Dogs also suffer from stomach ulcers like humans do. Ulcers are characterized by patches of inflamed and eroded mucosa covered by white or yellow pus. Deeper ones appear as punched-out areas that include all the layers of the stomach wall. Ulcers can be single or multiple, and can range in size from less than an inch to several inches wide.
Signs and Symptoms of Ulcers in Dogs
Possible signs and symptoms of ulcer in dogs include lack of appetite, listlessness or sporadic or chronic vomiting after eating, weight loss and anemia. You might also notice blood, blood clots or things that resemble coffee grounds (old blood) in your dog’s vomit. Heavy bleeding can cause your dog to go into shock and discharge black stools.
Causes of Ulcers in Dogs
In humans, bacteria are often the cause of ulcers, but generally not in dogs. Corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen are usually the cause of ulcers in dogs. Other conditions such as liver diseases, kidney failure, extreme stress (caused by a severe illness or major surgery), chronic gastritis, mast cell tumors (which stimulate acid secretion), and shock also make your dog more prone to having ulcers.
Treating Ulcers in Dogs
Ulcer drugs for people are also effective in dogs. Some of these medications include histamine blockers such as Tagamet (cimetidine), Pepcid (famotidine), and Zantac (ranitidine); mucosal protectants like Carafate (sucralfate) and Cytotec (misoprostol); Prilosec (omeprazole); and antacids such as Mylanta, Maalox, and Amphogel.
These drugs are best taken in combination (for instance, a histamine blocker along with an antacid). Your vet can prescribe a combination that is appropriate for you dog’s condition and indicate the number of times your dog has to take them. Treatment may last for three to four weeks, followed by a gastroscopy to ensure that healing is complete.
Perforated ulcers however, require surgery, while dogs with gastrointestinal bleeding should be hospitalized for observation and further tests. Anemia may require blood transfusion. It is also necessary to treat illnesses that cause ulcer.
Reduce the Risk for Ulcer
There are also a number of things you can do to lower your dog’s risk for ulcer. If your dog is arthritic for instance, give him medications along with food so that the lining of the stomach will not get irritated as much. Provide your dog with safe chew-toys to keep him from picking up and gnawing on whatever’s lying on the ground such as wood, coins and batteries. Many ulcers are caused by ingestion of sharp objects. Help relieve stress in your dog. Spend time with your dog and brush his coat regularly. Brushing his coat not only helps de-stress your dog, it also removes loose fur, especially if your dog is a longhair breed, that can be swallowed when he licks himself, adding to stomach ulcer discomfort. Lastly, do not feed your dog human food. Spices and seasonings in human food, like salt in particular, can harm your dog’s stomach. Feed him high quality dog food. And if your dog is used to getting scraps from the table, have some dog biscuits on hand so he does not think he is missing out.