IBD In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Majid Tanveer DVM
IBD in dogs

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition in which there is consistent inflammation of the intestines or digestive system of your dog. It is more of a syndrome than a disease. This prolonged inflammation destroys the lining of the intestines, preventing  nutrients from being adequately absorbed.

An dog with IBD may have diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If the disease persists, it may cause other problems, such as generalized weakness and poor immunity. There are several possible causes of IBD , with some still unknown.

This article will help you understand the nature and basics of IBD in dogs and provide valuable tips to help ease the discomfort of your canine friend. Let’s get started!

What Is IBD In Dogs?

Inflammation is a localized immune reaction in which the body reacts to attack what it considers dangerous for the body. In IBD there is prolonged inflammation of the dog’s gut. This swelling and immune response causes the sloughing and destruction of the absorptive tissue, leading to poor absorption of nutrients, which causes clinical signs.

When the food is not properly digested and absorbed, a chronic diarrheal condition occurs. The inflammation can appear in different parts of the digestive system and clinical symptoms depend on the area affected.

Types Of IBD

IBD can be classified in several ways. 

Depending on the duration of the disease, it has two main types, Acute and Chronic. Acute IBD refers to the sudden and severe onset of inflammation in the gut, whereas IBD is termed chronic if there is a history of disease for quite some time,causing scarring and damage to gastrointestinal tissues.

A more specific and formally used type of classification is based on the predominant white blood cells involved in causing the inflammation, White blood cells, unlike red blood cells, can be of many types.

 Some common examples of these types of IBD are lymphocytic-plasmacytic enteritis, eosinophilic gastroenteritis, and granulomatous enteritis. Here the term enteritis means inflammation of the intestines.

What Causes IBD In Dogs?

The exact cause of this condition has yet to be fully understood, as there is no single reason. It is believed that a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers may cause this disease. The following are some known causes of IBD in dogs:

  • Parasite infestation
  • Bacterial infection
  • Genetic causes
  • Food allergies
  • Weak immune system

Genetic Nature Of IBD In Dogs
IBD is a hereditary disease transferred through genes to the next generation. Some dog breeds are more prone to IBD than others. These include:

  • Basenji
  • Weimaraner 
  • Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier 
  • Yorkshire Terrier 
  • Irish Setter
  • Rottweiler
  • Norwegian Lundehund 
  • German Ahepherd
  • Border Collie

Symptoms Of IBD In Dogs

IBD can involve different parts of the dog's digestive tract. Signs and symptoms that appear depend on the part involved in the condition. If the intestines are involved, there is chronic diarrhea. If the stomach is also involved, the dog can experience vomiting. More than one area can also be affected, causing symptoms of inflammation of all parts involved.

This persistent inflammation of the bowel causes poor absorption of nutrients from the gut, and if the condition persists, the dog starts to become weak. Due to discomfort in the digestive tract, the dog may lose its appetite and become depressed. There are also some cases in which the affected dog starts to eat voraciously to fulfill the nutrient requirement in response to their gut's decreased ability to digest and absorb food.

Severe diarrhea in IBD causes loss of electrolytes and water from the body, which can cause metabolic disorders and be fatal. Early diagnosis with appropriate care and management can help reduce the long term health risks associated with IBD.

Diagnosis Of IBD In Dogs

To diagnose a specific type of IBD, tissue biopsies are required, which are obtained through a surgical procedure with general anesthesia. Depending on the suspected location of the IBD, your vet may recommend an endoscopic procedure or complete abdominal exploratory surgery. 

Exploratory surgery, although a more complex procedure relative to other diagnostic methods, may be necessary sometimes … for example, in areas the endoscope cannot reach, like the small intestine or upper large intestine. It is an invasive procedure and avoided if samples can easily be collected by the use of an endoscope and biopsy equipment.

After the collection of samples, tissue biopsy samples are sent to the lab where veterinary pathologists examine them and define the type of inflammation based on the predominant white blood cells present. IBD will be declared positive for a sample that contains an abnormal amount of inflammatory cells in the tissue.

Some other tests that can also be run include measurements of vitamin B12 levels, folate levels, and fecal tests to determine the presence of parasites and infectious organisms in the gut of a dog with suspected IBD.

Treatment And Management Of IBD In Dogs

IBD can be treated but not cured, meaning that the symptoms can be reduced or avoided with appropriate treatment, but no cure or medication can eliminate the problem. As IBD has no single cause, it also does not have a universal solutionfor all dogs.

Different dogs can respond differently to the same treatment. It is more important to determine the issue or trigger that causes this condition. Diagnostics usually give great insight into what may be causing the problem, but there still may be cases where the reason could not be established(idiopathic).

There are two main principles in treating IBD which we will discuss: medication and diet management. 

Role Of Diet In Dogs With IBD

Inflammation of the digestive tract can be because of the body's immune response to food particles like specific proteins.A high-fiber diet with single source protein is ideal for your dog if he is suffering from IBD. Sometimes vets will recommend food in which proteins are hydrolyzed into smaller units to avoid detection by the immune system.

Transition to the new food should be slow, and before shifting, you must test that food by giving your dog the food for some time. At that time, do not give any treats or other food to your dog. If the condition improves, then you can shift to that food.

Conventional Medication For Dogs With IBD
In conventional treatment, immunosuppressive medicines such as corticosteroids may be prescribed along with antibiotics. If an infection or parasitic infestation is the reason for IBD, then antimicrobial treatment will be the preferred choice. Vitamin B therapy may also be included to reverse the changes caused by IBD.

Holistic Treatment For IBD In Dogs
Holistic veterinarians will likely recommend feeding a fresh, whole food diet and avoiding processed foods as well as pharmaceutical drugs. They may prescribe herbal medications or supplements to support your dog’s digestive system and help maintain a normal inflammatory response.

RELATED: Read more about IBD, EPI and other malabsorption diseases ...

Can My Dog Die From IBD?
Although IBD is a serious condition that must be promptly dealt with, it is not fatal itself. Keep in mind, however, hat it does pose a threat to the life of your dog indirectly. Chronic diarrhea causes electrolyte imbalance and your dog may start to show nervous signs. Similarly, intestinal obstruction, perforation, and sepsis because of prolonged infection can claim the life of your furry fellow.

The prognosis is very good if diagnosed earlier and appropriate care is given. You must not take any signs of IBD lightly and should contact your vet as soon as possible.

In conclusion, IBD is an inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal system of dogs that causes chronic diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss among other things. Its roots are genetic, however, the environment can also trigger the onset of clinical disease. It is a difficult disease to diagnose and cure since its causes are numerous.

Anti-inflammatory support and diet control are the most effective tools to manage this condition. Medication may be needed for a short period in some dogs, while others require it throughout their life. It is not fatal itself but has life-threatening complications. 

Management is more effective than treatment for this disease. With your additional support and care you can ensure the best health for your dog with IBD.

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