What are Gastritis?
Gastritis is a scientific term for inflammation of the stomach, and is rarely an end diagnosis in its own right. Typical signs include vomiting, often associated with altered appetite and lethargy. Gastritis in cats can come on suddenly (acute) which may well be self-limiting, or it can be a long-standing condition (chronic), for which diagnosis and treatment are key to resolving the issue. Gastritis is often a result of either eating spoiled food or disease elsewhere in the body.
Symptoms of Gastritis in Cats
Vomiting is the most common sign of gastritis. But since the condition is often the result of an underlying health issue, there may be other symptoms arising from the primary problem. These include:
- Vomiting, which may be intermittent and may consist of food, hair, or bile
- Recent history of scavenging
- Weight loss, which is more likely with chronic gastritis
- Poor appetite
- Increased thirst
- Abdominal pain
- Behavioral change such as becoming hyperactive
Causes of Gastritis in Cats
Gastritis can arise for a simple reason, such as eating too much or scavenging spoiled food, or from more complex causes such as an underlying health problem. The causes are numerous and some of the most common include:
- Overeating, eating too rapidly or eating spoiled food
- Worms, such as ascarids (roundworms)
- Infections, such as helicobacter
- Food allergy
- Foreign bodies, such as hair or non-digestible objects
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Overactive thyroid glands
- Damage to the stomach lining by drugs
Diagnosis of Gastritis in Cats
In cases of acute gastritis in a cat that is otherwise well, the vet may opt to treat the symptom (vomiting) rather than reach a definitive diagnosis. However, if the problem persists beyond 24 hours then diagnostics may be required.
These include screening blood tests to check organ function and look for indications of systemic illness which could cause vomiting. The results of these tests may point the clinician in a particular direction, such as running diagnostic blood tests for pancreatitis, or liver or kidney disease.
Fecal analysis is helpful if an ascarid burden in the stomach is suspected.
If these tests come back normal, the vet may use imaging such as ultrasound or radiographs to check for foreign bodies in the gut or tumors. If these findings are inconclusive then inspecting the gut lining with an endoscope is helpful and facilitates endoscopic biopsy.
In the most complex cases, full thickness biopsies of the stomach lining may be necessary in order to reach a diagnosis. This allows a histologist to look at a tissue sample under the microscope and identify the nature of the pathology.
Treatment of Gastritis in Cats
For mild acute gastritis, the vet may prescribe antacid medications or anti-inflammatories. Withholding food for 24 hours gives the stomach a chance to rest and the inflammation to subside. In addition, if hairballs are suspected as an inciting cause, regular brushing of the cat helps to prevent recurrence.
In cases of food allergy, changing diet to a hypoallergenic alternative that avoids the triggering allergens can bring about a full resolution of symptoms. Should a foreign object be identified, then surgery to remove the offending item should lead to a resolution of signs.
Where a causative organism is identified such as ascarid worms or helicobacter, then specific deworming or antibiosis helps to resolve the problem. In many cases, managing the underlying condition, such as kidney or liver disease, helps the gastritis to be brought under control.
The vet can also prescribe medications such as sucralfate to protect the stomach lining, or omeprazole to reduce acid production. This is with the aim of providing more conducive conditions to allow the stomach wall to heal. Once the symptoms resolve, the medication may be slowly withdrawn with the owner carefully monitoring for signs of recurrence.
Recovery of Gastritis in Cats
For the majority of cases, the outlook is excellent, depending on the cause. However, reaching a diagnosis is sometimes a protracted process that requires patience on the part of the owner.
Triggers such as food allergy may need lifelong management in the form of a special diet, whilst underlying causes such as kidney disease will also need long-term treatment. However, if the trigger is a hairball then simple actions such as brushing the cat daily can bring about a complete and permanent resolution to the problem.
Once a cat has had gastritis, it may be prone to the condition in the future. Thus the owner is well advised to monitor their cat and seek appropriate treatment early, in order to stop the problem becoming well established and minimize the recovery time.
Gastritis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Three months ago, my cat was vomiting on & off for a couple of weeks but seemed healthy, active & maintained a good appetite. When his vomit turned green I took him to the vet who ultrasounded his abdomen to find an ulcer & inflammation in the stomach & intestines, and an enlarged liver he said was probably a hepatic migration of worms since we have missed the last deworming dose. My other two cats are fine though. He was treated with three rounds of ranitidine, zofran, an antiinflammatory & an antibiotic last of which was ceftriaxone. Then he was dewormed & got started on ornipural shots for his liver. He was still vomiting a week later so the vet ordered an X-ray to rule out any torsion in the stomach or intestines but found the liver more enlarged. There's also onflammation in the gallbladder & bile ducts due to gallstones & pressure the liver is putting. He had another deworming dose & is still vomiting.
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