The Stomach


The stomach is a reservoir, a holding tank where hydrochloric acid is secreted to begin breaking down food for digestion. The lining of the stomach is protected from its own acid by mucus and a fine layer of chemical called prostaglandin. If this prostaglandin is damaged, stomach inflammation and ulceration occur. The stomach has a considerable capacity to expand when food is plentiful. It can hold between 100 and 250 ml of contents per kilogram body weight of pet.

Stomach Conditions

Most stomach conditions cause vomiting. The most efficient way to diagnose a stomach condition is through x-rays, ultrasound or through the use of a special endoscope called a gastroscope. Gastroscopy allows us to see exactly what is happening inside the stomach, to take samples, even to carry out minor forms of surgery.

Food Restrictions For Vomiting Pets

Food is withheld for 4-24 hours after vomiting stops, depending upon the cause and severity of vomiting but also the age and fitness of the individual. During this period give small amounts of water or ice cubes frequently. Soda water may neutralise the build-up of acid in vomiting pets. Powdered electrolyte solution mixed in drinking water is always beneficial.

When reintroducing food, avoid high fat, high protein varieties. Feed small amounts of low fat, low protein soft food frequently, to avoid stretching the stomach and to help facilitate food leaving the stomach and entering the intestines. A good home-made diet is one part low-fat cottage cheese and two parts boiled rice.

Chronic Gastritis

Chronic gastritis may be caused by persistently eating grass, foreign bodies, chemical irritations and food allergies. A blood sample may reveal an increase in eosinophils, a white blood cell involved in the immune response to parasites but also implicated in allergy. If a biopsy obtained by gastroscopy reveals eosinophils in the wall of the stomach a diagnosis of eosinophilic gastritis is made. Treatment may include drugs to control further vomiting, and fluid therapy. Corticosteroids are used in cases of eosinophilic gastritis. Anti-ulcer drugs such as cimetidine and ranitidine and mucosal protectors such as sucralfate and misoprostol work in pets as they do in people.

Stomach Ulcers

The most common cause of stomach ulcers is drugs, corticosteroids and NSAIDS. Shock, stress, severe illness and allergy may also cause ulcers. Pets with ulcers vomit intermittently, appear unhappy and lose weight. Fresh or old blood may appear in the vomit. The stools may be black (melenic) from blood passed from the stomach or duodenum.

Gastroscopy is the most accurate way to diagnose the presence of ulcers. Contrast x-ray and ultrasound may also be useful. Severe anemia is treated with blood replacer and a combination of drugs used to protect the mucosal lining and enhance repair. Medication continues until gastroscopy shows all ulcers have healed.


Obstructions are caused by foreign bodies, tumours and scarring or contractions around the pyloric canal draining from the stomach into the duodenum, the first part of the intestines. Affected pets vomit, lose weight and often are uncomfortable.

Contrast x-rays show little or no emptying of stomach content into the duodenum. Ultrasound may show an enlarged, fluid-filled stomach. Gastroscopy reveals the exact cause of obstruction. A surgical correction is usually needed.

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