It is known that distension of the rectum induces gastric hypomotility and delays gastric emptying. Its effect on gastrointestinal myoelectrical activity has not been well studied, however. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of rectal distension on gastrointestinal myoelectrical activity in dogs. Six hound dogs implanted with electrodes on the serosa of the stomach and proximal jejunum were studied. The protocol consisted of a 30-min baseline recording and another 30-min recording during rectal distension. Gastric myoelectrical activity was severely impaired by rectal distension. The dominant power was significantly decreased from -2.79 +/- 0.52 dB at baseline to -4.84 +/- 1.26 dB during distension (P < 0.05). The percentage of normal 4-6 cycles per minute gastric slow waves was reduced from 95.08 +/- 1.11% to 83.63 +/- 4.00% (P < 0.02), and the percentage of tachygastria was increased during distension (0.33 +/- 0.19% vs 6.03 +/- 1.27%, P < 0.02). The instability coefficient of the dominant frequency was significantly increased (0.134 +/- 0.012 vs 0.326 +/- 0.074, P < 0.05). The percentage of slow wave coupling was reduced from 93.99 +/- 0.76% to 73.43 +/- 2.07% (P < 0.00003). In the small bowel, only the instability coefficient of dominant frequency showed a significant increase during distension. Other parameters were not affected by rectal distension. We conclude that rectal distension severely impairs gastric myoelectrical activity. The induced gastric dysrhythmia and reduced slow wave amplitude and coupling may be the underlying pathophysiology of gastric hypomotility and delayed gastric emptying observed during rectal distension.