News // 26.4.21

Gastroenteritis in Dogs

We have seen a large number of gastroenteritis cases in dogs over the last couple of days. All these dogs presented with frequent vomiting, inappetance, some had diarrhoea, and most were quite dehydrated.

Gastroenteritis is one of the most common conditions we see at Allambie Vet and refers to non-specific inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestines). This inflammation can result in abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and/or lethargy. Clinical signs often come about suddenly and may persist for a few days.

Dogs suffering from gastroenteritis often present dehydrated as they lose fluids via their gastrointestinal tract through vomiting and diarrhoea, and are unable to eat or drink enough to make up for these losses. The severity of gastroenteritis and clinical signs dictates whether outpatient treatment is acceptable or if they need to be admitted to our hospital for more aggressive management.

Common causes of gastroenteritis in dogs include any changes to normal diet, dietary indiscretion, infections (bacterial, viral, parasitic), toxins, or taking certain medications, among others.

Gastroenteritis can be highly contagious and can spread through the dog community quickly. The virus is passed through saliva, vomit and faeces. The virus can pass through direct contact with another dog or through dogs licking or sniffing surfaces (e.g. poles/fences) or drinking from shared water bowls.

The diagnosis is typically made based on a dog’s history or by excluding other potential causes of vomiting and diarrhoea. In most cases, a specific underlying cause is not identified, but patients respond to supportive care.

How to diagnose gastroenteritis in dogs 

Gastroenteritis is diagnosed by excluding other potential causes of vomiting and diarrhoea. Common tests include:

  • Blood tests (complete blood count, chemistry panel) to assess a dog’s hydration and screen for other organ involvement.
  • Faecal analysis to test for infectious causes (parasites, parvovirus).
  • Urinalysis to screen for kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and certain endocrine disease, such as diabetes.
  • Abdominal radiographs to visualise obvious foreign material and assess for possible intestinal obstruction.
  • Abdominal ultrasound to assess the organs within the abdominal cavity and look for potential foreign material that may be causing an obstruction.

How to treat gastroenteritis in dogs

Treatment for gastroenteritis often involves supportive care with intravenous fluids to rehydrate the patient, anti-nausea medications, pain relief, and a bland diet for a few days, probiotics, and activity restriction until clinical signs resolve.

As discussed, there are many causes of gastroenteritis. We recommend testing (your vet will decide what is necessary) where possible, to try to determine what the underlying cause is. This is important, as additional medications may be required. We do not routinely use antibiotics to treat gastroenteritis.

If your dog has developed any of these signs, it is important to isolate them to stop infectious gastroenteritis spreading further.

If they are unwell or showing any of the above symptoms then we recommend an appointment with one of our experienced vet's as soon as possible.

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