Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) occurs when sections of a dog’s gastrointestinal system have an unusually high number of inflammatory cells. The inflammation causes changes in the lining of the digestive tract, which makes the body become less efficient at absorbing vital nutrients and can inhibit the normal passage of food through the bowel. This condition can impact a dog’s overall health and wellness.
The exact cause of IBD is not known; it is thought that genetics, diet, food allergies, and immune system abnormalities each play a role in the disease’s development.
Note: IBD is not the same as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is triggered by psychological factors like stress.
What Are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs?
The symptoms of canine IBD range in severity and vary depending on the location of inflammation (stomach, large intestine, small intestine, colon, or all of the above). Symptoms include:
What Dog Breeds Are Affected by IBD?
IBD affects dogs of all ages and breeds, but certain breeds and ages seem more predisposed to the disease. German Shepherds, Basenjis, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, and Shar-Peis seem particularly prone. IBD is more commonly diagnosed in middle-aged and older dogs, possibly because early signs are subtle and can go unnoticed.
How Is it Diagnosed?
- Urinalysis and blood panel: These are often used as part of a routine health screening to first rule out problems in your dog’s kidneys and liver.
- Parasite testing: Your vet will also rule out any parasite infections through a stool sample. Several types of parasites can affect the GI tract: the Giardia parasite is commonly mistaken for an IBD condition. A broad spectrum deworming might be recommended.
- X-ray: An x-ray can help rule out tumors or abnormal growths. Your vet may recommend using a barium contrast to enhance the visibility of organs and intestinal wall thicknesses during the x-ray. The barium can be given orally.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound may help identify any abnormalities in the intestinal tract.
- Biopsy: A biopsy will be performed only after ruling out other causes for the symptoms with non-invasive procedures. The biopsy is the only way to identify the type of inflammatory cells causing the IBD and their frequency (usually graded as mild, moderate, or severe). A biopsy can usually be done via endoscopy.
How Is IBD Treated?
Although IBD is usually treatable, it cannot be completely cured. Your veterinarian will create a plan to get the symptoms under control. Finding the right combination of treatments may take some time, but will include both dietary modifications and medications. Medications like corticosteroids, antibiotics with anti-inflammatory properties (like Metronidazole for dogs), and immune suppressants may be recommended based on the severity of the condition.
Many dogs with IBD respond well to a management plan and only see occasional flare-ups.
More on Inflammatory Diseases
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