Helicobacter are bacteria commonly found in the digestive tract of dogs, cats and people. These organisms are unique in their ability to survive and thrive in the harsh acidic environment of the stomach, which is hostile to most other bacteria. While this bacteria is found responsible for gastric infections in humans, its significance in dogs and any correlation to gastric dysfunctions is still largely unclear.
Very few organisms can withstand the extreme acidity of the stomach. The tissue of the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus into which bicarbonate is secreted as an acid neutralizer. The integrity of this mucus lining keeps humans from being burned by their own stomach acid.
Helicobacter survives by using enzymes to create its own layer of protective bicarbonate. This little safety suit allows the bacteria to burrow into the stomach's mucus layer.
The organism is found in a large percentage of normal healthy dogs, vomiting dogs, research laboratory dogs and animal shelter dogs. The organism has been isolated from other species besides dogs and humans, such as cats, pigs, cheetahs, ferrets and non-human primates.
Infection from this bacteria is difficult to eradicate entirely and may last from months to years – even for a lifetime, in some dogs.
Most cases remain without any symptoms at all. In others the following symptoms may be seen: