The stomach is constantly under siege and can be affected by many factors. Causes of ulcers include mechanical irritants such as sticks, bones, and stones. In addition, drugs; kidney, liver, and adrenal gland disease; germs; excess stomach acid; stress factors; and nerve-related disorders are associated with ulcer development.
Ulcers of the stomach are like wounds in the skin. A protective barrier, formed from mucus, chemicals, and anti-inflammatory components, protects the delicate gastric lining. For ulcers to occur, the protective barrier and digestive lining are breached, and germs and other harmful substances have access to the exposed inner layers of the gastric wall. Unlike wounds on the outer skin layer, gastric ulcers cannot be kept dry or free from further irritation. Therefore unique health management techniques must be used to create a medium in which healing can take place.
Vomiting, with or without blood, is the most common sign of gastric ulcer. The vomitus can have either bright blood or a “coffee ground” appearance, indicating digested blood. Weight loss and loss of appetite are also seen. Loss of blood is always a concern and should be monitored.
Important Points in Treatment
1. As in most diseases or illnesses, early treatment renders a better chance for success. Persistent and aggressive treatment is required to overcome ulceration of the digestive tract.
2. Radiographs (x-rays) with or without special contrast (barium) studies are often required to evaluate your pet’s digestive tract. Special scopes (endoscopy) are also used to view the inner body. The endoscope can allow the veterinarian to view the stomach and to retrieve a sample of tissue for microscopic examination (biopsy).
3. Laboratory tests, including total blood counts and serum chemistries, are important to determine your pet’s overall health status and provide further guidance in administering proper therapy to your pet.
4. Diet: Special low-fat diets should be fed at prescribed intervals to aid in preventing over-filling and additional stress to the stomach.