Pet Wellness Guides > Common Stomach Issues in Dogs and Cats
Common Stomach Issues in Dogs and Cats
When it comes to stomach trouble and pets, every veteran pet parent has a war story. Whether it’s finding creative ways to clean the carpet or figuring out how to pick up diarrhea with a waste bag, pet parents learn how to handle the inevitable. While some furkids’ tummy troubles are a rare occurrence, gastrointestinal conditions, in general, are one of the most common medical issues that many pets experience. Additionally, stomach problems are one of the most frequent claims made through pet insurance policies. Here are some of the common stomach issues in dogs and cats and how pet insurance can cover most of the cost.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a psychosomatic condition where anxiety and other stressors create tummy troubles in dogs and cats. Just as people can become so anxious that they develop an upset stomach, the same happens in our pets. Here are the symptoms usually associated with IBS:
An IBS diagnosis occurs when your pet’s intestinal biopsy results return normal with no evidence of physical disease. Your veterinarian will consider IBS as a source of the gastrointestinal upset and begin to treat your pet’s anxiety with medications and dietary changes.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Although Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is often confused with IBS, there are distinct differences between the two conditions, with IBD being the more serious of the two. Whereas IBS is caused by stress and anxiety, inflammatory bowel disease is associated with an inflammation of the pet’s intestinal tract. There are various IBD types, and determining which one your pet has depends on where the inflammation appears in the intestines.
Inflammatory bowel disease is found in the small (enteritis) or large intestine (colitis). Any of the following factors may be responsible for the formation of IBD:
- Immune responses
- Microbial factors
- Parasitic infections
- Allergies or other environmental factors
- Idiopathic (no specific reason for inflammation found)
IBD symptoms include vomiting, bloody stools, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite and lethargy. There is no cure for IBD, only careful management overseen by a veterinarian. Generally, veterinarians treat IBD with a combination of medications, usually antibiotics or steroids, along with changes in diet. For IBD caused by parasites, the veterinarian will prescribe treatment for your dog or cat.
Bowel Obstruction (Blockage)
A bowel obstruction, also called a gastrointestinal blockage, is a frequent medical concern that impacts dogs and cats every day. Unfortunately, our furkids sometimes put items in their mouths and swallow them, causing them to become lodged in the throat, stomach, or intestines. These foreign objects can range from toys to socks to strings or bones. Blockages in the stomach or intestines cut off blood flow to other parts of the gastrointestinal system, preventing liquids or solids from passing through.
Common symptoms of obstruction include:
- Repetitive vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Whining or hunching
- Loss of appetite
It’s important to note that tumors, parasites, or hernias may also cause blockages.
If you suspect your pet has a blockage, take her to the veterinarian immediately. Waiting too long for medical attention can lead to serious damage to your pet’s health, including fluid loss, intestinal rupturing, and death. Once your veterinarian determines that a blockage exists, they will give medications and fluids to your pet. Ideally, your pet will pass the object through her stool; otherwise, surgery will be necessary to correct the issue.
A catch-all term for pet tummy troubles, gastroenteritis is any irritation of the stomach or bowels in pets. While some gastroenteritis occurrences are caused by inflammatory bowel diseases, parasites, allergies, bacteria, or metabolic disorders, the most common cause of this condition is diet.
Feeding your dog or cat table scraps or “people food” regularly can lead to “garbage gut,” and lots of aches and discomfort for your pet. Initial symptoms of garbage gut include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, abdominal pains and dehydration.
Continuous feeding of high fat and sodium foods can lead to significant health problems in the future, including obesity, pancreatitis, and diabetes. Resist feeding your dog or cat anything other than her regular pet-appropriate diet to avoid gastroenteritis and further medical issues.
Many people experience bloat. While painful and frustrating, it’s typically harmless. But bloat in a dog can be fatal.
Canine bloat is often referred to as Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) is a serious condition whereby a dog’s stomach twists and fills with gas. If not caught and treated in time, the dog can die in a matter of hours.
There are certain large breeds of dog with barrel chests that are more prone to developing bloat, though this condition can affect any breed. Great Danes and German Shepherds are two of the breeds who are most susceptible to this condition.
Signs of bloat include unproductive retching. Meaning your dog is trying to throw up but nothing is coming out. Other signs are hard, swollen bellies, excessive drooling, and an inability to get comfortable. You may see your dog pacing, trying to lay down, then immediately get back up and start pacing again.
If your dog is showing any of these signs, you must take them immediately to your vet. If the office is closed you must take them to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
How to Prevent Bloat
Vets are still a bit baffled by this disease, though it is thought that feeding large meals, particularly right after your dog has run or is panting, is one way they develop bloat. It is best to feed your dog 2-3 smaller meals than one very large one. Also, be sure your dog has calmed down after roughhousing or a long hike or walk before feeding them or letting them drink a lot of water. Also, do not allow your dog to exercise directly after eating a meal.
How pet insurance can help with your pet’s tummy troubles.
Stomach issues are amongst the most common pet insurance claims for cats and dogs, and more than 92% of pets will experience an emergency once in their lifetime. Gastrointestinal issues are costly, with the cost for veterinary diagnosis and treatment varying anywhere from $200 to $8,000. If your pet has insurance, you could be reimbursed for up to 90% of that cost, depending on your policy.
Pet insurance can make a significant difference, especially when a pet emergency catches you off guard. With pet insurance, you can worry about your dog or cat instead of your bank account. Don’t have pet insurance? Get a free, personalized quote, and make sure you and your pet are ready for whatever comes your way.
- Williams, E. (2020). The Most Common Pet Insurance Claims. Retrieved from https://www.usinsuranceagents.com/pet-insurance-claims/
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. (n.d.). Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Retrieved from https://www.marvistavet.com/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs.pml
- Garraway, K., Allenspach, K., Jergens, A. (2021). Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs and Cats. Retrieved from https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/inflammatory-bowel-disease-dogs-cats/
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (2016). Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Retrieved from https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-cner/health-information/feline-health-topics/inflammatory-bowel-disease
- AKC Staff. (2020). Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/bowel-obstruction-in-dogs/
- PetCoach Editorial. (2021). Food Poisoning in Pets 101: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.petcoach.co/article/food-poisoning-in-pets-101/
- OVRS Staff. (2018). When the Unexpected Strikes: The True Cost of a Veterinary Emergency. Retrieved from https://www.ovrs.com/blog/veterinary-emergency/
The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.
The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.
We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.