What is inflammatory bowel disease?
IBD or Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic inflammation of your dog's gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) that is characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells that are not associated with another underlying health condition.
Once these inflammatory cells reach your dog's stomach and GI tract they change the intestinal tract's lining which impairs the normal absorption and passing of food.
It is easy to confuse inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which has similar symptoms, however, these conditions have very different causes. Irritable bowel syndrome is most often due to psychological stress, whereas inflammatory bowel disease stems from a physical abnormality.
What causes IBD in dogs?
The cause of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs is unclear. Whether this condition is a disease or a defensive response to other conditions is yet to be settled. Some factors that may contribute to IBD include genetics, food allergies, an abnormal immune system, bacteria, and parasites.
It is often challenging for vets to diagnose the underlying cause of IBD in a specific pet, meaning that treatment can be a case of trial and error as your vet monitors your pet's responses to various treatments.
IBD can affect any breed of dog, but some appear to be more susceptible than others, including Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Boxers, Norwegian Lundehunds, English Bulldogs, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Shar Peis, German Shepherds, and Basenjis.
What are the signs of IBD in dogs?
If you notice that your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be an indication that your pooch is suffering from inflammatory bowel disease:
- Chronic vomiting
- Bloody or Chronic diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Picky eating
Pet parents should note that symptoms of IBD can come and go, and vary in severity. If your dog is experiencing symptoms of IBD, contact your veterinarian to book an examination for your furry friend. While these symptoms can point to IBD they can also be associated with a number of other serious health conditions in dogs.
How is IBD diagnosed in dogs?
If your dog has inflammatory bowel disease symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing to help determine the underlying cause of your pup's symptoms. Some of the most common tests used to diagnose IBD in dogs are ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs (x-rays), serum chemistry screen, and fecal exam. If your veterinarian determines that IBD is the most likely cause of your dog's symptoms, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
A biopsy will typically only be performed after other conditions that could be causing your dog’s symptoms (such as organ diseases or parasites), have been ruled out. Results from your pup's biopsy will establish the type and quantity of inflammatory cells in your dog's intestinal wall and help your vet to determine the best treatment for your pet.
What is the treatment for IBD in dogs?
Currently, there is no cure for IBD in dogs but your vet will likely prescribe medications and dietary modifications to help manage the condition. Treating IBD is definitely not an exact science so be prepared for a potentially lengthy period of trial-and-error when treatment for your dog's inflammatory bowel disease first begins. Just like people, every dog is different so finding just the right combination of food and medications to manage your pup's IBD is likely to take some time.
Your veterinarian will work closely with you to ensure that the changes to your dog's routine can be made safely and offer your dog the best possible results. Once the condition is well under control many dogs are able to stop taking medicine on a daily basis and may only need it when they experience symptom flare-ups.
What food should I give my dog with IBD?
Many dogs with inflammatory bowel disease respond well to dietary changes. Although there is no specific food that’s ideal for every case of inflammatory bowel disease, your vet may recommend one of the following diets for your pup:
- In dogs and people alike, some foods are more easily digested than others particularly if your dog’s GI tract is inflamed. Fiber and fat can be more difficult for dogs with IBD to digest. Whereas foods that are high in moisture (canned foods) may be easier for your pup to digest.
- Feeding your dog a diet with simple ingredients and a few additives may help to alleviate his IBD symptoms. Some additives have been found to cause an immune reaction in some dogs, so they should be avoided whenever possible.
A Novel Protein-Based Diet
- Proteins found in dairy, chicken, wheat, and beef can occasionally cause an immune system reaction in dogs. Choosing foods free of common food allergens that could aggravate your dog's inflammatory bowel disease may be part of the treatment plan. The logic is that if a dog consumes a protein that they have never consumed before, the immune system will not be triggered to respond.
The prognosis for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease is generally good with a modified diet and treatment. Your dog may need to follow a modified diet for the rest of his life, but once the IBD is under control, you may be able to reduce your pet's medications (with veterinary supervision) or only use them when symptoms flare up.
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.