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What is inflammatory bowel disease in dogs?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can impact part or all of your dog's gastrointestinal tract. It can also be difficult to diagnose. Today, our Norristown vets share some of the symptoms of IBD in dogs, as well as foods that may help your pup feel better. 

What is 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) are similar, their causes are very different. Irritable bowel syndrome is usually caused by psychological stress, whereas inflammatory bowel disease is caused by a physiological defect.

What causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs?

The cause of IBD in dogs is still unknown, as it is unclear whether the condition should be classified as a disease or as a defensive response to other conditions. Food allergies, an abnormal immune system, bacteria, parasites, and genetics are all factors that may contribute to IBD.

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.

What are the 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 
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Picky eating
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

One thing pet owners should keep in mind is that these symptoms may come and go. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of IBD, contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination. While these symptoms can be associated with IBD, they can also be associated with a variety of other serious health conditions in dogs.

How is IBD in dogs diagnosed?

If your dog has IBD symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing to help determine the cause of your dog's symptoms. Ultrasound, complete blood cell count, radiographs (x-rays), serum chemistry screen, and fecal exam may be recommended diagnostic tests. If your veterinarian believes that IBD is the most likely cause of your dog's symptoms, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the 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 of IBD in your dog's intestinal wall and help your vet determine the best way to treat your pup's IBD.

How is IBD in dogs treated?

There is currently no cure for IBD, but your veterinarian can prescribe medications and dietary changes to help control it. IBD treatment is not an exact science, so expect a period of trial and error when treatment for your dog's IBD begins. Because each dog is unique, determining the best combination of food and medications to manage the disease can take some 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 should I feed my dog with IBD?

Many dogs with IBD respond well to dietary changes as therapy. While no single food is ideal for every case of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, your veterinarian may recommend a diet that is:

Highly Digestible

  • Some foods are easier to digest in dogs (as they are in humans). This is especially true if your dog's gastrointestinal tract is inflamed. Fiber and fat can be difficult to digest for many dogs with IBD. Food high in moisture (canned foods) may be easier to digest for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease than dry foods.

Contains Minimal Additives

  • Feeding your dog a diet made up of simple ingredients and free of additives may help to alleviate your pet's 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 frequently trigger an immune response in dogs. A logical approach to treating IBD in dogs includes avoiding common food allergens that aggravate the disease. This is because when a dog consumes a protein that he has never consumed before, the immune system is not 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.

If your dog is showing signs of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, contact our Norristown vets today, to book an examination for your dog.

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Trooper Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients in Norristown. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of your animal companions. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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