All Things Dog

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

If your dog has been having diarrhea or has been vomiting a lot, he could have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The operative word here is "could," because it's also possible that his condition may be caused by a food allergy or a different type of digestion-related issue. However, if your dog's condition is chronic and other maladies have been ruled out, your veterinarian may decide to take a biopsy of your dog's intestinal wall. This is the only truly accurate way of determining if his condition is, indeed, IBD.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

IBD is the general name given for gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in which the stomach, small intestine, and/or colon becomes inflamed as a result of either:

  • An abnormal immune response due to hypersensitivity
  • An appropriate immune response to a normal luminal constituent

If the stomach and upper part of the small intestine are affected, the dog is more likely to exhibit chronic vomiting as a symptom. If the colon is inflamed, diarrhea is the more common symptom. In some extreme cases, the inflammatory cells may cause scar tissue in the dog's GI tract.

What causes IBD?

Despite the fact that IBD is fairly common, we still don't know exactly why the inflammation-producing white blood cells invade the GI tracts of some dogs. Since the white blood cells that cause inflammation are associated with the immune system, it's possible that an abnormality in this system is to blame. However, other factors, such as the dog's specific genetic makeup and his diet may be contributing factors. Though IBD may afflict dogs of all ages, it is more common in mature dogs and in German Shepherds, Boxers, Wheaton Terriers, and Rottweilers.

Treating IBD

Though there is no real cure for IBD, in many cases the symptoms can be lessened through the use of diet and medication. If your dog has IBD — and other ailments have been ruled out — your vet will work with you to find an optimal diet for your pet. Hypoallergenic and high-fiber foods have been known to help many dogs. In addition, low-fat diets are generally tolerated better by dogs with IBD. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are also recommended by many veterinarians. As you can see, there are many dietary variables involved in finding the optimum diet for your dog, so patience is needed. Your vet may also prescribe medications to help alleviate your dog's symptoms if diet alone is not effective.

If your dog has been suffering from chronic diarrhea and/or vomiting, take him to the vet for an examination. The sooner your vet makes a definitive diagnosis, the sooner he can recommend effective treatments — and the sooner your dog can begin to feel better.

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