While being difficult to diagnose, Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect the entirety of your dog's gastrointestinal tract. Today, our Montecito vets discuss what IBD in dogs is and how inflammatory bowel disease is diagnosed and treated.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs
Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is a chronic inflammation of your dog's gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells which cannot be linked to other possible health conditions.
When these inflammatory cells reach your dog's stomach and intestinal tract they cause changes to the intestinal tract's lining which impair the normal absorption and passing of food.
While the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be similar, the conditions have very different causes. Irritable bowel syndrome is typically due to psychological stress, whereas inflammatory bowel disease stems from a physiological abnormality.
Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs?
The cause of IBD in dogs is still unclear, as it’s not decided whether to classify the condition as a disease or as a defensive response to other conditions. Some factors that may contribute to IBD include food allergies, an abnormal immune system, bacteria, parasites, and genetics.
It can be challenging for vets to determine the underlying cause of IBD in a specific animal, so future care may be based on how your pup responds to various treatments.
Any breed of dog can be diagnosed with IBD, however, a number of breeds seem especially susceptible including Boxers, Norwegian Lundehunds, English Bulldogs, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Shar Peis, German Shepherds, Basenjis, and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers.
Common symptoms of IBD in dogs?
If you notice that your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be an indication that your pup is suffering from IBD:
- Bloody or Ongoing diarrhea
- Chronic vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Picky eating
- Weight loss
One important thing for pet parents to note is that these symptoms may come and go. If your dog is experiencing symptoms of IBD, contact your veterinarian to book an examination for your pet. While these symptoms can indicate IBD they can also be related to a number of other serious health conditions in dogs.
Diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease in dogs
If your dog is experiencing symptoms of IBD, your vet may recommend diagnostic testing to help determine the cause of your dog's symptoms. Recommended diagnostic tests could include ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs (x-rays), serum chemistry screen and fecal exam. If your vet believes that IBD is the most likely cause of your dog's symptoms a biopsy may be performed in order to provide a definitive IBD diagnosis.
A biopsy will generally be performed only after other conditions that could be causing your dog’s symptoms such as organ diseases or parasites, are ruled out. Results from the biopsy will determine the type and quantity of inflammatory cells in your pet's intestinal wall and help your vet to determine the best way to treat your pup's IBD.
Treatment of IBD in dogs
At this time there is no cure for IBD, but your veterinarian can prescribe medications and dietary modifications that can help to control it. Treating IBD is not an exact science so be prepared for a period of trial-and-error when treatment for your dog's IBD begins. Every dog is different so finding just the right combination of food and medications to manage the disease takes a little time.
Your vet 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 managed effectively, many dogs are eventually able to stop taking medicine daily and may need it only when symptoms flare up.
What diet should a dog with IBD follow?
Many dogs with IBD respond well to therapy in the form of dietary changes. While there is no specific food that’s ideal for every case of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, your vet may recommend a diet for your pup that is:
Highly Digestible Diet
- In dogs (just like people) some foods are more easily digested than others. This is especially if your dog’s GI tract is inflamed. For many dogs with IBD fiber and fat can be more difficult to digest. For dogs diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, food that are high in moisture (canned foods) can be easier to digest than dry foods.
Avoid Food Additives
- Feeding your pup a diet with simple ingredients, without many additives, may help to reduce your pet's IBD symptoms. In some dogs, additives have been found to cause an immune reaction so these should be avoided where possible.
Aim for a Protein-Based Diet
- Proteins in dairy, chicken, wheat and beef can often lead to an immune system reaction in dogs. Part of the logical approach to treating IBD in dogs is choosing foods without common food allergens that will aggravate the disease. This is because when a dog eats a protein he’s never had before, the immune system won’t be triggered to react.
With a modified diet and treatment, the prognosis for dogs with IBD is generally good. Your dog may need to remain on a modified diet for life, but once the condition is being managed successfully you may be able to reduce your pup's medications (with veterinary supervision), or only use meds 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.