Helicobacter-like organisms are frequently observed in the stomach of dogs but the relationship between these microorganisms and gastric pathology has not been clearly established. Different species of helicobacters are known to be present in the canine stomach but their specific prevalence in naturally infected dogs is unknown. The aims of this study were to isolate and characterize helicobacters in canine gastric biopsies, to compare the commonly used tests for the identification of Helicobacter spp. and to determine the occurrence of these species in dogs. Twenty-three out of 25 dogs (92%) were positive for Helicobacter-like organisms in cytological screening. Culture was successful from biopsies of 5/25 dogs. The isolates were analyzed by electron microscopy, biochemical and physiological tests, whole protein analysis and 16S rDNA sequencing. Helicobacter felis was identified in four samples and Helicobacter bizzozeronii in one sample. Only the whole protein analysis in combination with electron microscopy was able to clearly discriminate the two species. Compared to the high prevalence of Helicobacter-like organisms, the occurrence of H. felis and H. bizzozeronii, was low (17 and 4%, respectively). No Flexispira rappini-like organisms or H. salomonis were detected. Electron microscopy revealed that H. bizzozeronii-like microorganisms were present in three additional biopsies where we were unable to culture any Helicobacter-like organisms. These observations indicate that in the stomach of dogs not all helicobacters are culturable. The unculturable bacteria appeared to be the prevalent ones and may represent different spiral organisms. The presence of distinct helicobacters with different characteristics can reflect different roles in the pathogenesis of canine gastric disease.