Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system resulting in gastrointestinal distress in humans, dogs and other animals. While IBS can occur in all canine breeds and both sexes, it is more common in working dogs with type "A" personalities, like German shepherds. Dogs typically start exhibiting symptoms at about 6 years old.
Signs and Symptoms
German shepherds suffering from IBS---also known as inflammatory bowel disease---may present with constipation, gas, bloating, vomiting, pain, bloody stools and cramping. Dogs that are potty-trained may experience diarrhoea or accidents in the home. You may also notice weight loss in a German shepherd.
While more research is needed to determine the exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, irritable bowel syndrome may have something to do with miscommunication between the brain and the colon. As a result, a German shepherd affected by IBS may experience intestinal spasms as food moves through the digestive system.
A veterinarian can diagnose a German shepherd experiencing gastrointestinal distress. Infections, obstructions and other disorders are usually ruled out before making a diagnosis. Blood tests, stool samplings, X-rays and biopsies can help the vet arrive at a diagnosis.
Treatment is individualised for each dog. Changes to a high-fibre diet, including anti-diarrhoea and antispasmodic medication, as well as reducing stress in the dog's environment may all help to reduce IBS symptoms. Avoid giving your German shepherd table scraps and high fat foods.
While acupuncture and massage for German shepherds suffering from IBS is still experimental, both therapeutic techniques have been effective in reducing stress in humans.
While the disease is not fatal, there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome. Ongoing symptom control through diet and medication may be required. German shepherd owners should keep in mind that accidents will occur and that it's important not to severely punish the dog. Stress only exacerbates IBS symptoms. Create a relaxed, loving environment to help you both cope with the disease.