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Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Gastroenteritis is when your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is inflamed in and around the stomach and intestines.

Gastroenteritis usually causes abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea and/or vomiting in your dog.

Various microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria can cause gastroenteritis in dogs.

However, one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis in dogs is a viral infection, which can be complicated with bacteria or parasites. Mild cases of gastroenteritis can be resolved with hydration and antibiotic therapy, but more severe cases require hospitalization.

Common Symptoms

vet examining dog for gastroenteritisSome of the symptoms that are common in dogs with gastroenteritis

  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea (sometimes with blood) – sometimes 3 to 6 times a day
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Less active
  • Low-grade fever

What Causes Gastroenteritis?

There are many different causes of gastroenteritis but they are generally caused by a bacteria or an infection:

  • Viral infection (e.g. parvoviruses and coronaviruses)
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Toxins
  • Tumors
  • Bacterial infection
  • Parasitic infection
  • Abdominal disorder
  • Foreign bodies or other obstructions
  • Poisonings
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Addison’s disease
  • Thyroid disease


Gastroenteritis is usually diagnosed by the exclusion of other diseases.

Your vet will try to rule out the more serious causes that might have caused the symptoms of such as vomiting or diarrhea before they can diagnose the disease as gastroenteritis.

Your vet will first try to determine why your dog had any of the signs pointing to gastroenteritis.

Some important information that your vet will want to know about your dog:

  • Your dog’s diet, how much your dog eats and how often
  • Any supplements that have been given
  • All illnesses in the last month
  • Every food and drink that your dog has consumed within the last 48 hours
  • Any exposure to pesticides, cleaning agents, medications
  • Any new treats
  • Exposure to a new dog or even a person
  • Your dog’s history of vomiting and diarrhea and how it was treated

Now that your vet has your dog’s medical history, your vet will conduct a physical examination of your dog.

Your vet will determine if your dog has had abdominal pain, bloating, gas or any other swellings.  Your dog’s temperature and vital signs will also be taken.

Depending on your vet’s findings, further testing might be recommended:

  • Urinalysis: testing for kidney disease, urinary tract infection, glucose levels, diabetes, and dehydration.
  • A complete blood cell count (CBC):  to look for dehydration and infection.
  • Radiographs and Ultrasounds of the abdomen: to see if there is a gastric or intestinal obstruction or any other abnormality.
  • Serum electrolytes: to detect organ system abnormalities and/or any electrolyte imbalances as a result of diarrhea and vomiting.

After the diagnostic tests are finished and it is determined that gastroenteritis is the actual disease, treatment will be prescribed.

Treatment Options

Viral gastroenteritis is treated with supportive care because there are no available drugs to kill this type of viruses.

The first step of the treatment plan is restoring your dog’s normal fluid balance.

The idea is to re-hydrate your dog and restore your pup’s electrolyte balance.

Fluid therapy can be given orally if the dog is not vomiting.  If your dog is vomiting, he or she will need to receive the therapy intravenously and is usually hospitalized.

Your dog’s veterinarian will need to run various diagnostic tests in order to determine which other drugs are needed such as:

Antibiotics will be given if there is a bacterial infection.

An anti-diarrheal might be administered after anatomical issues or any obstructions have been ruled out.

Food and even water might be limited during the start of the treatment and then later slowly re-introduced.  This is very common with any vomiting or diarrhea.

Your vet will recommend the best diet for your dog during treatment.

Can Pet Insurance Help with Gastroenteritis?

If you have already enrolled your dog in pet insurance, then you will be reimbursed up to 90% of the costs of all the testing and treatment.

The usual cost of treatment, depending on your vet’s findings can range from $500 to $1,500.

Of course, if you haven’t enrolled your dog in a pet insurance policy and your pup has already exhibited symptoms of gastroenteritis, then it will not be covered in the future should you decide to sign up for a policy.

As always, sign up for your dog while he or she is young and before any health issues have occurred.

Prognosis of Gastroenteritis

Most cases of gastroenteritis will improve greatly after re-hydrating your dog.

If the diarrhea and vomiting do not improve, then the diagnosis will need to be re-evaluated.

Gastroenteritis is a common health condition in dogs.  The earlier you recognize the signs and treat your pup, the sooner your dog will feel better and get back to a normal condition.

If you think your dog doesn’t have gastroenteritis, but another health issue, our dog health glossary has a list of all the common issues that might occur in your dog.

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