Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can affect all ages and breeds of dogs, leading to a range of gastrointestinal symptoms that are distressing for both the pet and owner, as they can greatly impact the dog's quality of life. Early detection and treatment are essential in managing IBD, so dog owners need to be aware of the symptoms and know how to intervene early on.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a chronic disease of the intestinal tract that can affect the small intestine, large intestine or both, causing damage and extreme discomfort.
An affected pet's clinical signs may include chronic vomiting, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss and other indications of GI tract problems.
IBD differs from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a non-inflammatory syndrome usually affecting the large intestine. However, a dog can have IBS and IBD.
While IBD can't be cured, most dogs find relief with diet changes, canine supplements and/or prescription medication.
What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It may affect the large intestine, the small intestine, or both, and it can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including chronic vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can cause significant distress and immensely impact the dog's overall energy and health.
While there are a range of potential origins for IBD in dogs, including environment, allergens, diet, and genetics, one reason it is believed to occur is related to the body's response to imbalanced bacteria in the gut.
According to a recent study published in Metabolites, The Nexus of Diet, Gut Microbiota and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in Dogs , growing evidence may support this theory, pointing to the fact that the bacteria present in a dog's gut plays a significant role in health and disease. Gut microbiota is involved in a number of key processes within the dog's body, and evidence suggests that an imbalance in the microbial ecosystem may be correlated with the development of IBD, leading to intestinal inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining.
Fortunately, IBD can often be successfully managed. Many dogs respond well to symptom treatment and diet adjustments. Also, since microbial imbalance plays a role in the dog's immune response and potentially in the initial development of the disease, rebalancing the gut's flora with a supplement like in-sideout Dog Formula - Pre and Probiotic Natural Nutraceutical Supplement for Dogs may help.
Dog Gut Inflammation Symptoms to Watch For
Some signs of IBD are obvious and hard to ignore, but others are more subtle and require the close attention of pet parents.
Clinical signs of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs often include:
Dogs with gut inflammation may experience chronic diarrhea, which is characterised by frequent bowel movements that are loose, watery or mucousy. This can lead to dehydration, nutrient deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances.
Inflammation in the gut can also cause chronic vomiting in dogs. Like diarrhea, this can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and weight loss.
Dogs with gut inflammation may experience weight loss. The weight loss may have several origins, including decreased appetite, continued loss of nutrition through diarrhea and vomiting, malabsorption of nutrients and increased metabolic demands due to the inflammation.
Dogs with gut inflammation may experience changes in their appetite. They may eat less, be picky about their food or refuse to eat altogether.
Dogs with gut inflammation may also exhibit lethargy, which is characterised in most dogs by a lack of energy, reduced activity levels and decreased interest in play and social interaction.
Lethargy can indicate an underlying health issue, so always consult a veterinarian if it persists.
Dogs with IBD may experience abdominal discomfort or pain, characterised by vocalisation, restlessness or a tense belly. They may also exhibit a hunched or arched back, which can indicate abdominal pain.
Abdominal pain in dogs with IBD can vary in intensity and duration depending on the severity and location of the inflammation.
Blood in Stool
In some cases, dogs with IBD may have blood in their stool. The inflammation in the gut can cause damage to the intestinal lining, resulting in bleeding. This can range from small amounts of fresh blood to large amounts of dark, tarry stool.
The severity of the bleeding can vary, and it can occur intermittently or continuously.
Dogs with IBD may experience excessive gas, leading to flatulence, bloating and discomfort.
Sometimes, dietary changes or supplements help reduce gas production and improve digestive health. Probiotics, for example, can help restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria, improving digestion and reducing gas production.
Chronic diarrhea and vomiting can cause dogs to become dehydrated, leading to increased thirst. Always provide plenty of water to dogs with stomach problems, and contact a vet if the dog shows signs of dehydration.
Poor Coat Condition
Malabsorption of nutrients can result in poor coat conditions in dogs with IBD. Healthy dogs should have shiny, well-hydrated fur. The coat of a dog with IBD may become dull, dry and thin.
Itching and Skin Problems
Some dogs with IBD may develop skin problems such as itching, rashes and hives due to their compromised immune system. Skin infections, hot spots and ear infections may also occur as a consequence of the dog's weakened immune system by the chronic inflammation in the gut.
Dogs showing initial clinical signs of inflammatory bowel disease should see a vet immediately. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical to the successful management of bowel disease.
What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs?
The exact cause of this disease in dogs is not fully understood, though we have some reasonable theories, as mentioned above.
It is thought that in some dogs with IBD, the body responds poorly to an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. That response creates chronic inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining. Environmental factors such as diet, stress and infections may also contribute to IBD in dogs. And specific dog breeds are more prone to IBD than others, suggesting a genetic link.
Further research is needed to fully understand IBD in canines and develop a surefire way to combat it. However, some signs point toward microbial beginnings, suggesting prebiotics, probiotics, and metabolites may provide results when used in treatment plans.
How Is IBD in Dogs Diagnosed?
When owners take a dog into the vet clinic for an exam, the vet will likely start the appointment by discussing the dog's diet, health history and any noticeable symptoms. Then, the vet typically performs a physical exam.
During a physical exam, the vet checks for signs of gastrointestinal disease. The vet may look for the following things during the exam:
Appearance and Behavior: The vet assesses the dog's overall appearance, including their body condition, coat quality and energy levels. They also observe the dog's behaviour to see if they exhibit any discomfort or pain.
Abdominal Palpation: The vet gently palpates the dog's abdomen to feel for any masses, swelling or pain. This can help detect abnormalities in the dog's organs, like the liver, spleen or intestines.
Rectal Examination: A rectal examination involves inserting a gloved finger into the dog's rectum to feel for any abnormalities, such as masses or inflammation. This can help to detect any lesions in the colon or rectum.
Auscultation: The vet listens to the dog's stomach and gut sounds with a stethoscope. The absence of gut sounds or abnormal sounds can indicate GI tract issues.
Mouth Examination: The vet may also examine the dog's mouth to check for oral diseases, such as dental problems, which can affect their digestive system.
Blood tests are helpful in ruling out other medical conditions that may be causing the dog's symptoms. Also, an elevated white blood cell count and increased levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), can indicate the presence of inflammation in the body, a potential sign of IBD.
Testing the dog's blood also allows the vet to assess its overall health and monitor its response to treatment. Blood work typically consists of a complete blood count and biochemical profile. The vet may also perform a urinalysis.
Fecal analysis can help detect parasites, bacteria or other pathogens in the dog's stool, which can cause symptoms similar to IBD.
Fecal analysis can also help to detect inflammation and assess the dog's digestive tract function.
Intestinal Tract or Stomach Biopsy
A biopsy involves the vet obtaining a small tissue sample from the intestinal tract or the dog's stomach and examining it under a microscope. Tissue samples can help to confirm the presence of inflammatory cells, assess the severity of the disease and rule out other conditions, like cancer.
In some cases, veterinarians may use imaging tests such as ultrasound or endoscopy to visualise the dog's digestive tract and evaluate the extent of the disease.
A definitive diagnosis of IBD in dogs requires a comprehensive evaluation of the dog's clinical signs, diagnostic tests and response to treatment.
5 Questions to Ask Your Vet During an Exam for IBD
If a dog is showing signs of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible is vital. During the exam, your veterinarian will likely ask you several questions about your dog's symptoms, diet and medical history to try to ascertain the underlying cause of the inflammation.
It's recommended to come prepared with your own questions as well to help you understand the condition and the treatment options available.
Below are five questions you may want to ask your vet during an exam for IBD:
What is causing my dog's gut inflammation?
IBD can have various potential underlying causes. Understanding the possible causes can help you make informed decisions about your dog's food, risk factors and treatment options.
What tests will my dog need to diagnose IBD?
Diagnosing IBD typically involves a combination of tests, including blood tests, fecal tests and imaging studies. Knowing what tests your dog needs can help you prepare and understand the diagnostic process.
What treatment options are available for IBD?
The treatment for IBD typically involves a mixture of medication, supplementation and dietary modifications. Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics and suggest a special diet for the dog or even prescription food. With full knowledge of the options available, you can make more informed decisions about your dog's IBD management plan.
How long will my dog need treatment for IBD?
The duration of treatment for IBD varies depending on the severity of the inflammation and the extent to which your dog responds to care. A basic timeline can help you plan and monitor your dog's progress.
How can I stop a relapse of IBD?
Once your dog's inflammation has been controlled, pet owners should take any necessary steps to prevent a relapse. This may involve ongoing dietary changes, monitoring for symptoms and regular follow-up exams with your veterinarian.
By asking a lot of questions, pet owners can better understand their dog's condition and work with the veterinarian to develop a management plan that satisfies the dog's unique needs.
Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in dogs is a chronic condition that cannot be cured but can be managed effectively with the proper treatment plan.
Here are some standard symptom management options for dogs with IBD:
Diet plays a crucial role in managing IBD in dogs. Many dogs with IBD don't absorb nutrients well due to inflammation in the digestive tract. Switching the dog to a highly digestible, low-fat diet can help reduce inflammation, improve digestion and boost the immune system.
The veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet specially formulated for dogs with digestive issues. In some cases, a novel protein or hydrolysed protein diet may be recommended if the dog has food sensitivities or allergies.
It is essential to note that adjustments to the dog's diet should be made gradually to avoid upsetting its digestive system further.
Nutraceutical supplements such as probiotics, prebiotics and digestive enzymes can also help manage IBD in dogs.
Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that help restore the balance of gut flora and reduce inflammation.
Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Digestive enzymes can help the dog's body easily break down food, reducing the workload on the digestive system and helping them absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Pre and Probiotics
Pre and probiotic supplements are easy to obtain and suitable for most dogs. in-sideout Dog Formula, a holistic nutraceutical supplement, is an excellent option for supporting and optimising immune and intestinal health.
in-sideout contains a blend of pre and probiotics and other natural ingredients. Its ingredients work together to support healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, improve stool quality and reduce bad breath and flatulence.
In addition to supporting dogs with IBD, in-sideout can also promote better health and well-being in all dogs, regardless of breed or age. By encouraging healthy immune function and digestion, in-sideout can help our furry pals feel their best and live their happiest, healthiest life.
With regular supplementation, you may notice improvements in your dog's digestion, skin and coat and overall vitality.
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) Supplementation
One of the top benefits of MSM is its ability to aid in the formation of connective tissues in the body, including joint cartilage. MSM can also support a healthy metabolism, protein synthesis and communication between nerve cells to promote general health and well-being in dogs with IBD.
Furthermore, MSM is essential for the production of glutathione, one of the body's best natural antioxidants, as well as for the production of keratin, a major component of hair and skin. This means that MSM supplementation can help improve a dog's skin and coat condition.
When used in conjunction with other supplements, like in-sideout, in-fusion msm can provide comprehensive support for dogs with IBD.
In some cases, prescription medication manages the symptoms of IBD. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs may be utilised to reduce inflammation in the gut and control the symptoms of IBD.
Antibiotics may also be prescribed in situations where there is a bacterial infection in the gut or a case of bacterial overgrowth. Canine medications should only be used with the approval and supervision of a veterinarian, as they have potential side effects. Also, some medications may not be appropriate for all dogs.
The Prognosis for a Dog with IBD
The prognosis for a dog with IBD varies widely depending on the severity and extent of the disease. Some dogs respond well to treatment and experience long periods of remission, while others may require lifelong management and experience regular flare-ups of the disease.
With proper management and care, many dogs with IBD lead happy and healthy lives. That said, severely affected dogs can sometimes be challenging to manage, and IBD may lead to significant health complications.
What Types of Foods Are Good for Dogs Diagnosed with IBD?
Dogs diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) require a special diet to manage their symptoms effectively, facilitate a healthy immune system and prevent weight loss.
Below are some types of foods that usually work well for dogs with IBD:
Highly digestible proteins such as chicken, turkey, and fish
Lean meats and low-fat dairy products
Novel protein sources, like venison, bison or duck
A limited-ingredient diet may alleviate symptoms in some dogs. Limited-ingredient diets are specially formulated to reduce the number of ingredients in the food. These diets usually contain a single protein source and a single carbohydrate source.
Every dog with IBD is unique, and what works for one person's pet may not work for another. You can work alongside your vet to make a dietary plan that meets the dog's specific needs and manages its symptoms effectively.
FAQs About Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
Pet parents often have many questions about dog IBD, and it's no surprise. It's a complex disease and affected dogs can have severe symptoms.
Below we offer answers to a few frequently asked questions about IBD.
Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease More Common in Specific Breeds of Dogs?
While IBD can occur in any dog breed, certain breeds, such as Boxers, German Shepherds, Shar Peis and Irish Setters, are at a higher risk of developing the disease, suggesting that genetics may be a contributing factor.
Please keep in mind that while certain breeds may have a higher risk of developing IBD, not all dogs of these breeds will develop IBD. Additionally, other breeds may also be affected, even if they're not pre-disposed, so it is critical to monitor your dog's health and speak to your veterinarian if you notice any signs of gastrointestinal problems.
Can An Obstruction in the Digestive Tract Cause IBD?
An obstruction in the digestive tract is not a direct cause of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). However, an obstruction in the digestive tract can lead to the development of gastrointestinal inflammation, which can exacerbate the symptoms of IBD in dogs.
Additionally, chronic vomiting or diarrhea caused by an obstruction can also lead to dehydration and nutrient deficiencies, which can further worsen the symptoms of IBD.
Any gastrointestinal obstruction should be treated as a medical emergency. Obstructions can lead to serious complications, even if healthy dogs.
What's the Difference Between Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBD refers to inflammation and damage to the digestive system. In contrast, IBS is a functional disorder that affects the motility of the gastrointestinal tract, causing uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Unlike IBD, IBS does not necessarily involve inflammation or damage to the digestive system. It's also more likely to affect the large intestine than the small intestine.
That said, it is possible to have both IBD and IBS together, though IBS is more common in humans than dogs.
Why Are Supplements Helpful in Treating IBD?
Supplements can be helpful in treating IBD because they can provide additional support and nutrition to dogs who may have difficulty absorbing nutrients from their food due to the inflammation and damage caused by the disease. Further, supplements can support immune function and reduce inflammation in the gut, alleviating some of the symptoms of IBD and enhancing overall fitness and well-being.
In the case of in-sideout, this supplement contains pre and probiotics, as well as other natural ingredients, that support healthy digestion and nutrient absorption in dogs with IBD. The prebiotics in in-sideout nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut, while the probiotics introduce new beneficial bacteria. Together, these ingredients can help to improve digestion and decrease inflammation in the gut.
Furthermore, in-sideout boosts the immune system, which is essential for dogs with IBD since the immune system may be overactive or compromised.
Overall, supplements like in-sideout and in-fusion msm can be valuable to a comprehensive treatment plan for dogs with IBD. They can help to support digestive and immune health, relieve inflammation and make the overall quality of life better for dogs living with this chronic disease.
Manage IBD for a Healthier, More Comfortable Pet
IBD requires holistic approach, including understanding the specific dietary requirement that upset the GIT in your dog.
Management needs to include hygiene, daily routine & worming, to further minimize the chance of your dog developing GIT upsets.
Supplementation requires a scientific holistic approach, including ingredients that works synergistically and effectively on different levels to reduce the dietary irritants, balance immunity, stabilise the microbiome and physiological homeostasis, and optimise gut functionality.
in-sideout pet provides this holistic approach.
 Rhimi S, Kriaa A, Mariaule V, Saidi A, Drut A, Jablaoui A, Akermi N, Maguin E, Hernandez J, Rhimi M. The Nexus of Diet, Gut Microbiota and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in Dogs. Metabolites. 2022; 12(12):1176. https://doi.org/10.3390/metabo12121176
The Nexus of Diet, Gut Microbiota and Inflammatory Diseases in Dogs was copyrighted in 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. The article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
By Dr. Guangda Xue (Danny), BSc, MRes, PhD
Animal scientist specialised in gut health development and inflammation management