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Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Like people, our four-legged friends can also suffer from diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Being able to recognize that your beloved furry companion is suffering from a condition like IBD is paramount in getting them the treatment that they need to make a full recovery. 

In this article, we'll cover everything you should know about inflammatory bowel disease in dogs including the clinical signs of illness, the potential causes of its development, as well as the treatment options available. Luckily, there are several all-natural ways to not only alleviate IBD in dogs, but also help to prevent it from developing in the first place. Let's get started! 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

What is IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) 

Interestingly enough, IBD, also known as inflammatory bowel disease, is not one disease but rather a collection of gastrointestinal diseases. These diseases result in the inflammation of cells in the gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach and intestines. When such a degree of inflammation occurs, the cells cause a change within the lining of the digestive tract, thus inhibiting proper absorption and digestion of food. Furthermore, IBD also causes a slew of unpleasant side effects that you'll want to relieve your pup of as soon as possible. 

What Are Inflamed Intestines 

Let's first cover the concept of inflammation. Many people may not realize the magnitude of trouble that inflammation causes. Yet, the truth of the matter is that nearly every disease, in people and our pets, have one major thing in common: they start with inflammation. Inflammation is responsible for a slew of conditions ranging from mild allergies to severe cancer. 

IBM is no different, and more often than not begins with inflammation of the intestines. The inflammation of the cells lining the intestines is typically a result of either injury or infection. 

Furthermore, the inflammation of the intestines causes the intestinal lining to weaken, thus increasing permeability. The permeability of the intestinal lining allows for toxins to leak from the gut into the bloodstream. This can lead to a number of serious issues. 

Intestinal Diseases in Dogs 

There are a large number of intestinal diseases found in both people and dogs. Two of the most common intestinal diseases are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). While some people may use the two terms interchangeably, it is important to realize that they are two different conditions, although their symptoms are often quite similar. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is commonly diagnosed in people, but rarely in dogs. Inflammatory bowel disease is commonly diagnosed in people and in dogs. The main difference between IBD and IBS is that inflammatory bowel disease, as its name suggests, involves inflammation. 

Colitis in Dogs 

Colitis in dogs is a commonly diagnosed inflammatory bowel disease. The condition develops from inflammation of the large intestine or colon. Diarrhea or loose stools are the most prevalent symptoms of the disease. 

Gastritis in Dogs 

Gastritis is another type of inflammatory bowel disease that is caused by long-term, chronic inflammation of the stomach. The most prevalent symptoms of gastritis in dogs is acute vomiting, decreased appetite, and in some cases, associated weight loss. 

Again, the central feature of inflammatory bowel diseases is inflammation

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs 

The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs has yet to be pinpointed, even with extensive research on the topic. However, many experts link the disease to certain environmental factors such as toxins and chemicals. They believe that inflammatory bowel disease results from the body's defense response in order to protect the immune system from potential harm. 

Additionally, there is speculation that the following factors may also cause inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. 

  • Diet, particularly toxins in the food
  • Food allergies*
  • Chronic stress 
  • Genetics 
  • Antibiotics, specifically over-vaccinating 
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Immune system abnormalities

*In terms of food allergies, experts have linked the following food sources as those most often resulting in IBD. 

  • Milk proteins
  • Wheat (gluten)
  • Meat proteins
  • Additives
  • Artificial coloring
  • Preservatives

Grains can cause Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Dog Breeds at Higher Risk of IBD 

Furthermore, interestingly enough, experts have found that certain dog breeds at actually at a higher risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease. These breeds include: 

  • Basenjis
  • Lundehunds
  • Irish setters
  • French bulldog

french bulldog have a higher risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Additionally, veterinarians more frequently diagnose IBD in middle-aged and older dogs. With that being said, IBD can develop in dogs of any breed and of any age. 

IBD Symptoms 

The number one way to ensure your dog receives a proper diagnosis and treatment for IBD is being able to recognize the telltale signs of its development. 

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs include: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Chronic intermittent vomiting
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain, often sensitive to the touch
  • Audible, gurgling abdominal sounds
  • Bright red blood in stool
  • Poor quality coat
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

ibd symptoms

The aforementioned symptoms are also those of a number of gastrointestinal diseases in dogs. As we previously mentioned, ulcerative colitis, or inflammation of the large intestine, will cause diarrhea and abdominal sensitivities. 

Inflammation of the small intestine, a condition known as enteritis, often results in vomiting, weight loss, and lethargy. Again, these conditions fall under the inflammatory bowel disease "umbrella," largely because of the fact that inflammation is heavily involved. 

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

In order to accurately diagnose inflammatory bowel disease in dogs, your veterinarian will have to perform a series of tests including a complete blood count (CBC) and a fecal examination. Additionally, the presence of intestinal parasites such as worms, as well as potential bacterial infections and poisoning may require more testing to be necessary. 

Endoscopic Biopsy 

Finally, a procedure called an endoscopic biopsy may be necessary in order to make a final diagnosis. The endoscopic biopsy involves using a small tube with a camera on one end to take a sample of GI tract tissue. This allows the veterinarian to thoroughly examine the inflammatory cells involved. 

Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Conventional treatment for IBD in dogs will often involve anti-inflammatory drugs that are designed to decrease the amount of inflammation in the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract). 

In addition to anti-inflammatory drugs, possible medications include: 

  • Corticosteroids (i.e prednisone
  • Antibiotics (i.e as Metronidazole)
  • Immunosuppressive agents (i.e as Azathioprine)
  • Antispasmodic drugs
  • Antidiarrheal medications

Additionally, if chronic diarrhea and vomiting have led to a significant decrease in fluids, an IV may be necessary to stabilize the dog's system. 

Warning About Conventional IBD Medications 

As always, we want our readers to have a full understanding of what is at stake when it comes to treating their beloved four-legged friends. When it comes to treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, many conventional medications prove to provide relief. However, all conventional medications come with a risk, specifically, a laundry list of potential adverse reactions. It is imperative that pet owners understand the associated side effects of certain medications before administering it to their dogs. In some cases, the side effects may be significantly worse than the disease they are treating. 

Natural Treatment for IBD in Dogs 

Thankfully, there are all natural treatment options available for dogs suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. It may be necessary for some treatments to be long-term changes in order to prevent the condition from returning. 

Diet Diet Diet!

Countless experts agree that the most effective way to treat inflammatory bowel disease is through diet. In many cases, IBD is thought to develop due to a sensitivity in the dog's food. Therefore, pinpointing what is causing the sensitivity and then eliminating it is the most effective way to not only alleviate present inflammation, but prevent it from occurring in the future. 

If your veterinarian diagnoses IBD, they may recommend a hypoallergenic food source. You may also want to either switch to or switch from a grain-based diet. For instance, it is common for pet owners to find that their dog has a sensitivity to wheat or rice. Making the necessary changes to their dog's food base may be all that pet parents have to do in order to relieve their dog's IBD symptoms. 

Furthermore, many dogs have sensitivities to certain meats. Let's say that your dog is sensitive to beef. Over time, constantly feeding them beef based meals will lead to inflammation and can, therefore, result in IBD. Diarrhea and vomiting should never be considered "normal." It is important for pet owners to recognize when something isn't right with their dog and actively work to reverse it. While diarrhea here and there may not seem like a big deal, it can very well be a sign of a food allergy that you'll want to steer clear of. 

Veterinarians may also recommend feeding your dog two smaller meals a day instead of one big meal, at least until the inflammation subsides. 

Finally, IBD flare-ups are closely linked to diets that have high levels of saturated fat. In order to prevent these instances from occurring, make sure to be aware of the levels of saturated fats in your dog's diet and cut them down whenever possible. 

If your dog has inflammatory bowel disease, talk to your veterinarian regarding a dietary change that may help. 


Your veterinarian may recommend a probiotic supplement which can help balance bacteria in the gut. Countless ailments can be alleviated and prevented with something as simple as a healthy gut, IBD being one of them. In fact, your dog's digestive tract health can affect just about every other process in the body, in one way or another. Implementing a probiotic supplement will help to improve digestion and allow the dog's body to effectively absorb the necessary nutrients. 

probiotics for dogs

Spirulina (Blue-Green Algae)

Next, you may want to consider implementing a veterinary spirulina supplement into your dog's diet. Spirulina is a powerful, all-natural anti-inflammatory supplement which has proven to be able to alleviate and prevent inflammation in dogs and people alike. Studies show that spirulina can help your four-legged friend in the following ways: 

  • Reduce and prevent inflammation
  • Improve kidney and liver function
  • Boost the immune system
  • Alleviate allergies
  • Detoxify the body from environmental toxins
  • Stimulate antibody growth
  • Fight infections 
  • Heal eye infections 
  • Support a healthy digestive system
  • Promote skin and coat health 
  • Attack free radicals 
  • Provide a great source of protein 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Additionally, Omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial for a dog with inflammatory bowel disease. Found in supplements like fish oil, the anti-inflammatory effects of fatty acids are often recommended, despite criticism over the recent years. We recommend talking to your veterinarian regarding whether an omega-3 supplement may be able to help your dog or if they prefer a different anti-inflammatory supplement instead. 

omega 3 fatty acids for dogs


The anti-inflammatory effects of Boswellia are also known to help dogs with inflammatory bowel disease. The herb also is used as a natural pain relief to treat a slew of medical conditions. Pet owners can also combine Boswellia with turmeric which proves to provide even more relief from the associated symptoms of IBD. The combination is also useful for dogs with arthritis pain. 

Turmeric for Dogs

Speaking of which, one of our favorite natural anti-inflammatory supplements is none other than turmeric for dogs. You may be familiar with the yellow-orange colored spice, as it is used in many recipes. However, you may not be aware of all of its associated health benefits. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has been used for hundreds of years as a medicinal treatment. However, only recently have pet parents realized the incredible ways that it can benefit Fido. 

The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Funny enough, one study at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas nicknamed curcumin "cure-cumin" after seeing all of the ways that it can help with different health issues. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties that make it an excellent way to relieve ailments as well as prevent them. 

Preventing Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs 

We believe that prevention truly is the best medicine. When it comes to IBD in dogs, in many cases, the disease can be difficult to prevent, due to the fact that the underlying cause can be impossible to pinpoint. With that being said, dog owners can do certain things to help reduce the chances of the condition developing. Furthermore, once the disease is reversed, it is imperative that pet owners make sure they do all they can to make sure it doesn't return. 

The Importance of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet can truly make a huge difference in your dog's life. Again, inflammation is often overlooked and not seen for the incredibly dangerous condition that it is. 

If you feed your dog a homemade diet, it can be easy to inadvertently feed them a meal that is chock full of ingredients that cause inflammation. For example, processed meats, many kinds of cheese, and refined grains are all major culprits of inflammation. It is imperative that pet parents balance these foods with anti-inflammatory foods, supplements, and herbs in order to reduce the possibility of inflammatory bowel disease. 

In cases where IBD has already existed, specific dietary changes are even more important and necessary. Inflammatory bowel disease is a condition that can be managed, but only with the necessary adjustments to your dog's diet and lifestyle. 

Prognosis for IBD in Dogs

It is important for dog owners to understand that inflammatory bowel disease is not one that can be cured. However, with the appropriate, necessary steps and changes, symptoms of IBD can be completely managed.  Keeping that in mind, the prognosis of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs is usually very positive. However, in severe cases that go untreated, certain intestinal cancers can develop as a result of inflammatory bowel disease, thus making an accurate diagnosis and treatment paramount. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs: A Final Thought 

At the end of the day, we know that you want the very best for your furry companion. Trust us, we get it. Here at Honest Paws, we are all dog owners and know how awful it feels seeing your dog suffer. One of the most important things that you can do for a dog with inflammatory bowel disease is to be sensitive to their fragile state. IBD, even with appropriate treatment, won't simply resolve overnight. Try not to get frustrated. Once a probable cause of IBD is decided upon, pet parents can take the necessary steps to resolve it and get their dog back on their feet. 

The last important fact that we want to note is that while inflammatory bowel disease is generally not life-threatening and can be managed, it must be treated appropriately. IBD inhibits the body from fully absorbing nutrients from food which can lead to a slew of issues if the disease progresses. 

There is not a simple cure or a magic pill that will reverse inflammatory bowel disease overnight. However, by making the necessary dietary changes and implementing nutritional supplements, IBD in dogs doesn't haven't have to affect their quality of life. Again, if you feel that your dog may be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, talk to your vet and get your pup the help they need. 


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