Stomach and duodenal ulcers are being
diagnosed more frequently in dogs due to the wider use of
gastroscopy. Seen through the endoscope, superficial ulcers are patches of
inflamed and eroded mucosa covered by white or yellow pus.
Deep ulcers are punched-out areas involving all layers of the stomach wall.
Ulcers can be single or multiple, and can range in size from less than 1 inch
(2.5 cm) to several inches in diameter. Ulcers occur more often in the stomach
than in the duodenum.
Bacteria are often the cause of ulcers in humans, but ulcers in dogs are not
generally believed to be caused by stomach bacteria-although Helicobacter
species have been found in dogs. The usual cause in dogs is corticosteroids or
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Dogs are even
more susceptible than people to the ulcer-producing effects of these drugs.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs when a dog’s stomach and/or intestine becomes home to an unusually high number of inflammatory cells. These cells cause changes in the lining of the digestive tract, which inhibit the normal absorption and passage of food.
It is important to note that although some of the symptoms may be similar, IBD is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome, which is caused by psychological stress rather than a physiological abnormality.
Other conditions that predispose a dog to ulcers include all forms of liver
failure, extreme stress (from severe illness or major surgery), chronic gastritis (particularly the eosinophilic type), and
Mast cell tumors of the skin can cause ulcers. This is because these tumors
produce and release histamine, which is a powerful stimulant to acid secretion.
In fact, ulcers occur in up to 80 percent of dogs with mast cell tumors.
The principal sign of an ulcer is sporadic or chronic vomiting. Dogs may also lose weight and be anemic. In
dogs with nonspecific signs, such as chronic vomiting, the diagnosis is made by
Occasionally the vomitus contains old blood (which looks like coffee
grounds) or fresh blood and blood clots, although the bleeding in many ulcers
is microscopic. With rapid bleeding the dog goes into shock and passes black,
tarry stools. Stomach and duodenal ulcers can rupture into the abdomen, causing
Treatment: Perforated ulcers require emergency surgery. Dogs with
gastrointestinal bleeding should be hospitalized for observation and further
tests. Severe anemia is treated with blood transfusions. It is
important to identify and eliminate predisposing causes. Discontinue all
Ulcer drugs used in people are effective in dogs. They include the histamine
blockers Tagamet (cimetidine), Pepcid (famotidine), and Zantac (ranitidine);
the mucosal protectants Carafate (sucralfate) and Cytotec (misoprostol);
Prilosec (omeprazole); and antacids such as Mylanta, Maalox, and Amphogel.
These drugs are best taken in combination (an antacid along with a histamine
blocker), several times a day. A veterinarian should determine the most
effective drug combination and schedule. Treatment is continued for at least
three to four weeks. A follow-up gastroscopy is advisable to ensure that
healing is complete.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"