Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) in dogs, important things you need to know

Irritable bowel disease (IBD) in dogs is basically inflammation in the lining of the bowels. It is an overgrowth of inflammatory cells in the dogs stomach and or intestines which inhibits the normal uptake of nutrients and passage of food in the bowels. So, in essence IBD is not a disease at all, it is a reaction to chronic irritation to the intestinal lining.

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What are the symptoms of IBD

The most common symptom of IBD is chronic, large bowel diarrhea (read about the differences between large vs small bowel diarrhea here), constipation and feces with a lot of mucus. Since, the symptoms usually reoccur, IBD is often considered a chronic illness. Some of the other common symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting (especially if the IBS is affecting the dogs stomach or upper intestines)
  • lethargy
  • depression
  • sore abdomen
  • bloating
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • discomfort when lying on abdomen
  • straining to pass stool (due to constipation)

What is the cause of IBD?

Similar to many GI issues in dogs, the cause of the symptoms is due to the inflammation of the digestive tract walls, but why the inflammation occurs is not always clear and could be due to several factors. The list below details some of the possible causes

  • dietary intolerances
  • allergies
  • genetics
  • overeating
  • diet
  • parasites
  • immune system disfunction
  • dietary fiber deficiency
  • bacterial infection & antibiotics
  • stomach obstruction

How is IBD Diagnosed?

As always, you want to first see your veterinarian to rule out other illnesses since the symptoms of IBD in dogs can present like many other issues such as pancreatitis. Your veterinarian will want to run some tests to make sure you have a proper diagnosis.

Your vet will probably want to run some tests to rule out other causes of your pets symptoms. The test will usually consist of radiographs, blood work, a microscopic fecal exam and possible ultrasounds. To obtain a definitive diagnosis your veterinarian will have to do a biopsy.

How is IBD Treated?

Since IBD is inflammation associated with many possible causes the treatment is to identify the primary source and eliminate or reduce your pets exposure.

Your vet will most likely prescribe medication to help alleviate the gut inflammation and ease your pets pain or other symptoms associated with IBS. These usually include pain meds if needed, antiemetics, antispasmodics and anti-diarrhea drugs. Treatment also depends largely on the types of inflammatory cells present.

You will also have to change your dogs diet to help manage recurring bouts of IBD. Click here to read more about suggested dietary changes targeted for IBD.

In addition, you will want to ensure that your pet always has access to fresh, clean (preferably bottled) water.

Common medications prescribed include
  • Long term antibiotics like a tetracycline
  • Antimicrobials like metronidazole
  • Vitamin B12 supplements
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like steroids
  • Pre- and Probiotics
  • Antinausea medicines (anti-diarrheal and anti-emetic)

It is important to note that no two treatments are alike and your vet may opt to do a trial of different combinations of medications, foods, and supplements. It will take time to get your dogs IBD under control, but it is very possible with consistency and determination

What is the life expectancy of dogs with IBD?

As long as you follow the plan developed by your veterinarian and your pup continues to react positively to it, your dog should live a life span that is normal for his or her breed. Problems arise when the treatments are ineffective and your dog is not responding to them, the prognosis is guarded in these cases. However, most dogs are able to live long, healthy lives with long-term treatment.

Does your dog have IBD? How are you treating it?

Want to know the differences between IBS & IBD read here!

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