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Reduced Activity of the Stomach in Dogs

Gastric Stasis in Dogs

Gastric stasis in dogs refers to a condition where the normal functioning of the stomach is disrupted, resulting in reduced contractions or even a complete halt in activity. This condition leads to bloating and the accumulation of gas in the stomach, causing discomfort for the animal. Various factors can contribute to interruptions in the normal operation of a dog’s stomach.

Symptoms and Types

The primary indications of stasis in dogs include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Distended abdomen (bloating)
  • Audible stomach rumbling (borborygmi)
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss


When the movement (motility) of the stomach slows down or halts, several factors need consideration as potential causes. While issues directly affecting the stomach’s ability to contract are rare contributors to stasis, they do occur. Such problems are infrequent in young animals.

The manifestations of stasis typically stem from an underlying issue that disrupts the stomach’s functionality. These issues may comprise:

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Stomach cancer
  • Medications
  • Stress, pain, or injury
  • Stomach or intestinal infections (gastritis; enteritis)
  • Obstructions or blockages in the stomach or intestine
  • Previous intestinal or stomach surgeries
  • Metabolic disorders (anemia, hypothyroidism, acidosis)
  • Stomach distention and twisting (gastric dilatation-volvulus syndrome or GDV)
  • Enlarged esophagus (megaesophagus)


Your vet will conduct standard tests to eliminate potential causes of vomiting. Routine assessments include a physical examination, complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry profile, urinalysis, fecal examination, and X-rays. If needed, a specialized imaging method known as a contrast study may be employed. This procedure involves administering liquid material (barium) orally to the dog, which appears on X-rays. Films are captured at various intervals to track the barium’s passage through the body.

Advanced tests might be required if standard and less invasive examinations fail to identify the issue. In certain instances, a flexible scope equipped with a camera (endoscope) may be employed to inspect the stomach and intestine. This examination necessitates anesthesia for the animal. Biopsy samples may be obtained through the scope to investigate further. These samples aid in ruling out serious stomach conditions like cancer.


The majority of patients can be managed with dietary adjustments at home. Typically, low-fat and low-fiber foods in a semi-liquid or liquid form are prescribed. Feedings should be frequent and in small portions. For many cases of stomach motility disorders, dietary modifications alone suffice to address the issue. However, in instances involving severe vomiting and dehydration, dogs may require hospitalization for intravenous (IV) administration of fluids and electrolytes. Depending on the underlying condition, surgical intervention may be necessary to rectify the problem (e.g., GDV or cancer).

Drug therapy can aid in increasing muscle contractions and facilitating the movement of materials out of the stomach in animals with chronic issues. The primary medications utilized in stasis treatment are metoclopramide and cisapride. Metoclopramide, an oral medication with anti-vomiting properties, is administered 30 to 45 minutes before feeding. While this medication can induce reversible side effects such as behavioral changes, depression, or hyperactivity.

Cisapride, also given orally approximately 30 minutes prior to meals, stimulates motility and is deemed more effective than metoclopramide. Unlike metoclopramide, cisapride doesn’t typically cause nervous system side effects, though it may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and depression. Despite limitations in human usage due to side effects, veterinarians can acquire cisapride from specialized pharmacies that compound the drug.

Other medications utilized to promote gastric emptying and stimulate motility in dogs may include erythromycin, clarithromycin, domperidone, ranitidine, and nizatidine.

Living and Management

Dogs without an underlying condition causing stomach stasis typically exhibit positive responses to dietary and drug therapies. However, those unresponsive to treatment should undergo further examination to assess potential obstruction. In certain instances, affected dogs may require ongoing medication and dietary adjustments for the long term.

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