Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs

Dogs with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) feel a lot of discomfort and pain, but there is no known cure for this condition yet. At Stanwood, our veterinarians have thoroughly discussed what causes IBD in dogs, its signs, and the available treatment options.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

When a dog's stomach and/or intestine has an abnormally large amount of inflammatory cells, it can lead to a condition called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

These cells bring about changes in the lining of the dog's intestinal tract, making it difficult for the body to absorb and pass food properly. Diagnosing IBD can be tricky, as dogs may exhibit symptoms similar to those seen in other serious illnesses.

It's important to note that IBD is distinct from irritable bowel syndrome, which is caused by psychological stress rather than physical abnormality.

Causes of IBD in Dogs

The causes of IBD are still unclear, as it is yet to be determined whether it is a disease or a defensive response to other conditions in the body. Possible contributing factors may include an abnormal immune system, bacteria, parasites, genetics, or food allergies.

Determining the underlying cause of the disease in a specific animal can be challenging for veterinarians, which is why future care may depend on how your dog responds to different treatments.

Although any dog can develop IBD, certain breeds such as Norwegian Lundehunds, Boxers, English Bulldogs, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Shar-Pais, German Shepherds, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, and Basenjis seem to be particularly susceptible.

Signs 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
  • Chronic vomiting 
  • Constipation
  • Lack of 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.

Diagnosing IBD in Dogs

If your furry friend is showing any of the symptoms mentioned above, scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian is highly recommended. These symptoms can indicate various conditions or illnesses, some of which can be serious. Hence, it is crucial to have your dog evaluated and tested for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

In order to identify the root cause, your vet may conduct several diagnostic tests such as ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs, serum chemistry screen, and microscopic fecal examination. Biopsy, which is the definitive method of diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease, may also be performed by your vet after ruling out other potential causes such as organ diseases or parasites. Once the biopsy is done, your vet can determine the type and quantity of inflammatory cells present in your dog's intestinal wall.

Treating IBD in Dogs

Although there is no cure for IBD, your veterinarian can prescribe medications and suggest changes in your dog's diet to manage the disease. Finding the right combination of food and medications may involve a trial-and-error period, but you and your vet can work together closely to make any necessary adjustments to your dog's routine safely. It is encouraging to note that some dogs can eventually stop taking medicine on a daily basis and may only need it during bad episodes.

Diet for a Dog With IBD

Dietary therapy can be beneficial for many dogs. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for treating inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, we suggest feeding them diets that contain:

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

It's best to opt for uncomplicated food with minimal additives to avoid any potential immune reactions caused by additives.

Novel Protein Diet

Dogs with IBD are likely to experience adverse reactions to proteins found in dairy, chicken, wheat, and beef. Such reactions may be linked to an immune system response to food. To treat IBD in dogs, choosing foods that do not contain common allergens is important, which could worsen the disease. When a dog consumes a novel protein, there is less chance of triggering an immune system reaction.

How Long Dogs Can Live With IBD

The prognosis is generally positive if your dog has been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and has received effective treatment. Your dog may require lifelong medication or a specific diet, but under a veterinarian's supervision, the medication dosage can be reduced over time.

Depending on your dog's condition, they may be able to stop drug therapy altogether. However, some dogs may require changes in treatment every few months, and unfortunately, some may not respond to treatment at all.

It's crucial to have IBD diagnosed, managed, and consistently monitored as severe cases can eventually lead to intestinal cancer. Therefore, managing and treating IBD as soon and as effectively as possible is best.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Is your dog showing signs of inflammatory bowel disease? Contact Our Stanwood Vets to have your pup diagnosed and treated.