Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs - Symptoms, Treatment & Diet

Inflammatory bowel disease (also known as IBD) can impact a portion, or all, of your dog's gastrointestinal system. It can also be difficult to diagnose. Here, our Ventura vets will walk you through some of the symptoms of IBD, as well as how to help your dog feel better.

What is IBD in Dogs?

Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic inflammation of your dog's gastrointestinal system. It is caused by the presence of inflammatory cells which can't be linked to other health conditions. 

When these cells reach your pup's stomach and intestinal tract, they cause changes to the tracts lining. This impairs your dog's normal nutrient absorption and the way that food passes through their body.

While the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be similar, the conditions have very different causes. Irritable bowel syndrome is typically due to psychological stress, whereas inflammatory bowel disease stems from a physiological abnormality.

What causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs?

The cause of IBD in dogs still isn't entirely clear. It isn't decided whether or not the classify the condition as a disease itself or as dogs' response to outside conditions. There are a number of factors which can contribute to the appearance of IDB in your dog, which include food allergies, other abnormalities or disorders in their immune system, parasites, genetics, or some kinds of bacteria. 

It can be challenging for vets to determine the underlying cause of IBD in a specific animal, so future care may be based on how your pup responds to various treatments.

Any breed of dog can be diagnosed with IBD, however a number of breeds seem especially susceptible 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:

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

One important thing for pet parents to note is that these symptoms may come and go. If your dog is experiencing symptoms of IBD, contact your veterinarian to book an examination for your pet. While these symptoms can indicate IBD they can also be related to a number of other serious health conditions in dogs.

How is IBD in dogs diagnosed?

If your dog is showing symptoms of IBD, your vet may recommend further testing to help analyze the possible causes of those symptoms. Diagnostics tests can include blood testing, x-rays, ultrasounds, fecal exams and serum chemistry tests. If your vet starts to believe that IBD is the cause of your pet's symptoms, they may also order a biopsy to get a definitive diagnosis.

A biopsy will generally be performed only after other conditions that could be causing your dog’s symptoms such as organ diseases or parasites, are ruled out. Results from the biopsy will determine the type and quantity of inflammatory cells in your pet's intestinal wall and help your vet to determine the best way to treat your pup's IBD.

How is IBD in dogs treated?

At this time there is no cure for IBD, but your veterinarian can prescribe medications and dietary modifications that can help to control it. Treating IBD 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 vet will work with you to make sure that any changes to your dog's routine can be made safely and with minimal disruption to your and their lives. Once this condition is properly managed, your dog may not even need to take their daily medications, only requiring them when the condition flares up.

What should I feed my dog with IBD?

Many dogs with IBD respond well to therapy in the form of dietary changes. While there is no specific food that’s ideal for every case of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, your vet may recommend a diet for your pup that is:

Highly Digestible

  • In dogs (just like people) some foods are more easily digested than others. This is especially if your dog’s GI tract is inflamed. For many dogs with IBD fiber and fat can be more difficult to digest. For dogs diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, food that are high in moisture (canned foods) can be easier to digest than a dry foods.

Contains Minimal Additives

  • Feeding your pup a diet with simple ingredients, without many additives, may help to reduce your pet's IBD symptoms. In some dogs additives have been found to cause an immune reaction so these should be avoided where possible.

A Novel Protein Based Diet

  • Proteins in dairy, chicken, wheat and beef can often lead to an immune system reaction in dogs. 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.

With the proper treatment and a modified diet, the prognosis for dogs diagnosed with IBD is generally positive. Your dog may require their specialized diet for the rest of their life, but their medication can usually be reduced (with proper medical approval, of course) after this condition is brought under control.

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 symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, bring them to your vet immediately. Contact us at Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG) in Ventura to inquire about specialty care and referrals for this difficult condition.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs - Symptoms, Treatment & Diet | Ventura Animal Hospital

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