Source: Press Release
Perhaps the most common illness I see is some sort of acute or chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorder - either vomiting or diarrhea. Fortunately, most cases are treated successfully with symptomatic therapy. Most of the time we don't know what caused such illnesses. Acute cases can be mild (out-patient treatment) or severe requiring hospitalization with IV fluids and medications to treat the symptoms.
While gastrointestinal signs can occur secondary to disorders of other organs e.g. the liver, pancreas, kidneys, this article will focus on primary GI disorders. Most acute episodes of vomiting or diarrhea likely occur because the dog got into something we aren't aware of that acts as an irritant to the GI tract or we feed them something besides dog food/treats that don't agree with their system.
The acute problem we see in both dogs and cats that is very serious and often requires surgery to correct is when the pet ingests a foreign body of some sort. Take a look at this website to see some of the unusual things that dogs and cats ingest.
Another acute, life-threatening condition seen in primarily large to giant breed dogs is Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV). This page gives the details on the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder.
Probably the most chronic GI disorder we see in dogs and cats is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It can only be diagnosed definitively with a biopsy acquired with an endoscope (less invasive) or by surgery. Multiple biopsies are usually attained. With the endoscope, only the upper and lower GI tract can be reached for samples and they are mucosal biopsies (inner lining of bowel). With surgery, all areas of the GI tract can be biopsied and the samples are full thickness (through all layers of the bowel wall). Full thickness biopsies are potentially more revealing to a pathologist who reads the specimens.
On the other hand, if it is important to look at the interior of the bowel, an endoscopic exam may be more beneficial. For example, looking for ulcers in the stomach or lesions or tumors in the colon.
Again, the diagnostic workup and treatment of chronic GI disorders is costly. If diagnosed in fairly young pets, you are likely facing a lifetime of treatment that will cost thousands of dollars. For many GI diseases, prescription or therapeutic diets are needed to help control the symptoms, so be sure to get a pet insurance policy that will cover the costs of these diets.
Gastrointestinal surgery can also cost thousands of dollars, so pet insurance can certainly come in handy when faced with these kinds of expenses.
Check out these claims for GI diseases from Embrace (not an endorsement of company):