Last week, I mentioned that stomach ailments, for example a gastritis episode, could cause vomiting. Today, let’s look more closely at this relatively serious gastritis problem.

If we are to define gastritis, the simplest description would be an inflammatory process of the thin membrane which covers the internal stomach wall.

I should mention, right at the outset, that pet owners tend to take vomiting (a symptom) and gastritis (the ailment) not very seriously. In fact, people give this malady cute names like ‘upset stomach’ or ‘gastro.’

Scientists have decided (after examining the stomach tissue under the microscope), that there are several different types of gastritis. But for us practical folk, it is perhaps enough to identify two forms of gastritis: acute gastritis and chronic gastritis.

This eager male dog is at the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk awaiting adoption. He has been neutered.

Acute gastritis

This is characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms, usually vomiting. It is mostly caused by the intake of some substance that damages the (mucous membrane) lining of the stomach.

Very often, the ingested material is of a poisonous nature. Rat poison is one of the most common of the toxic chemicals ingested. It is made to entice the rat to eat it and, of course, the puppy or even an adult dog could similarly be induced. We have also noticed an upsurge in the intake of poisons that are used against ectoparasites (ticks, fleas, lice, etc) and which are not stored away correctly. Curious puppies may tend to push their noses in or lick the poisonous material.

Fertilizers left hanging around in bags or strewn loosely on lawns or on kitchen gardens can, if ingested, be immediately corrosive to the stomach lining. I should mention also that if grass is sprayed with chemicals to kill ants, or if strong weedicides are used to rid your lawn of unwanted grasses, these chemicals can contribute to a severe gastritis, if eaten.

Decomposing food and rubbish-bin garbage (probably because of the toxins that develop therein) have been known to cause an acute gastritis. Never feed your pets food that is smelling sour or which has been left in the open (not refrigerated) for a long time.

It should also be made clear at this point that if the pet’s nutrition is faulty, even deficient in major components like protein, minerals and trace elements, then the pet might just be prompted to eat garbage or even faecal matter (horse droppings, etc) which could precipitate a gastritis.

There are other causes of an acute gastritis:

(i)  Overeating: How often have I not seen this occurrence. Pet owners can truly love their wards to death. If you give a puppy or an adult dog too much food, the animal will attempt to eat it all. Constantly overfeeding the pet will place a great burden on the stomach which could end up showing symptoms of gastritis. It would be much better to feed your dog/cat, especially the young ones, small quantities often (up to four times daily) until they are at least six months of age.

(ii)   Ingesting indigestible material: Again, pet owners – in an attempt to make puppy happy – will give them bones, plastic toys, pieces of hide (with the hair still on it) to play with or to gnaw on. I have seen owners give puppies balls of newspaper to play with. The puppy promptly eats the paper. (I don’t know if the print on the paper is especially tasty to pups, but they tend to swallow paper gleefully).

(iii) Administering inappropriate medicine: So often owners feel that their pets have a fever. This, they ascertain without the use of a thermometer. Then they decide to administer orally an anti-fever tablet like aspirin which is an acid! This is not a good idea. A better idea is to call your vet and ask for advice.

(iv) Infectious diseases: Gastritis can be associated with several infectious diseases and miscellaneous maladies, such as distemper, viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, pancreas and kidney problems, intestinal parasites, etc.

(In passing, it should be mentioned that, if the toxic or tissue-unfriendly material (after doing damage to the stomach) gets to the intestines and damages the lining of the gut, the resulting ailment is termed ‘gastro-enteritis’).

Treatment of acute gastritis

I advise pet owners to follow a very specific routine:

(i)  Try to ascertain if a poison is involved.

(ii)  Alert your vet immediately.

(iii) Try to contain the vomiting with an antemetic (an anti-vomiting medicine, eg Gravol, etc).

(iv) Starve the pet for at least a day (no food, no water). You may at best give the pet an ice cube to lick, if it shows signs of being dehydrated. Twenty-four hours later, one can introduce a bland, spiceless diet of baby food or cottage cheese.

(v)        Give an antacid (eg Pepto Bismol, etc) or a stomach liner (eg Kaopectate, etc).

(vi)       After the 24 hours have passed, feed small quantities of food, preferably a thin bland soup (not chicken noodle soup out of the package, since that has lots of spices). According to how the pet reacts, you would increase or decrease the food quantity.

NB    There is no need to change your pet’s nutrition on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to coincide with your  own nutritional imperatives during this period.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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