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

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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.

  • Dogs with IBD tend to have rumbly, gurgling stomachs. They may also pass a lot of gas, which is no fun for anyone in a room with them.
  • They can lose weight over time due to a loss of appetite. Inflammation can also impede the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients properly.
  • Plenty of dogs throw up occasionally, and it’s not always a cause for concern. However, ongoing vomiting can be a sign of stomach inflammation.
  • Similarly, many dogs have a bout of diarrhea now and then. But chronic diarrhea or loose stools can indicate that the intestines are inflamed.
  • In addition to diarrhea, dogs with IBD may have blood in their stool. Anytime you notice blood in your dog’s feces, you should contact your veterinarian.

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:

  • Hide it in their food. Some dogs, particularly pups that tend to gulp food down quickly, will swallow a pill along with the rest of their meal. Just be sure to check the bowl when they’re done to make sure it wasn’t left behind. Also, make sure other pets in the home don’t come by and ingest the medication.
  • Make it tasty. Wrap the pill in something your dog can’t resist. If there’s any chance your dog has a food allergy, talk to your veterinarian about a safe choice to wrap up or smother that pill in. You don’t want to add to the problem. Your pooch may spit the pill out the first or second time but keep trying.
  • Use a pill pocket treat. You can buy treats specially made to hide a pill. Some are made with hypoallergenic ingredients. Simply tuck the pill inside and give it to your dog. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

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:

  • Avoiding dog foods with additives that can cause an inflammatory response.
  • Choosing brands specially formulated to help with stomach issues.
  • Offering foods that are easy to digest, such as options that are low in fiber and fat.
  • Switching from dry kibble to high-moisture foods, which are more digestible.

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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