Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Gastritis: helicobacter

Contributor(s): Ken Harkin, Rance Sellon, James Simpson, Mellora Sharman


  • Still controversy as to whether Helicobacter causes disease in domestic carnivores.
  • Cause: spiral bacteria in the genus Helicobacter - Helicobacter felis Helicobacter sppHelicobacter bizzozeroniiHelicobacter salomonisHelicobacter heilmannii believed to be non-pathogenic form.
  • Signs: most infected animals are asymptomatic, however helicobacters have been associated with chronic vomiting, abdominal pain, pica, and anorexia.
  • Diagnosis: brush cytology, histological examination, urease test.
  • Treatment: antibiotics with or without H2 blocker or proton pump inhibitor.
  • Prognosis: reasonable with appropriate therapy - may relapse.



  • Helicobacter spp may → chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis, adenocarcinoma (not proven) in dogs. However, organisms are also very commonly found in clinically healthy dogs.
  • Clinical presentation might therefore be unrelated to the presence of helicobacters, and instead result from other causes of chronic vomiting. 
  • Further studies are required to confirm clinical importance of Helicobacter spp.


  • Helicobacter felis Helicobacter spp appears to be potentially more pathogenic but it is not clear if other Helicobacter species contribute to clinical disease. Helicobacter heilmannii may be non-pathogenic and is isolated from many normal dogs.
  • It is common for dogs to be infected by multiple different Helicobacter spp or different strains of the same Helicobacter spp, particularly H. heilmannii.
  • Previous studies suggest 70-100% of pet dogs harbor Helicobacter spp, depending upon the method of detection used, often with no clinical or histopathologic evidence of gastritis.
  • Organisms colonize parietal (gastric acid-secreting) cells and gastric mucosa → produce urease to convert urea to ammonia and produce alkaline micro-environment.
  • Potentially break down in gastric mucosal barrier.
  • Potentially induces secondary gastritis.
  • Gastritis becomes more advanced → atrophic gastritis.
  • Might be associate with lymphoid follicular hyperplasia and/or the development of MALT lymphoma. This remains controversial in canines.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Sharman M J, Bacci B, Simpson K, Mansfield C S (2016) Comparison of in vivo confocal endomicroscopy with other diagnostic modalities to detect intracellular helicobacters. Vet J 213, 78-83 PubMed.
  • Harbour S, Sutton P (2008) Immunogenicity and pathogenicity of Helicobacter infections of veterinary animals. Vet Immunol Immunopathol 122, 191-203 PubMed.
  • Leib M S, Duncan R B, Ward D L (2007) Triple antimicrobial therapy and acid suppression in dogs with chronic vomiting and gastric Helicobacter spp. JVIM 21, 1185-1192 PubMed.
  • Simpson J (2005) Helicobacter infection in dogs and cats: to treat or not to treat? In Practice 27, 204-207 VetMedResource.
  • Simpson K W et al (1999) Gastric function in dogs with naturally acquired gastric Helicobacter spp. infection. J Vet Int Med 13 (6), 507-15 PubMed.
  • Jenkins C & Bassett J R (1997) Helicobacter infection. Comp Cont Ed Prac Vet 19 (3), 267-279 VetMedResource.
  • Lecoindre P, Chevallier M, Peyrol S, Boude M, Ferrero R L & Labigne A (1997) Pathogenic role of gastric Helicobacter sp in domestic carnivores. Vet Res 28 (3), 201-215 PubMed.
  • Happonen I, Saari S, Castren L, Tyni O, Hanninen M L & Westermarck E (1996) Comparison of diagnostic methods for detecting gastric Helicobacter-like organisms in dogs and cats. J Comp Path 115 (2), 117-127 PubMed.
  • Beyer et al (1993) Occurrence of spiral-shaped bacteria in gastric biopsies in dogs and cats. Vet Rec 133 (1), 18-19 PubMed.
  • Hills B A (1993) Gastric mucosal barrier: evidence for Helicobacter pylori infesting gastric surfactant and deriving protection from it. Gut 34 (5), 588-93 PubMed.
  • Eaton et al (1992) Gastritis associated with gastric bacteria in asymptomatic - random source of dogs. Vet Pathol 29, 454.
  • Lee A, Krakowka S, Fox J G et al (1992) Role of Helicobacter felis in chronic canine gastritis. Vet Pathol 29 (6), 487-491 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Sharman M J (2015) Helicobacter: an exploration of therapeutics, homeostatic mechanisms and the application of the novel diagnostic technique, confocal endomicroscopy. University of Melbourne, PhD Thesis.
  • Tennant B (1996) Scientific information document on Helicobacter pylori. JSAP 37, 609-610.
  • Fox J G (1995) Helicobacter-associated gastric disease in ferrets, dogs and cats. In: Current Veterinary Therapy X. Philadelphia: W B Saunders. pp 720-723.