What Is IBD in Dogs? FAQs About Dog Inflammatory Bowel Disease

brown dog lying on a cream couch with orange pillows

Does your dog have a history of tummy troubles, including chronic vomiting or diarrhea? They could have a syndrome known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

What is IBD in dogs?

Despite the name, inflammatory bowel disease is not a single disease. It refers to an ongoing condition where a dog’s digestive tract is inflamed, which can cause various symptoms.

IBD can also lead to behavioral changes and mood shifts. For instance, you may notice your dog sleeps more than usual, acts more restless, irritable, or aggressive than normal, or is less enthusiastic about going out for walks or playing games.

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Is IBD in dogs painful?

IBD can be a painful situation for a dog. Symptoms like chronic vomiting and diarrhea are also tough for any pooch to bear. If you’re concerned that your dog has IBD or anything that is causing them discomfort, don’t wait to take them to the veterinarian.

It’s heartbreaking when your best friend is hurting. Find out how you can detect and manage pain in your dog.

What causes inflammatory bowel disease in dogs?

The exact cause of IBD in dogs is not well understood, but there are a number of things that can cause inflammation of the digestive tract. These can include a food allergy, parasitic or bacterial infection, or abnormal immune response.

There may also be a hereditary component to IBD. This condition is more prevalent in certain breeds, including German Shepherds, Boxers, Shar-Pei, and Yorkshire Terriers.

How is it diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will start by asking questions about what’s going on and your dog’s overall health history. They’ll want to rule out other illnesses that can cause similar symptoms using diagnostic tests like blood work and urinalysis. If they suspect IBD, they may recommend a fecal exam and imaging, such as ultrasound or X-ray.

The only way to definitively diagnose IBD is by performing a biopsy of the lining of the intestine. This is done using an endoscope with the dog under general anesthesia. It allows the veterinarian to collect samples from the digestive tract to detect the presence of inflammatory cells and assess the severity of the condition.

Dogs can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well or explain what’s wrong. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for signs your dog is sick, such as reddish eyes or fever.

How is IBD in dogs treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBD, but it is typically manageable through dietary changes and medication to help control inflammation. Your veterinarian will also treat any other health issues causing or complicating the problem. For instance, if your dog has a bacterial infection, they’ll need to go on antibiotics.

Probiotics may also help ease some of your dog’s tummy discomfort. This supplement helps promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut and improve digestion. Talk to your veterinarian before starting your dog on any type of supplement. You’ll want to make sure you’re giving your dog a safe and effective dosage amount.

It can take a bit of trial and error to figure out a treatment plan that works for your dog. It may also be a few weeks before you see significant improvements. Be patient and work with your veterinarian to tweak the plan as needed. It can help to write down how much your dog is eating and note changes in their mood and behavior to track their progress at home.

How to give your dog a pill

It can be tricky to give your dog anti-inflammatories or other medications in pill form. They don’t know it’s good for them, so they’re likely to turn their nose up at that unfamiliar and bad-tasting thing. Here are some tricks you can use to give your dog a pill:

black and white puppy with a red collar and tag eating from a raised metal food bowl

What to feed a dog with IBD

If your dog is diagnosed with IBD, your veterinarian can help you determine a diet that helps prevent inflammation. They may suggest:

Your veterinarian may also recommend trying out novel proteins, such as duck or rabbit, in place of the usual chicken or beef. Your dog’s immune system might not have the same reaction to a new protein choice.

Can IBD in dogs be fatal?

IBD is typically not life-threatening. Dogs with IBD can fare very well when the condition is managed through diet and medication. Unfortunately, there are some dogs who don’t respond to treatment and severe cases where it can lead to intestinal cancer, but these situations are rare.

Is IBD covered by pet insurance?

If you have a pet insurance plan with illness coverage, veterinary bills for diagnosing and treating IBD could be covered. Our plan, Complete CoverageSM, even covers the costs of prescription foods and supplements when they’re used to treat a covered condition like IBD (not for general maintenance or weight management).* Find out more about dog insurance.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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