Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease In Dogs Getting Your Dogs' GI Tract Back On Track

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Canine inflammatory bowel disease is when the gastrointestinal tract begins to absorb less nutrients because of too many inflammatory cells are present. This can affect your dogs' health in many different ways. Learn what treatments are available here.

Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) occurs when sections of a dogโ€™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 dogโ€™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 diseaseโ€™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 dogโ€™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.

Steps To Manage Inflammatory Bowel Disease In Cats

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, refers to a group of chronic gastrointestinal disorders. The disease prevents your petโ€™s stomach and intestinal tract from functioning properly, causing severe digestive problems. In some cases, IBD can even lead to intestinal cancer or lymphosarcoma. Thankfully, this painful condition can be managed. The key is to know the signs of inflammatory bowel disease in cats, work with your vet to reverse the inflammation, and get your cat back to feeling normal.

What Causes IBD?

Veterinarians and researchers donโ€™t really know what causes this inflammation. However, they do have some well-grounded theories about factors that affect a catโ€™s risk of IBD, including:

  • Age: Cats can develop the disease at any point, but it seems most prevalent in middle-aged and senior felines.

  • Immune system: Problems with your catโ€™s immune system may lead it to attack the โ€œgoodโ€ intestinal flora (microorganisms), causing inflamed cells in the digestive tract.

  • Diet: Hypersensitivity or an allergy to certain foods may trigger IBD.

Thereโ€™s also speculation that the modern diet of domesticated cats puts them at risk for IBD, and that a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet (like that of wild felines) can protect cats from the disease. However, thereโ€™s no definitive evidence to support that theory.

What Are IBD Symptoms in Cats?

The buildup of inflammatory cells in the stomach and intestines of felines interferes with normal absorption and the passage of food through the digestive tract. This leads to a range of problems. If your cat regularly suffers from one or more of the following symptoms, talk to your veterinarian about whether the cause is inflammatory bowel disease.

The signs of IBD are very similar to other gastrointestinal conditions so your vet will need to rule out causes such as parasiteshypothyroidismkidney disease, and pancreatitis.

Another Possibility: IBS

IBD symptoms can also be similar to another inflammatory condition, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is not considered a gastrointestinal disease, though, and is most likely caused by miscommunication between the brain and the intestinal tract.

To definitively diagnose IBD, your vet will perform blood work, a urinalysis, and a fecal examination. Biopsies of the GI tract are also needed so your vet can identify the extent and type of inflammation affecting your pet.

Treating Feline IBD

When treating IBD, the best you can usually hope for is to control your catโ€™s symptoms. Once your cat has been diagnosed, treatment usually follows a two-step approach:

Step 1: Change your catโ€™s diet

Since allergies and food sensitivities are common triggers, your vet may recommend a food trial using a hypoallergenic diet. During the trial, youโ€™ll introduce a type of protein (such as rabbit, duck, or venison) and carbohydrate that your pet hasnโ€™t eaten before while eliminating all foods not specified by your veterinarian. You may then need to wait several weeks to see if your cat improves with the new food. It can take several attempts with different foods to find a combination that works best for your cat.

If a hypoallergenic diet doesnโ€™t help, your vet may switch your kitty to a high-fiber, low-fat diet of easy-to-digest food.

Step 2: Use medication

Along with dietary changes, cats with IBD are usually put on prednisolone or another corticosteroid. This anti-inflammatory medication can suppress an overactive immune system. There are potentially dangerous side effects, including diabetes, but the usual course is to have the catโ€™s dosage lessened over the course of several weeks while under the close supervision of a vet who can watch for signs of problems.

If corticosteroid and dietary changes donโ€™t resolve your catโ€™s digestive distress, antibiotics (such as Metronidazole for dogs and cats) may be recommended as well.

Prognosis for Cats with IBD

With proper treatment, IBD symptoms should lessen or disappear. However, ongoing vigilance is needed on the part of pet parents to ensure that cats donโ€™t suffer side effects from the treatment and to ensure that, if symptoms flare up again, a catโ€™s medication and treatment can be adjusted.

More on Inflammatory Diseases

Your Guide To Dog Arthritis Medicine
Symptoms Of Addison's Disease In Dogs
Feline Infectious Peritontis

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