Enteritis is an inflammation of the small intestine and is caused by a wide range of potential problems. Parasites, bacteria, viruses, or allergies can all inflame the small intestines of your dog, causing diarrhea. An obstruction in the digestive tract can also trigger enteritis, so that missing sock or favorite Christmas ornament could also be the culprit.
Risk and Signs
All dogs and puppies are at risk for enteritis. Along with diarrhea, your pet may also experience:
- Abdominal pain and other stomach problems
- Black, tarry feces (melena)
- Weight loss
Because there are so many causes of enteritis, be sure to provide your veterinarian with a thorough history of your dog, including answers to the following:
- Travel history?
- Exposure to other dogs (such as going to the park or daycare)?
- Unsupervised access to your yard?
- Leashed on walks?
- Eaten any foreign objects, e.g., a Christmas ornament?
- Eaten from garbage?
- Changes in dog food?
If your veterinarian suspects enteritis, he will want to identify the underlying cause. In order to do this, he may recommend a combination of the following tests:
- Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function as well as sugar levels
- A complete blood count to rule out blood-related conditions
- Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog is neither dehydrated nor suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
- X-rays of the abdomen and intestinal tract to rule out obstructions
- An ultrasound to evaluate the integrity of your dog’s digestive tract
- An endoscopy to evaluate the intestinal tract
- Specific tests to rule out viral infections, such as parvovirus
- Fecal tests to identify if fecal parasites could be the cause
- Special fecal tests, such as cultures and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing
Dogs with enteritis, regardless of the cause, are often dehydrated and sometimes need to be given intravenous fluids. Depending on the severity, your dog may be hospitalized to more quickly gain control of the diarrhea and other debilitating symptoms. In less severe cases, your veterinarian may give you medications and instructions regarding how to care for your pet at home. It is very important that you carefully follow the treatment instructions from your veterinarian, to reduce the chance of the diarrhea recurring.
Vaccinations can protect your favorite dog from some of the viral causes of enteritis, such as parvovirus and distemper. Some of the best ways to keep your pet healthy are to watch what he eats, keep him free of parasites with monthly preventatives, and submit his fecal samples to your veterinarian. Keeping your dog away from trash and other unfamiliar items, such as people food, and restricting contact with potentially sick dogs in public places, like the park and boarding facilities, will also protect your dog from becoming sick.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.