When our canine companions experience discomfort, it's not always easy to figure out what's wrong. One common issue that perplexes many dog owners is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), often referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in dogs. And yes, studies show that, just like humans, a lot of dogs suffer from a condition that looks just like IBS.

This condition, known medically as chronic enteropathy (CE), can be distressing both for the dog and the owner. But what exactly is IBS in dogs? How do you recognize it, and most importantly, how can you help your four-legged friend? In this article, we'll explore the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for IBS in dogs, keeping things simple and easy to understand.

Stop Googling - Ask a Real Vet


  1. Symptoms of IBS in Dogs
  2. Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
  3. Dog Food for IBS
  4. How to Treat IBS in Dogs
  5. How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
  6. Conclusion

Symptoms of IBS in Dogs

IBS in dogs, or, as your vet will call it, chronic enteropathy (CE), can present a range of symptoms. These signs can vary in severity and frequency, making them sometimes challenging to diagnose. Here's what to look out for:


One of the most noticeable signs is a change in bowel movements, often resulting in diarrhea. This can range from mild to severe and may sometimes contain blood (sometimes “melena” or black tarry stool) or mucus.


Dogs with IBS may experience frequent vomiting, which can make their discomfort worse and lead to dehydration.

Weight Loss

The thing about canine IBS is that it lasts for weeks, months, and even years. It’s a chronic condition that can be difficult to treat. Persistent gastrointestinal issues over time can lead to weight loss, even if your dog seems to be eating normally.

Appetite Changes

Dogs may often have appetite changes, eating less than usual.

Abdominal Pain

Some dogs may show signs of abdominal discomfort or pain, which can manifest as whining, restlessness, or reluctance to be touched around the stomach area. Some experts also think there is a link between IBS and bloat in dogs, so if your dog has constant tummy issues, be on the lookout.

Excessive Surface Licking

Is your dog constantly licking? Well, studies show that about half of all dogs that have stomach issues like IBS will excessively lick surfaces. This can mean constantly licking themselves, but also licking the floor, carpet, and other surfaces.

So, it's crucial to monitor these symptoms closely, as they can often be cyclic or intermittent. A great way to keep an eye on your dog, especially when you're not around, is by using a pet camera. This can help you keep an eye on your dog’s symptoms and know if you need to see a vet ASAP.

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in dogs is a bit of a mystery. It's like a puzzle with many pieces, and scientists are still trying to figure out how they all fit together. Let's break down some of the main factors that might cause IBD in our canine friends and address the question: can stress cause IBS in dogs?

Immune System Overdrive

The gut has its security team (called GALT - gastrointestinal-associated lymphoid tissue) that usually keeps harmful stuff like germs at bay while ignoring the good stuff like food and friendly bacteria. In IBD, this security team gets confused and starts attacking the good stuff too, leading to inflammation.

Food Issues

While a direct allergy to food isn't usually the main cause, certain foods might make the gut more sensitive and reactive. It's like having a mild reaction to a food that doesn't usually bother you, but suddenly it does.

Bacteria and the Gut Environment

The gut is also home to lots of bacteria - some good, some not so good. In IBD, the balance of these bacteria might be off, which can contribute to problems.

Gut Reaction to Stress

Stress can affect your dog's gut, just like it can affect yours. When dogs get stressed, it can mess with their gut's normal functioning, potentially making IBD symptoms worse.

Other Health Issues

Other factors, like infections, parasites, or even reactions to certain medications, can play a role in triggering IBS.


Just like people, some dogs might be more likely to get IBS because of their genes. It can be more common in German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, and Yorkshire Terriers, and it usually kicks in later in life. However, it can affect any dog breed of any gender or age.

Keeping an Eye on Your Dog

Monitoring your dog’s health is key, especially if they have IBS. The Petcube Pet Camera is a great tool for this. It lets you watch your dog when you're not home, so you can see if they're showing signs of discomfort, like not eating or having accidents. This can help manage IBS and keep your dog comfortable.

Dog Food for IBS

Managing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or IBS in dogs often revolves around finding the right diet. It's like a detective game where you figure out which foods work best for your dog's stomach.

Here’s something you should know: there is no single dog food that is best for all dogs with IBS. The best food for your dog is going to depend on what is irritating your dog’s gut, and that can be something different for every dog.
Some dogs may not even improve regardless of diet, but most dogs will, provided you’re willing to play a game of trial and error to figure out what works for your dog.

Here’s a guide to understanding how diet affects dogs with IBS and what to consider when choosing their food.

Dietary Modification

More than half of the dogs with chronic enteropathy (CE) show improvement with dietary changes. The key is to introduce them to a protein they've never had before. This could be a homemade diet like lamb and rice or a commercial novel antigen or hydrolyzed diet. It's important to stick to this new diet exclusively for at least 4-6 weeks, without any treats.

Response to Diet Change

Most dogs start to show improvement within a few days to two weeks. Long-term studies suggest a success rate with dietary changes. But remember, patience and consistency from the dog owner are crucial.

Avoid Certain Fats

Be wary of inflammatory saturated fats that can aggravate leaky gut (and this includes coconut oil). Instead, include more omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. These good fats help to strengthen the gut lining.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

High-quality probiotics can be beneficial for gut health. Prebiotics, on the other hand, feed the good bacteria in the gut. They create short-chain fatty acids that reinforce the gut lining, preventing proteins from slipping through and causing allergic reactions.

Breed-Specific Needs

Some dog breeds have particular dietary sensitivities. For instance, Irish Setters may be sensitive to gluten, while German Shepherds might require highly digestible diets to avoid issues like diarrhea from hard-to-digest ingredients like pea proteins.

This is important because Wiley studiesstudies suggest that large-breed dogs have very different dietary needs than small-breed dogs. For example, they may benefit from less soluble fiber and more insoluble fiber in their diet, while small breeds may need it the other way around.

Testing for Food Intolerances

Rather than guessing, it's best to test your dog for food intolerances and then eliminate those items from their diet. Dogs usually react to animal proteins, but plant proteins can sometimes be the culprit too.

Choosing the Right Diet

Simply switching to a hypoallergenic or limited-ingredient diet isn't always the solution. It's essential to find out exactly what's causing your dog's stomach issues. For example, if they are allergic to chicken, you'll likely need to avoid all poultry (including turkey).

Hydrolyzed Fish Protein

For many dogs, fish, particularly hydrolyzed fish protein, can be a good starting point in their new diet. And you can look for this on the dog food label as a starting point. You can also try out different grain ingredients, like switching out wheat or soy for rice ingredients.

Additional Resources

For more in-depth information on the dietary management of IBD in dogs, refer to this veterinary study. Also, check out this Wiley research for further insights.

How to Treat IBS in Dogs

Treating IBS in dogs, or, as it's scientifically known, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), can be a bit like solving a complex puzzle. It usually involves a combination of diet changes, medications, and sometimes more advanced treatments. Let’s simplify this process into easy-to-understand steps.

Let’s go over canine IBS treatment step-by-step.

Start with the Basics

If your dog isn’t too sick, treatment usually begins one step at a time. This could start with medication for worms and parasites, as these are common and easily treatable causes of tummy troubles.

Dietary Changes

As previously discussed, switching your dog’s diet is often the first major step. This involves trying out a special diet that includes new types of proteins and carbohydrates your dog hasn’t eaten before. It's essential to stick to this diet strictly for a few weeks to see if it helps.

Antibiotic Trials

If changing the diet doesn’t work, the next step might be trying antibiotics. These drugs can do more than just fight infections; they might also help balance the bacteria in your dog’s gut or calm down the immune system.

Adding Steroids

If your dog is still not improving, steroids might be used to reduce inflammation in the gut. Steroids are potent drugs, so they are generally used only if necessary and under close veterinary supervision.

Using Immunosuppressants

In more severe cases, or if steroids alone aren’t enough, other drugs that suppress the immune system might be used. These can help control inflammation, but they need to be used carefully to avoid side effects.

Monitoring and Adjusting Treatment

It’s important to keep an eye on how your dog responds to each treatment step. Vets often use scoring systems to track your dog’s symptoms and adjust treatments as needed.

Supplements and Supportive Care

Supplements like cobalamin (vitamin B12) or ursodeoxycholic acid (although this is for cats) might be used alongside other treatments. These can help support your dog’s overall health while dealing with IBD.

The treatment of IBD in dogs is about finding what works for your specific pet. It’s a step-by-step process that requires patience, observation, and often a bit of trial and error. Each dog is unique, so their response to different treatments can vary.

How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment

While dealing with IBS in dogs isn't typically an emergency, it's important to be prepared for unexpected health issues that can arise. This is where the Petcube Emergency Fund can be a valuable resource for pet owners.

Financial Support

The Petcube Emergency Fund provides up to $3,000 for emergency vet bills. While IBS itself might not require emergency treatment, complications such as bloating (a serious condition where the stomach fills with gas and sometimes twists) can indeed be emergencies. Having this fund can offer peace of mind and financial assistance in such critical situations.

24/7 Veterinary Access

The fund also offers 24/7 online vet care, which can be crucial for getting immediate advice on sudden symptoms or complications related to IBS.

Proactive Health Monitoring

With conditions like IBS, ongoing monitoring is key. The Petcube Pet Camera, as part of the Emergency Fund package, allows you to keep a close eye on your dog's behavior and health signs, helping you catch and address potential emergencies early.

To make it more accessible for pet owners, a special 27% discount on the Petcube Emergency Fund subscription is available for blog readers. Use this special link to take advantage of the offer, ensuring you have the financial support and resources at hand for your dog's health needs.


Navigating the journey of IBS in dogs can be challenging, but understanding the signs, symptoms, and treatment options is the key to managing this condition effectively. From dietary modifications to medical treatments, each step plays a crucial role in ensuring the health and well-being of our canine companions.

Was this article helpful?

Help us make our articles even better

Yes No

Thank you for your feedback