Inflammatory bowel disease can affect your dog's entire gastrointestinal tract or just a portion of it. It can be difficult to diagnose as well. Our Knightdale veterinarians provide information on the symptoms and treatment of IBD in dogs, as well as foods that may help.
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs?
When an unusually high number of inflammatory cells end up in a dog’s stomach and/or intestine, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can become an issue.
These cells cause changes in the lining of your dog’s intestinal tract, which impair the normal absorption and passing of food.
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?
It’s unclear what causes IBD, as it’s not decided whether to classify it as a disease or a defensive response to other conditions in the body. Contributing factors may include an abnormal immune system, bacteria, parasites, genetics, or food allergies.
Vets can often have difficulty determining the disease’s underlying cause in a specific animal, so future care may be based on how your dog responds to different treatments.
While any dog can be diagnosed with IBD, Norwegian Lundehunds, Boxers, English Bulldogs, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Shar-Pais, German Shepherds, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, and Basenjis appear to be particularly susceptible.
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)
- Lack of appetite or finicky appetite
- Depressed or melancholy mood
- 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 is displaying the symptoms above, book an appointment with your veterinarian. Because these symptoms can indicate many conditions or illnesses (including serious ones) it’s important to have your dog evaluated and tested.
Ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs, serum chemistry screen, and microscopic fecal examination are examples of these tests. Following that, your veterinarian will most likely perform a biopsy (the definitive method of diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease).
Biopsies are usually performed only after other conditions that could be causing your dog’s symptoms 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 IBD 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 collaborate closely in order to make any necessary changes to your routine safely. One silver lining is that some dogs are eventually able to stop taking medicine on a daily basis and may only require it during severe 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
Some foods are easier for dogs to digest than others. Fiber and fat will be more difficult to digest, especially if your dog's GI tract is inflamed. Food with high moisture content is likely to be easier to digest than food with low moisture content.
Food that’s very simple, without any 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.
Choosing foods that are free of common food allergens that aggravate IBD in dogs is part of the logical approach to treating the disease. This is because a dog's immune system will not be triggered to react if he eats a protein he's never had before.
How long can dogs live with IBD?
The prognosis is generally good for dogs with a confirmed diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease that is treated effectively. Many dogs will be on their prescribed medications or food for the rest of their lives, though it may be possible to gradually reduce the dose of medications with the help of your veterinarian.
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.