Stomach Infection with Helicobacter in Dogs

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Last updated on
4 min read

Key takeaways

Helicobacter is a type of bacteria that can cause stomach infections in dogs.

  • The precise pathogenic nature of the infection is currently unknown, and the presence of Helicobacter bacteria in the animal's stomach is not definitely linked to gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Many dogs are asymptomatic, but other symptoms thought to be caused by the bacteria are vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and abdominal pain
  • Diagnosis is based on a combination of blood tests, fecal tests, bacterial culture, endoscopy and biopsy
  • Typical treatment for stomach infections caused by Helicobacter spp. involve a combination of two antibiotics and one acid suppressant (triple therapy)
  • There is a high rate of recurrence, and it is not well understood whether this is due to reinfection or failure of initial treatment
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A closer look: Stomach Infection with Helicobacter in Dogs

Over 30 types of bacteria belonging to the Helicobacter spp. have been identified.

The precise mechanism of transmission has yet to be fully understood but is believed to occur via oral-oral and fecal-oral routes. Cross-species infections are thought to be possible but more research is needed.

Most Helicobacter infections are not medical emergencies as they do not cause life-threatening symptoms. Medical attention is advised as symptoms of Helicobacter infections are common to a number of other, potentially more serious conditions.

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Risk factors

Helicobacter infection is very common in dogs. Some studies show that 100% of dogs may have Helicobacter present in their stomach, with no symptoms of infection or gastrointestinal upset.

Studies suggest that there could be a risk of Helicobacter transmission from pets to humans, but more research is needed.

The majority of animals tend not to develop symptoms, but a number of risk factors are linked to symptomatic infections, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Underlying conditions such as (IBD)
  • Immune-related diseases

Possible causes

Helicobacter infection in dogs is caused by the Helicobacter bacteria. Helicobacter bacteria can be found in both healthy dogs and those showing signs of stomach upset.

Once the bacteria enter the animal's stomach, it binds to the stomach mucus lining, creating conditions for stomach ulcers to develop, which may or may not progress into symptomatic illness.

Main symptoms

Most dogs with Helicobacter infection show no symptoms.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosis of Helicobacter infection is complex as the presence of the Helicobacter bacteria in the stomach does not mean that gastrointestinal symptoms are related to the infection. Up to 100% of healthy dogs test positive for Helicobacter. Dogs presenting with symptoms of Helicobacter infection generally undergo the following diagnostics:

  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsy of the stomach lining
  • Bacterial culture
  • Blood test
  • Urinalysis
  • Diagnostic imaging

Steps to Recovery

Treatment of Helicobacter is not straightforward, as the role of the bacteria in dog gastritis and vomiting is not completely understood. Typical treatment for Helicobacter infections in cats, dogs, and humans is known as triple or combination therapy, which involves the use of two antibiotics and one acid suppressant. Dogs generally receive a two to three-week course of therapy.

The majority of dogs infected with Helicobacter bacteria do not develop symptoms. Dogs with symptoms generally show signs of improvement within three weeks of starting triple therapy. The rate of recurrence is high.


The precise mechanisms of infection are currently unknown; the best way to prevent Helicobacter infections is to avoid overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, and follow general hygiene measures.

Is Stomach Infection with Helicobacter in Dogs common?

Helicobacter bacteria are commonly found in the stomach of both healthy and symptomatic pets.

Typical Treatment

  • Antibiotics
  • Acid suppressant


Shauna Blois, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM-SAIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Kenneth W. Simpson, BVM&S, PhD, MRCVS, DACVIM, DECVIM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Michael S. Leib, DVM, MS, DACVIM - Writing for dvm360®

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