Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs: Treatment & Symptoms

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect a portion or the entire gastrointestinal tract of your dog. It can also be challenging to diagnose. Today, our Sharpsburg veterinarians discuss some of the symptoms of IBD in dogs, as well as foods that may make your dog feel better.

What is IBD in Dogs?

Inflammatory bowel disease, also known as IBD, is a chronic inflammation of your dog's gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells that is unrelated to any other possible health conditions.

When these inflammatory cells reach your dog's stomach and intestinal tract, they cause changes to the lining of the intestinal tract, impairing normal food absorption and passage.

While the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be similar, the causes of the two conditions are very different. Irritable bowel syndrome is commonly caused by psychological stress, whereas inflammatory bowel disease is caused by a physiological abnormality.

What causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs?

The cause of IBD in dogs is still unknown, as it is unclear whether the condition should be classified as a disease or as a defensive response to other conditions. Food allergies, an abnormal immune system, bacteria, parasites, and genetics are all factors that may contribute to IBD.

It can be difficult for veterinarians to determine the underlying cause of IBD in a specific animal, so your pup's future care may be determined by how he responds to various treatments.

IBD can affect any breed of dog, but certain breeds appear to be more susceptible than others, including Boxers, Norwegian Lundehunds, English Bulldogs, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Shar Peis, German Shepherds, Basenjis, and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers.

What are the symptoms of IBD in dogs?

If you notice that your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be an indication that your pup is suffering from IBD:

  • Bloody or Ongoing diarrhea
  • Chronic vomiting¬†
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Picky eating
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

One thing pet parents should keep in mind is that these symptoms may come and go. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of IBD, contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination. While these symptoms can be associated with IBD, they can also be associated with a variety of other serious health conditions in dogs.

How is IBD in dogs diagnosed?

If your dog has IBD symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing to help determine the cause of your dog's symptoms. Ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs (x-rays), serum chemistry screen, and fecal exam may be recommended diagnostic tests. If your veterinarian believes that IBD is the most likely cause of your dog's symptoms, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the IBD diagnosis.

A biopsy is usually performed only after other possible causes of your dog's symptoms, such as organ diseases or parasites, have been ruled out. The biopsy results will determine the type and quantity of inflammatory cells in your pet's intestinal wall, assisting your veterinarian in determining the best way to treat your pup's IBD.

How to Treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs?

At this time there is no cure for IBD, but your veterinarian can prescribe medications and dietary modifications that can help to control it. Treatment for IBD in dogs is not an exact science so be prepared for a period of trial-and-error when treatment for your dog's IBD begins. Every dog is different so finding just the right combination of food and medications to manage the disease takes a little time.

Your veterinarian will work closely with you to ensure that any changes to your dog's routine are done safely and effectively. Once the condition is effectively managed, many dogs can discontinue daily medication and may only require it when symptoms flare up.

What should I feed my dog with IBD?

Many dogs with IBD respond well to dietary changes as therapy. While there is no single food that is ideal for every case of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, your veterinarian may recommend a diet that is:

Highly Digestible

  • Some foods are more easily digested in dogs (as they are in humans). This is especially true if your dog's gastrointestinal tract is inflamed. Fiber and fat can be difficult to digest for many dogs with IBD. Foods high in moisture (canned foods) may be easier to digest for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease than dry foods.

Contains Minimal Additives

  • Feeding your dog a diet made up of simple ingredients and low in additives may help to alleviate your pet's IBD symptoms. Some additives have been found to cause an immune reaction in some dogs, so they should be avoided whenever possible.

A Novel Protein Based Diet

  • Proteins found in dairy, chicken, wheat, and beef can frequently trigger an immune response in dogs. Choosing foods free of common food allergens that aggravate IBD in dogs is part of the logical approach to treating the disease. This is because when a dog consumes a protein that he has never consumed before, the immune system is not triggered to react.

The prognosis for dogs with IBD is generally good with a modified diet and treatment. Your dog may need to be on a modified diet for the rest of his life, but once the condition is under control, you may be able to reduce your pup's medications (with veterinary supervision) or only use them when symptoms flare up.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing signs of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, contact our Sharpsburg vets today, to book an examination for your dog.