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Common Stomach Issues in Dogs and Cats

Posted: 04/25/2022 | BY: Erin Cain | Categories:

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.

Cat stretches out on the floor.

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:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramping

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:

  • Food
  • Genetics
  • 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
  • Bloating
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Whining or hunching
  • Diarrhea
  • 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.

Puppy lays down on a bench.


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.

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.


  1. Williams, E. (2020). The Most Common Pet Insurance Claims. Retrieved from
  2. Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. (n.d.). Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Retrieved from
  3. Garraway, K., Allenspach, K., Jergens, A. (2021). Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs and Cats. Retrieved from
  4. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (2016). Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Retrieved from
  5. AKC Staff. (2020). Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention. Retrieved from
  6. PetCoach Editorial. (2021). Food Poisoning in Pets 101: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from
  7. OVRS Staff. (2018). When the Unexpected Strikes: The True Cost of a Veterinary Emergency. Retrieved from


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