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What Is Canine Enteritis?

By L. Baran
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Canine enteritis is a disease of the gastrointestinal system in dogs. It is an inflammation of the intestines caused by the proliferation of many different types of bacteria or viruses and most often targets the small intestine. This disease is one of the most common ailments in the canine population, with any dog — no matter the breed, size or age — being susceptible to enteritis. Symptoms of canine enteritis include severe vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, and abdominal cramping. This disease can be very serious, and dogs should be treated quickly by a qualified veterinarian.

Bacteria and viruses that are responsible for canine enteritis are often transmitted in situations where many dogs are in close proximity, such as shelters, kennels or dog parks. Transmission occurs either via direct contact, such as licking or smelling other dogs, or through close proximity to fecal matter. Most veterinarians recommend vaccinating against canine parvovirus, but as of 2011, there is no vaccine against rotovirus. Bacteria responsible for canine enteritis include Salmonella, E. coli and Staphylococcus. Viral causes include rotovirus and parvovirus.

Severe vomiting and diarrhea are the most common signs of enteritis. Frequency of stools will dramatically increase, and the stool will be very watery. Blood in the fecal matter indicates damage to the intestinal wall or irritation from the fast passage of waste through the dog's system. Dogs may be extremely lethargic, seem to be in pain, or refuse to eat or drink. While it may be difficult to tell where a dog is experiencing pain, the most common site is the abdominal area as a result of cramping.

If enteritis is suspected, an appointment should be made with a veterinarian for safety precautions. If certain signs are present, emergency veterinary care should be sought. These signs include severe diarrhea for more than 24 hours, difficulty breathing or very labored breathing, vomiting more than three times, or blood in the dog's stool. This disease progresses quickly, so it is not in a dog's best interest to wait and see it recovers alone.

Treatment for canine enteritis begins with making sure the dog gets plenty of rest. Food and water should be provided in limited quantities to allow the digestive tract to recover. Medication may be prescribed to reduce the amount of waste passing through the digestive tract, and fluids rich in important electrolytes may be offered. If the cause of the disease is bacterial, antibiotics may help the dog's recovery. In serious cases, intravenous medication may be required.

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