Stomach and Intestinal Ulcers in Cats

Gastroduodenal Ulcer in Cats


Gastroduodenal ulcer disease refers to ulcers found in the cat's stomach and/or duodenum, the first section of the small intestine. These uclers often develop because the mucosal lining of the stomach or intestinal lumen (which comes in direct contact with food and is responsible for nutrient absorption) is exposed. There are various factors that may alter these protective mechanisms.


These ulcers are less common in cats as compared to dogs. If you would like to learn more about how the disease affects dogs, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.


Symptoms and Types


There are many symptoms that can develop as a result of gastroduodenal ulcers, of which some may remain undetected until the cat's condition becomes severe. For instance, cats are less likely to show clinical evidence of gastrointestinal bleeding.


The following are some of the more common symptoms:


  • Anemia
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Vomiting (most often seen)
  • Blood in vomiting (hematemesis)
  • Black tarry stool due to presence of digested blood (melena)
  • Abdominal pain (animal may stand in praying position)




Accidental poisoning is one of the leading causes of gastroduodenal ulcer disease. This can be in the form of plant intoxication (e.g., mushrooms, castor beans, sago palm), pesticide or rodenticide toxicity, chemical poisoning (e.g., ethylene glycol, phenol), or heavy metal poisoning (e.g., zinc, iron, arsenic).


Other common causes of gastroduodenal ulcer disease include:


  • Gastrointestinal obstructions (i.e., tumors)
  • Hyperacidity of the stomach
  • Severe trauma (e.g., shock, head injury, burns)
  • Gastrointestinal parasites
  • Infectious diseases (bacterial, fungal, viral)
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Adverse drug reaction
  • Pythiosis (a condition cause by water mold)
  • Helicobacter infection
  • Sustained strenuous exercise




Your veterinarian will take a detailed history and after conducting the physical examination on your cat, routine laboratory testing will be carried out. Complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis can help in diagnosing this problem along with complications, if any.


Blood testing, for example, may reveal anemia in patients with bleeding, whereas in cases with chronic blood loss, iron deficiency anemia may be seen. In some cats, decreased number of platelets (cells important for blood clotting) and white blood cells may be seen. Fecal material is also analyzed to see if blood is present in it or not, while abdominal X-rays and ultrasounds assist in diagnosing any foreign body, mass in the stomach or duodenum.


In case of tumor, thoracic X-ray may help in finding the metastasis of tumor to lungs. Endoscopy, a procedure in which a veterinarian will look directly into the stomach and duodenum using an endoscope, is the method of choice for definitive diagnosis. In addition, endoscopy allows the veterinarian to remove any foreign bodies and take a biopsy. A rigid or flexible tube will also be inserted in the stomach and duodenum in order to take photographs.


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