylori is properly generally known as a reason for 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 despite the fact 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 could be the perpetrator. It could be recognized 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 plenty of issues that may trigger ulcers in canine.

 NSAIDs/corticosteroids. The best-known reason for 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 circumstances like acute harm and arthritis. As a outcome, 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 essential for sustaining a wholesome abdomen barrier in opposition to acid. 

While NSAIDs are extraordinarily useful medicine for the administration of ache, they don’t come freed from unwanted effects and dangers. Therefore, when managing painful circumstances, it’s cheap to start out with various 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 essential for the administration of sure autoimmune circumstances corresponding to immune-mediated hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia. In these circumstances, they can’t be prevented, so monitoring for the signs of gastric ulceration is essential. 

Important: Steroids and NSAIDs ought to virtually by no means be utilized in mixture. There are uncommon circumstances corresponding to autoimmune ailments the place excessive doses of steroids shall be used with very low doses of aspirin, however these are particular circumstances. In most circumstances, the 2 ought to by no means be administered collectively. Doing so considerably will increase the danger 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 recognized to predispose to gastric ulceration. If your canine has both of those circumstances, your veterinarian ought to be looking out for gastric ulcers.

Acute and persistent kidney illness. As kidneys fail, the physique loses its potential 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 remedy for each is often began.

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

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


If your canine has signs of gastric ulceration, step one is consulting along with your veterinarian. An intensive bodily examination and diagnostics are wanted to rule out most of the above causes. This will embody a nose-to-tail bodily and bloodwork corresponding to an entire blood depend and a chemistry panel. 

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

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

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

Specialized testing can extra definitively diagnose an ulcer. Endoscopy is the gold normal, however this isn’t accessible at many clinics. Generally, you have to be referred to a specialist for an endoscopy, which shall be accomplished underneath 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 prognosis. The outcomes can take one to 2 weeks. 


A canine is positioned underneath 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 positive option to 100% verify an H. pylori an infection.

Treatment for gastric ulceration is determined by the underlying trigger. If one just isn’t discovered, then normal remedy contains antacids, a bland food 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 particular remedy with antibiotics is advisable. 

The main courses 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 thrice a day for reduction of discomfort. 

Other approaches could embody a bland food plan corresponding to boiled rooster and rice. Probiotics could be added to meals to keep up regular GI flora populations. Slippery elm and ginger could have some constructive results on GI ulcers, as properly. 

Perforated ulcers are extreme, life-threatening emergencies. A perforation happens when the ulcer has eroded utterly by all 4 layers of the abdomen or gut. This permits leakage of bacteria-laden abdomen and intestinal fluid into the stomach 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 remedy. It is essential to know that they will recur. Discontinuation of NSAIDs and steroids (when potential) will enhance the prognosis for circumstances associated to those medicines. In the case of perforated ulcers, prognosis is guarded. 

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

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