Stomach ulcers in dogs can be superficial or deep.
Superficial ulcers are just small patches of inflamed and eroded stomach lining.
Deep ulcers, on the other hand, are perforated areas involving all layers of the stomach wall.
A dog can have a single ulcer in his stomach, or there may be multiple ulcers. Sizes of ulcers can range from under one inch to several inches in diameter.
Causes of Canine Ulcers
Ulcers in dogs are usually caused by anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These drugs are usually conventional medications for such canine illnesses as arthritis, allergies, and other skin problems.
For some reason, dogs are more vulnerable to the ulcer-causing effects of these drugs than humans.
Use NSAIDs with Care
NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen inhibit a hormone-like substance that protects the stomach lining. Although many vets say that buffered aspirin is gentler and easier on the stomach, it can still cause canine ulcers. So remember to use these drugs on your doggie with care!
Besides the above drugs, mast cell tumors of the skin can also cause stomach ulcers in dogs.
The tumors produce and release histamine which stimulates acid secretion in the stomach. In fact, about 80 percent of dogs with mast cell tumors also suffer from stomach ulcers.
Symptoms of Canine Stomach Ulcers
The classic symptom of stomach ulcers in dogs is chronic vomiting.
A dog with ulcers may vomit even with an empty stomach. Sometimes the vomitus may contain blood. The blood may be old and looks like coffee grounds, or fresh with clots.
The dog may also pass black, tarry stools.
Other signs include appetite loss, weight loss, and anemia. The dog will also be lethargic and weak.
Conventional Treatment of Canine Stomach Ulcers
Deep perforated ulcers are life-threatening and require emergency surgery. To prevent ulcers from recurring, the vet will try to identify and treat the underlying cause of the ulcers.
For non life-threatening cases of dog stomach ulcers, conventional treatment is the use of a combination of the following medications:
- Histamine blockers (e.g. Tagamet, Pepcid)
- Drugs that protect the stomach lining (e.g. Carafate, Cytotec)
- Antacids (e.g. Maalox)
Treatment may take up to at least three to four weeks.
All ulcer-causing medications (e.g. corticosteroids, NSAIDs) have to be discontinued.
For minor cases of stomach ulcers, some vets suggest giving raw honey to the dog. Raw honey is anti-bacterial, so it may help destroy any bacteria that may be causing the ulcer.
It is also a good idea to feed a dog with stomach ulcers three to four times a day, instead one big meal per day.