Canine inflammatory bowel disease

Updated November 21, 2016

More commonly referred to as IBD, inflammatory bowel disease can affect any gender or breed of dog. IBD is a condition in which a portion of the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed, causing mild to severe discomfort to the affected dog. Understanding the symptoms, types of IBD and treatment course is important for any dog owner who suspects that their dog may be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

IBD can go by a variety of names such as colitis, chronic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, regional enteritis, granulomatous enteritis, spastic bowel syndrome and more. Inflammatory bowel disease is actually a catch-all term for a variety of conditions, which can affect the gastrointestinal tract and cause a variety of symptoms. IBD can affect the intestines, the stomach, the colon and so forth.


The true cause of inflammatory bowel disease in canines is unknown. Some veterinarians speculate that it can be due to a variety of reasons. IBD may be caused by genetics, the type of diet a dog may be on, infections or even issues with the dog's immune system.


Symptoms of IBD can vary based on which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected by the condition. For example, a dog whose stomach is affected may be prone to regular bouts of vomiting. Meanwhile, a dog with an affected colon may have mild to severe diarrhoea on a regular basis. That being said, vomiting and diarrhoea are the most common symptoms of IBD. Blood may also be present in the urine, faeces or vomit. Additional symptoms of IBD include loose stools, depression, fever, weight loss and a lack of appetite.


In order for inflammatory bowel disease to be diagnosed, there must be chronic vomiting or diarrhoea. Dogs who have a history of vomiting or diarrhoea are the most likely candidates for IBD. The veterinarian may perform a physical examination of your dog and run tests, such as a biopsy. A biopsy is used to determine if there are increased levels of inflammatory cells within the gastrointestinal tract. Most findings will need to be examined beneath a microscope in order to be sure; however, some dogs may have lesions in their gastrointestinal tract, which are visible to the naked eye.


Treating inflammatory bowel disease can be a difficult process and can vary from veterinarian to veterinarian. In some cases, a change of diet or a hypoallergenic diet can prove to be beneficial. Diets that are low in fat content or are void of carbohydrates, rye, barley, wheat or oats are usually best for dogs who are suffering from IBD. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be beneficial. However, treatment will vary because each dog has different needs and will react differently to treatment.

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