Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs
bowel disease (IBD) occurs when a dog’s stomach and/or intestine becomes home
to an unusually high number of inflammatory cells. These cells cause changes in
the lining of the digestive tract, which inhibit the normal absorption and
passage of food.
It is important to note that although some of the symptoms may be similar, IBD
is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome, which is caused by psychological
stress rather than a physiological abnormality.
What Causes IBD?
The cause of inflammatory bowel disease is not well understood. In fact,
veterinarians are not positive that IBD is even technically a disease-it might
be the body’s defensive response to other conditions. Any number of variables
may contribute to the development of IBD in dogs, including genetics, food
allergies, parasites, bacteria or an abnormal immune system. It can often be
difficult to determine the exact underlying cause of IBD in an individual
animal, so a veterinarian may base future care on how a pet responds to
What Are the General Symptoms of IBD?
Chronic vomiting is a common sign if the inflammation is affecting a dog’s
stomach and/or upper intestine. Long-term diarrhea that may contain blood or
mucus may be due to inflammation of the colon. Clinical signs may come and go,
and sometimes the entire gastrointestinal tract is affected. A dog may also
lose his appetite, seem melancholy, run a fever or lose weight.
How Is IBD Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian may suspect IBD after evaluating your dog’s symptoms, but
the only definitive way to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease is through a
biopsy. This is usually is performed only after other conditions that might be
causing the dog’s symptoms, like parasites or organ diseases, are ruled out.
The biopsy can reveal the quantity and type of inflammatory cells in the
Blood work, radiographs, ultrasound and microscopic fecal examination are often
recommended prior to performing a gastrointestinal biopsy.
Which Dogs Are Prone to IBD?
While any dog can have IBD, breeds that seem particularly prone are
basenjis, soft-coated wheaten terriers, shar-peis and German shepherds.
How Is IBD Treated?
There is no cure for IBD-it can only be controlled through diet modification
and medications prescribed by your veterinarian. Finding the right combination
that works for each animal usually involves quite a bit of trial-and-error. It
is important to be patient during this process and work closely with your
veterinarian so that any necessary modifications in the treatment routine can
be made. The good news is that some dogs are eventually able to stop taking
medicine every day and might need it only during bad episodes.
When Is It Time to See the Vet?
Please see your veterinarian if your dog has chronic diarrhea
or vomiting, or experiences weight loss, loss of appetite or unusual