The gastrointestinal tract in most animals is an essential series of organs starting at the mouth, via the esophagus, into the stomach, and through the small and large intestines.
The intestinal tract is where much of the digestive process takes place, and the nutrients from food are absorbed. Like in humans, the consequences can be dire when something stops working optimally within this chain in your dog’s intestinal tract.
How to know if your dog has digestive issues?
Intestinal upsets are one of the most common reasons for dogs to see the vet. Many issues could impact your dog’s stomach or intestines, but they usually show similar symptoms.
If your dog is displaying one or two of the below symptoms, there’s likely something going on that would be best seen by a vet.
- Diarrhea (with or without mucous or blood);
- Loss of appetite;
- Weight loss;
- Bloated or swollen belly;
- Visible signs of pain in the abdomen.
Intestinal tract problems
The gastrointestinal tract comprises the gastric region (stomach) and the intestinal region (small and large intestine). When your dog is suffering from an intestinal issue, this usually means that something is affecting either the small intestine or the large, sometimes both.
The following are intestinal tract problems in dogs:
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
According to research, inflammatory bowel disease is a syndrome that results from inflammation in the intestines. Usually, IBD in dogs is caused by an allergy or similar reaction, and the resulting inflammation can interfere with your dog’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients.
IBD in dogs affects the large and small intestines and is usually a lifelong condition.
Signs of IBD in dogs
Canine IBD can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Typically, the stomach and/or intestines are affected. Chronic vomiting usually indicates that the stomach is involved, whereas chronic diarrhea will point to the intestines being affected. These can occur concurrently.
Should the condition persist for a few months, your dog will likely show a decrease in appetite and weight. Rarely, a dog with IBD may show an increase in appetite in an attempt to get more nutrients that their body cannot digest.
What causes IBD in dogs?
There’s no simple answer to what causes IBD in dogs. In most cases, it’s not possible to determine an exact underlying cause. Usually, a parasitic or bacterial infection can cause an adverse reaction to a specific protein in the diet.
Tissue biopsies are the most accurate way to determine the type of IBD present. Obtaining the sample requires a surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia.
Other tests that may be performed include fecal examinations and blood tests.
How to treat IBD in dogs
Because there’s not always a clear cause for IBD in dogs, there isn’t one straightforward ‘cure’ either. In addition, not all dogs respond the same way to treatment, so you may need to try a few medications or interventions until you find the one that works for your dog.
Depending on which part of the GI tract is impacted, a special IBD diet for dogs may be required. When it comes to what to feed a dog with inflammatory bowel disease, your vet will be able to advise on what is likely to provide relief for your dog. You’ll need to follow this diet strictly and exclusively for at least eight weeks to see the full benefits.
Various medications may be prescribed, including antibiotics, immunosuppressants, and probiotics. Vitamin supplements, specifically vitamin B12, may be helpful. These are usually given in injection form and help replace the vitamin your dog is unable to absorb from their diet.
Broad-spectrum deworming may be required if there’s a suspicion that parasites may be causing IBD in your dog.
Treatment for IBD may require long-term therapy if symptoms return when medication or dietary changes are discontinued.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in dogs affects the muscles of the intestines, causing them not to function correctly. It commonly affects the large intestine and results from stress. True IBS is not all that common in dogs.
Signs of IBS in dogs
There are two main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in dogs: constipation and very watery diarrhea. These episodes can come on suddenly and can also cause a painful abdomen and gas.
Left untreated, your dog may become lethargic, show a disinterest in food, and become dehydrated. Your dog will likely lose weight in the long term, and their coat may appear less healthy.
What causes IBS in dogs?
Inflammation in the lining of the intestines is to blame for irritable bowel syndrome in dogs, but various other factors can worsen the situation:
- Bacterial infections;
Your vet will recommend blood tests and stool analysis to rule out the presence of parasites or another condition with similar symptoms. While these tests can confirm the presence of irritable bowel syndrome, they won’t be able to pinpoint a cause.
Biopsies, endoscopes, and radiography may also be required, as well as a history of your dog’s toilet behaviors: how often does your dog go? What are the stools like? What does your dog typically eat? Have there been any recent dietary changes?
How to treat IBS in dogs
Medication can be very helpful in managing your dog’s IBS. When your dog experiences an episode, antidiarrheal medication and probiotics can help stop a runny tummy and balance the gut bacteria.
You may need to switch up your dog’s diet, opting instead for an easy-to-digest diet with a high fiber content to prevent diarrhea and constipation.
A stressful event commonly triggers IBS in dogs, but with the proper diet and medication, your dog can recover from an episode within a week.
Colitis in dogs
The term colitis refers to inflammation in the large intestine or colon that usually results in diarrhea.
Signs of colitis in dogs
If your dog has colitis, you’ll probably see your dog needing to poop frequently, and they will exhibit urgency. The stools will be small but poorly formed, if not entirely liquid. Blood may also be present in the stools, as well as fat or mucus.
What causes colitis in dogs?
There are numerous causes of colitis, including stress, infections (like Salmonella and E. coli), parasites, and allergies. This inflammation in the colon causes water to be absorbed into the colon, resulting in frequent watery poops.
Your vet will assess your dog’s clinical signs and history to diagnose colitis. In addition, a fecal and rectal exam will be performed, as well as a blood test.
In some cases, additional exploratory procedures may be needed, including X-rays, colonoscopies, biopsies, and even ultrasounds. These may help rule out other causes of your dog’s symptoms, which could result from tumors, polyps, and other conditions.
How to treat colitis in dogs
The cause of your dog’s colitis will determine the course of treatment that your vet prescribes. This could include things like fasting initially for up to 48 hours, changing to a hypoallergenic diet, and increasing fiber content. Medications like antimicrobials, anti-inflammatories, and immunosuppressants may also be prescribed.
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IBS in dogs natural remedies?
Chat with your vet about adding probiotics and digestive enzymes to your dog’s diet. These will assist digestion naturally and help alleviate the symptoms of IBS in dogs.
What can I feed my dog with irritable bowel syndrome?
Aim to feed your furry friend a diet high in soluble fiber. Your vet may even suggest a prescription food. The fiber helps keeps intestinal movement regular and will prevent diarrhea and constipation.
What to feed a dog with inflammatory bowel disease?
Prescription dog foods are usually a great option. They are easily digestible, high in fiber, and contain protein formulas to support your dog’s nutrition.
Inflammatory bowel disease in dogs – life expectancy?
IBD in dogs is a lifelong condition and so is rarely ‘cured.’ With the proper medical and dietary intervention, your dog can live a happy and normal life without any impact on their life expectancy.
How to treat colitis in dogs naturally?
Supplementing your dog’s diet with digestive enzymes and probiotics can aid digestion and minimize colitis symptoms.
Is colitis in dogs contagious?
Colitis is not contagious and isn’t passed from one dog to another. Worms can cause colitis, and these are passed between dogs and are highly transmissible.