Stomach and Intestinal Disorders in Dogs and Cats
Contents:
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Anal Sac Disease 
Constipation 
Diarrhea 
Enteritis 
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus 
Gastroenteritis 
Gastrointestinal Foreign Objects
Intestinal Obstruction 
Liver Disease 
Malabsorption Syndrome 
Megaesophagus 
Portal Shunting 
Ulcerative Colitis of Boxers
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Anal Sac Disease
General Information:
The anal sacs are located on each side of the anus, just under the skin.  They open to the outside by tiny passageways or ducts.  Glands within the anal sacs produce a dark, foul-smelling substance.  The sacs normally empty as the animal has a bowel movement.  Their purpose is unknown and your pet can do well without them.
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Diseases of the anal sacs fall into 3 categories:
1. Impaction:  The anal sac fluid is abnormally thick and cannot escape.
2. Infection:  Bacteria produce a yellow or bloody pus.  Infection may also exist in other areas, such as the eyes, ears, tonsils and/or skin.
3. Abscessation:  As a result of infection, a hot, tender swelling near the anus may rupture and discharge pus and blood.
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Signs of anal sac disease include "scooting" (dragging the anus on the floor), excessive licking under the tail, tenderness near the tail or anus, and/or bloody or sticky drainage from the anal area.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Constipation
General Information:
Infrequent and/or difficult bowel movements are termed constipation.  Dry, hard stools cause pain and straining.  Constipation is a sign of large bowel problems and is not a disease itself.  There are many causes for constipation, and often various test and examinations are necessary to find the underlying cause.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Diarrhea
General Information:
Diarrhea is the frequent passage of very fluid stools.  It is not a disease itself, but rather the most common sign of small and large intestinal problems.  There are many causes of diarrhea, and various diagnostic tests are used to find the underlying cause.  With sever diarrhea, hospitalization is usually necessary.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Enteritis
General Information:
Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine.  There are many causes of enteritis, including micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi), foreign matter (bones, wood, plant material, etc.), allergies, emotional disturbances, parasites, neurological problems of the bowel, and enzyme deficiencies.
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Determining the cause of your petís enteritis may require laboratory tests and radiographs (x-rays).
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (bloat, gastric torsion)
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General Information:
Gastric dilation/volvulus is a life-threatening disease characterized by a tremendous ballooning (dilation) of the stomach with gas and frothy material.  Dilation may be followed by twisting of the stomach (volvulus) that closes both the inlet and outlet of the stomach.  As swelling continues, shock develops as the swollen stomach blocks return of blood from the abdomen to the heart.  Widespread tissue damage and kidney failure develop and death from respiratory and cardiac arrest soon follow.
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While most cases occur in large, deep-chested dogs, small dogs are occasionally affected.  The disorder appears suddenly in apparently healthy dogs.  The cause is unknown.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Gastroenteritis
General Information:
Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and small intestine.  The most common signs are vomiting and diarrhea.  Occasionally there is blood in the stool or vomit.  The condition can be caused by infection, food allergy, eating garbage or foreign materials, intestinal parasites, changes of diet and even emotional upsets.
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Because the exact cause is often difficult to determine, the condition is usually treated symptomatically the first time.  If there are recurrences, a more extensive search for the cause is advised.  Laboratory tests and radiographs (x-rays) are usually necessary to diagnose the condition and monitor the effectiveness of treatment.  Hospitalization is often necessary in severe cases or when dehydration is present.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Gastrointestinal Foreign Objects
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General Information:
A gastrointestinal foreign body is any non-food material found within the digestive tract.  Foreign objects ranging from coins to clothing have been found in the digestive tract of pets.  The variety of non-food material a pet may consume is astounding.  While animals of any age may swallow foreign objects, young puppies and kittens are most likely to do so.
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Signs depend upon the amount of blockage, the location of the object, and whether the object is irritating or non-irritating in nature.  Common signs include vomiting, abdominal discomfort, reduces appetite, an absence of stools and vague uneasiness.  While some foreign objects can be passed with the aid of lubricants or laxatives, many can only be removed by endoscopy or surgery.  Radiographs (x-rays) are used to determine the nature and location of the object, and assess the likelihood of passage without surgery.  In most cases, surgical removal is the only effective means of treatment.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Intestinal Obstruction
General Information:
Intestinal obstruction is the partial or complete blockage of the normal passage of food through the intestine.  Obstruction can be due to ingested foreign materials, tumors, part of the intestine telescoping onto itself (intussussception), impaction of fecal material, or paralysis of a portion of the bowel.
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Signs of intestinal obstruction are vomiting, lack of appetite and abdominal pain.  As the condition progresses, weakness and dehydration develop.  Untreated obstruction is usually fatal.
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Bowel obstructions are emergencies.  In many cases, surgical relief of the obstruction is necessary.  Hospitalization is common.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Liver Disease
General Information:
The liver is a large organ located in the most forward part of the abdomen, resting against the muscular partition between the abdominal and chest cavities.  The liver is essential for life and performs over 100 important functions, such as detoxifying poisons and drugs, metabolizing fats, storing carbohydrates, manufacturing bile, plasma proteins and other substances, and assisting in blood clotting.
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Liver disease is often difficult to detect until the illness becomes severe because there is an overabundance of liver tissue and the liver can partially regenerate itself.  The signs of liver disease vary with the degree and location of the damage.  Various blood tests are necessary to discover the extent and nature of liver damage.  In many cases, surgical removal of a small piece of liver tissue (liver biopsy) is the only way to diagnose the type of liver disease.
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Some types of liver disease can only be treated in the hospital, while others are treated on an outpatient basis.  Some liver diseases can be cured, while in others the goal is to treat the disease.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Malabsorption Syndrome
General Information:
Pets with malabsorption syndrome cannot properly absorb digested nutrients from the small intestine into the bloodstream.  Though the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, it may be related to allergy to the protein found in cereal grains.  Some cases of malabsorption may result from chronic intestinal irritation or abnormal lymph drainage of the intestine.
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Pets with malabsorption have loose bowel movements that may be frothy, with a foul odor.  The appetite is usually poor, and weight loss, vomiting and weakness are common.
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Diagnosis of malabsorption is by clinical signs, physical examination, absorption tests and occasionally intestinal biopsy.  The lifetime outlook for patients with malabsorption is quite variable.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Megaesophagus
General Information:
Megaesophagus is a condition in which the esophagus is enlarged and cannot properly propel food from the throat down to the stomach.  Megaesophagus occurs less frequently in cats than in dogs.
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Pneumonia caused by inhaling pieces of food is a common complication of megaesophagus.  While the condition can appear suddenly in mature animals, it is most common in young animals shortly after weaning.  It is inherited in Wire-haired Fox Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers and possibly others.
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Barium x-ray studies are often necessary to diagnose this condition.  Both surgical and medical tharapy may be used in treatment of megaesophagus, but cures are uncommon.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Portal Shunting
General Information:
Portal shunting is an abnormality of the blood vessels of the liver (portal system) that causes some or all of the blood from the intestines to be shunted around (by-pass) the liver and go directly into the general circulation.  A very serious consequence of portal shunting is the increase in blood ammonia levels after eating.  Build-up of blood ammonia seriously impairs brain function and may cause seizures, coma and death.
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Portal shunts can be present at birth (congenital) or develop later in life (acquired).  In all cases, however, portal shunting is a serious disorder.
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Portal shunting is treated surgically and/or medically.  For surgery to be beneficial, the shunt must be in an operable location.  Often shunts cannot be reached.  While some pets have lived for several years with portal shunts, the condition is usually terminal when surgery is not possible.
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Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:


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Ulcerative Colitis of Boxers
General Information:
Ulcerative colitis of Boxers is a chronic (long-standing) disease of the large intestine, most commonly found in Boxers under 2 years of age.  Its cause is unknown.
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Boxers with this disease have repeated and long episodes of bloody diarrhea, and strain to pass small amounts of semi-formed stools that contain and mucus.  Though affected dogs remain in fairly good condition, they usually lose weight.  Vomiting occurs in some dogs.
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Various laboratory tests and x-ray studies are often necessary to diagnose ulcerative colitis of Boxers.  Most of the tests are done to rule out other conditions with similar signs.