You may be familiar with the term enteritis, but have you any idea what it is and how it affects your dog? Enteritis in dogs can be mild to severe, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and more. Early treatment is the key to keeping your dog healthy.
What Is Enteritis in Dogs?
Enteritis is a term that means inflammation of the small intestine. It often occurs concurrently with gastritis or inflammation of the stomach. Some medications cause enteritis as a side effect.
Diarrhea is usually the first sign of enteritis in dogs. Additional gastrointestinal signs may also occur, such as vomiting, abdominal pain, and poor appetite.
Signs of Enteritis in Dogs
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Black, tarry stool
- Abdominal discomfort
Causes of Enteritis
There are numerous causes of small intestinal inflammation in dogs. It often occurs after a dog ingests something unhealthy, such as rotten food after getting into the trash. It may also be caused by a new food that simply does not agree with the canine. Together, these conditions are called gastroenteritis. Many cases of enteritis are result ind by bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections. Enteritis can also be caused by intestinal obstruction. In addition, extreme fear, stress, or anxiety can lead to enteritis in dogs.
Enteritis may be acute or chronic. Acute cases come on suddenly, such as after contracting a parasitic infection or a virus such as parvo. Chronic or untreated enteritis can result in weight loss, malabsorption, anemia, and malnutrition.
If your dog is exhibiting signs of enteritis for more than a day, then it’s time to visit the vet. Some cases of enteritis will resolve on their own. However, after a day or two of diarrhea, your dog may be dehydrated and in need of fluid replacement. Left untreated, enteritis can sometimes become fatal in dogs.
Your vet will begin by discussing your dog’s history and performing a physical examination. Diagnostic tests may be recommended to determine the cause of enteritis and evaluate your dog’s overall condition. Potential testing includes:
- Fecal analysis to check for parasites, blood, and other abnormalities in the stool
- Blood chemistry to assess organ/metabolic function
- Blood electrolytes analysis to look for imbalances
- CBC (complete blood count) to evaluate blood cell counts and look for blood cell abnormalities
- Urinalysis to rule out urinary tract infection, kidney problems, along with other concerns
- Radiographs (x-rays) of the abdomen to consider obstruction or other irregularities
- Abdominal ultrasound to view the abdomen in greater detail
- Endoscopy to visualize the small intestine with a small camera attached to a mechanical tube that enters through the mouth (performed under anesthesia)
If your vet is able to determine the cause of your dog’s enteritis, then a specific treatment will be given for the condition. For example, parasitic infections are treated with dewormers. Bacterial infections require antibiotics. In most cases, some kind of supportive care will be needed. Supportive care usually typically includes fluid replacement and electrolyte rebalancing.
Be sure your dog is current on all recommended vaccinations in order to prevent parvo and other serious viruses that lead to enteritis.
If your dog is dehydrated, as is common with diarrhea, then fluids may be administered either subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously. Subcutaneous fluids can be administered all at once on an outpatient basis. IV fluid treatment requires placement of an IV catheter and hospitalization. The fluids will contain the necessary electrolytes your pet needs to return to health.
Most dogs will recover from enteritis in a few days with proper treatment. However, severe cases may take longer. Sadly, dogs with serious illnesses like parvovirus may not recover. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery.
How to Prevent Enteritis
You may be able to prevent enteritis from occurring in your dog by taking certain actions.
- Medications may include anti-diarrheal drugs, antiemetics (to stop vomiting), and antacids as needed.
- Administer monthly heartworm prevention and flea control treatment. There typically contain dewormers that may prevent intestinal parasitic infections.
- Keep food and trash out of reach of your dog.
- Keep your dog on a leash to prevent exposure to harmful substances or contaminated water.
Other circumstances may still occur and lead to enteritis in your dog, but the above steps will reduce your dog’s risk.
If your dog does develop enteritis, early treatment is key. Do not ignore signs of enteritis in your pet. Be sure to see a veterinarian if signs last longer than one day.