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Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect your dog's stomach and intestines, and it can be tricky to diagnose. In this blog, our Oakwood vets offer insight into symptoms and treatment of IBD in dogs, as well as foods that may help. 

What is IBD in Dogs?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in dogs happens when a lot of inflammation-causing cells gather in their stomach or intestines. This can affect the lining of their intestines, making it hard for them to digest food properly. 

This can affect the lining of their intestines, making it hard for them to digest food properly. 

IBD can be challenging to diagnose, and dogs may have many of the same symptoms you'll see in other serious illnesses.

Though symptoms may appear similar, IBD is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome, which is caused by psychological stress as opposed to physiological abnormality.

What causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs?

We're not sure what exactly causes IBD in pets. It could be related to the immune system, bacteria, genetics, or food allergies.

Vets sometimes struggle to pinpoint the exact cause in an individual animal, so they might choose treatments based on how the pet responds.

While any dog can be diagnosed with IBD, breeds that seem especially susceptible include Norwegian Lundehunds, Boxers, English Bulldogs, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Shar-Pais, German Shepherds, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers and Basenjis.

What are the symptoms of IBD in dogs?

If you find your dog is suffering from the following symptoms, this may be an indication he's suffering from IBD:

  • Bloody or long-term diarrhea may contain mucus (due to colon inflammation)
  • Chronic vomiting (if inflammation is impacting the upper intestine or stomach)
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite or finicky appetite
  • Depressed or melancholy mood
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Keep in mind that clinical symptoms may come and go, and part or all of the gastrointestinal tract can be impacted.

How is IBD in dogs diagnosed?

If your dog shows the symptoms mentioned, it's crucial to see a vet. These symptoms could point to various conditions, some of which are serious.

Your vet may run tests like ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs, serum chemistry screen, and microscopic fecal examination. Following these, your vet will typically perform a biopsy (the definitive method of diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease).

Biopsies are typically done once other potential causes, such as organ diseases or parasites, are ruled out. After your vet performs the biopsy, he or she will know the type and quantity of inflammatory cells in the intestinal wall.

How is IBD in dogs treated?

There is no cure for IBD, but your vet can prescribe medications and changes in diet to control it. There may be a trial-and-error period involved in finding the right combination of food and medications to manage the disease.

You and your veterinarian will need to work closely so that any required changes in routine can be made safely. One bright spot is that some dogs are eventually able to stop taking medicine daily and may need it only when they have bad episodes.

What should I feed my dog with IBD?

Many dogs will respond well to dietary therapy. While there is no specific food that's ideal for every case of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, we recommend diets with:

Highly Digestible, Low-Residue Foods

Dogs more easily digest some food than others. Especially if your dog's GI tract is inflamed, fiber and fat will likely be more difficult to digest. Food that's high in moisture will probably be easier to digest than a dry diet.

Minimal Additives

Food that's very simple, without many additives, is likely best. Additives that can potentially cause an immune reaction should be avoided.

Novel Protein Diet

Proteins in dairy, chicken, wheat, and beef have been found to be most likely to cause reactions in dogs with IBD, which may be an immune system reaction to food.

Part of the logical approach to treating IBD in dogs is choosing foods without common food allergens that will aggravate the disease. This is because when a dog eats a protein he's never had before, the immune system won't be triggered to react.

How long can dogs live with IBD?

The prognosis is generally good for dogs with a confirmed diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease that's treated effectively. Many dogs will remain on their prescribed medications or food for life, though it may be possible to reduce the dose of medications over time, with supervision from your vet.

Depending on your dog's individual circumstances, he or she may be able to stop drug therapy. While most dogs do well for many years, others require changes in therapy or treatment every few months. Unfortunately, some dogs will not respond to treatment.

Because some severe forms of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs can eventually progress to intestinal cancer, it's important to have IBD diagnosed, managed, and closely monitored as soon - and as much - as possible.

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.

Have you noticed symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease in your dog?  Contact our Oakwood to book an appointment. 

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