Colitis, an inflammation or irritation of the colon or large intestine, usually causes chronic diarrhoea but it can also cause occasional constipation. Your dog may strain to defecate and pass very little stool. Colitis can be acute or chronic and has a variety of causes. Depending upon the source, colitis can be managed or resolved. Untreated, chronic colitis will cause your dog to lose weight and become debilitated.
Whipworms can cause diarrhoea in dogs and puppies. These worms cause an inflammation in the intestinal wall. The intestine, in turn, produces a mucous-like substance to protect itself. This is often seen in the faeces. Hookworms, too, can cause serious diarrhoea. A program of regular deworming is recommended, especially if your dog is exposed to the faeces of other dogs. Over-the-counter products are available, but prescription dewormers are more targeted and effective for a wider variety of parasites.
The specific cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is unknown, but stress, food allergies and a poor diet may play a part. Signs of IBS include diarrhoea and vomiting. A probiotic supplement will increase the healthy bacteria in the intestine and a switch to a low-allergen food also may help. The most common allergens in dog food include corn, soy and wheat. Lamb, venison or duck-based foods may improve this condition.
Inflammatory bowel disease is a gastrointestinal condition that causes diarrhoea, poor appetite and gas. Its exact cause is unknown, but it is more common in certain breeds (German shepherds, boxers, Shar-Peis) and may be caused by an autoimmune response to the normal bacteria found in the gut. IBD is controlled with dietary manipulation and prescription drugs to reduce the inflammation. Foods that use venison, rabbit or duck are highly digestible and help to relieve symptoms.
Some dogs will eat anything, and this habit can get them into trouble. Indigestible material such as long, stalky grass fibres can scratch and irritate the intestinal lining, bringing on a bout of colitis. Keep a close eye on indiscriminate eaters, and discourage your dog from eating too much grass.
Antibiotics kill good and bad bacteria alike. It's not uncommon to experience a bout of colitis during and after a course of antibiotics because the beneficial bacteria in the gut have been depleted. The addition of plain yoghurt to your dog's daily ration will help restore healthy levels. Probiotic supplements also are available to quickly raise and maintain intestinal bacteria.
Recent pet food recalls have alerted pet owners to the hidden dangers in some commercial pet foods. In addition to melamine poisoning, some pet foods have been contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter, two bacterial agents that can cause colitis. Always purchase the highest quality food you can and look for an expiration date on the package. Store food carefully to prevent rodent invasion; mice can spread e.Coli bacteria.
For an occasional episode of diarrhoea, withhold food for 24 hours. For constipation, try one teaspoon (for small dogs) to one-eighth cup (large dogs) of plain canned pumpkin. Avoid feeding your dog spicy, salty, fatty or heavily processed human foods and discourage inappropriate eating. If your dog is showing signs of dehydration (pinch the skin between the shoulder blades; it should spring back into place immediately), contact your veterinarian. Dehydration can be a serious problem, and it is a common side effect of severe diarrhoea.