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Diet for Dogs With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

If your dog has inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it can impact part or all of the gastrointestinal tract. The condition can also be difficult to diagnose. In this post, our Murfreesboro vets share some of the symptoms of IBD in dogs and what to feed them.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Sometimes a dog's gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) becomes inflamed. This is caused by inflammatory cells that are not associated with another underlying health condition.

When inflammatory cells enter your dog's stomach and GI tract, the intestinal lining changes, impairing normal food absorption and passage.

IBD is sometimes confused with IBS. Though the two conditions share symptoms, they have very different causes. While a physical abnormality is the primary cause of inflammatory bowel disease, psychological stress is typically the cause of irritable bowel syndrome.

What causes IBD in dogs?

It is unclear what causes inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. It is unclear whether the condition is a defensive response to other conditions or a disease in and of itself. Parasites, an abnormal immune system, bacteria, genetics, and food allergies may all play a role in developing IBD.

Vets may struggle to diagnose the underlying cause of your dog's IBD, necessitating trial-and-error treatments as your vet monitors your pet's responses to various treatments.

While any dog breed can develop IBD, English Bulldogs, Basenjis, Shar Peis, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Irish Setters, Norwegian Lundehunds, and Boxers appear to be particularly susceptible.

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
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Picky eating
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

Pet parents should be aware that symptoms of IBD can come and go and vary in severity. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of IBD, contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination for your pet. While these symptoms can indicate IBD, they can also be associated with a variety of other serious health issues in dogs.

How is IBD diagnosed in dogs?

If your dog is experiencing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, your veterinarian might recommend diagnostic testing to help determine the underlying cause of your pup's symptoms. Ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs (x-rays), serum chemistry screen, and fecal exam are some of the most common tests used in diagnosing IBD in dogs. If your veterinarian concludes that IBD is the most likely cause of your dog's symptoms a biopsy may be performed in order to provide a definitive 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.

How is IBD in dogs treated?

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 IBD respond well to diet changes. Although there is no specific food ideal for inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, your vet may recommend one of the following diets to help:

Highly Digestible

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.

Minimal Additives

Feeding your furry friend a diet with simple ingredients and minimal additives may help to reduce your dog's IBD symptoms. In some dogs, additives have been found to cause an immune reaction so these should be avoided wherever possible.

A Novel Protein Based Diet

Proteins in dairy, chicken, wheat, and beef can occasionally cause an immune system reaction in dogs. Choosing foods free of common food allergens that can 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 it has never encountered before, the immune system will not be triggered to respond.

The prognosis for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease is generally favorable when they follow a modified diet and receive treatment. Your dog may need to be on a modified diet for the rest of his life, but once the IBD is successfully managed, you may be able to reduce your pet's medications (with veterinary supervision) or use them only 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.
Do you think your dog may be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease? Contact our Murfreesboro vets to schedule an examination for your pooch. Our compassionate and friendly vets are here to help your furry friend feel better. 

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