Gastritis is an irritation of the lining of the stomach that comes on suddenly. The principal sign is severe and continuous vomiting.
Acute gastritis is severe and continuous vomiting that comes on suddenly. It is most likely caused by swallowing an irritant or a poison. Common stomach irritants include grass and other plants, hair, bones, spoiled food, and garbage. Certain drugs, notably aspirin, but also cortisone, butazolidin, and some antibiotics, produce gastric irritation. Common poisons include antifreeze, fertilizers, plant toxins, crabgrass killers, and rat poisons. If any of these is suspected, notify your veterinarian.
A cat with an acute gastritis vomits shortly after eating and later stops eating altogether and appears lethargic, sitting with his head hanging over the water bowl. His temperature remains normal unless the cat has an acute enteritis, a disease that also causes diarrhea.
Keep in mind that persistent vomiting is also associated with life-threatening diseases such as intestinal obstruction and peritonitis. Seek professional consultation in all cases where the cause of persistent vomiting is not known.
Treatment: Acute nonspecific gastritis is self-limiting and usually resolves in 24 to 48 hours if the stomach is rested and protected from excess acid.
Cats with chronic gastritis vomit from time to time over a period of days or weeks, not always after meals. These cats appear lethargic, have a dull haircoat, and lose weight. The vomitus sometimes contains foreign material and food eaten the day before.
A common cause of chronic gastritis is swallowed hair that forms a hairball or bezoar in the stomach. Prevention is discussed in Hairballs (page 128). Other causes of chronic gastritis include persistent eating of plant matter, such as grass, or ingesting cellulose, plastic, paper, rubber, or other irritating products, and a diet of poor-quality or spoiled food.
Aspirin, when given to cats regularly, may cause thickening and peptic stomach ulceration, a condition that may be complicated by gastrointestinal bleeding. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be given only under veterinary supervision.
Finally, if there is no apparent explanation for the sporadic vomiting, the cat may be suffering from an internal disorder such as liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes, tonsillitis, infected uterus, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, irritable bowel disease, or heartworm disease. The bacteria Helicobacter pyloris is a possible cause of chronic gastritis.
Treatment: This depends on finding and correcting the underlying cause. A cat with chronic vomiting should be examined by a veterinarian. Special diagnostic studies may be required. These may include a biopsy of the stomach or intestine by endoscopy, special dye studies with X-rays, or ultrasound examinations. Blood work is usually needed to rule out certain diseases. Cats with chronic vomiting often require a special, customized diet to fit the particular disease causing the vomiting. Famotidine (Pepcid) may be helpful.