How to Manage IBD in Dogs

Nothing frustrates a dog parent more than arriving home and being greeted with a smelly wrecked living room or kitchen, courtesy of your pooch.

Like humans, dogs don’t mean to make gastrointestinal messes. The main culprit is IBD – Inflammatory Bowel Disease. IBD leads to unpredictable and uncontrollable bouts of diarrhea and vomiting.

If your canine companion experiences tummy issues that don’t resolve in a day or two, you should consider having a veterinarian check him out. The vet will prescribe the best treatment if it turns out to be inflammatory bowel disease or related conditions such as colitis in dogs.

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Is your dog suddenly experiencing bouts of vomiting and diarrhea? Have him diagnosed by your Vet before treating him for IBD.


So What is IBD in dogs?

Inflammatory bowel disease is more like a specific reaction of the dog’s stomach or intestines that causes chronic irritation. It is not a particular disease.

It occurs when the dog’s tummy becomes home to a high number of inflammatory cells that change the lining of the digestive tract. This disrupts the normal absorption and passage of dog food.

IBD can affect any dog of any breed or any age. Some breeds like Cocker Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier, French Bulldog, Boxer, Irish Setters, Basenjis, and German Shepherd are more predisposed to suffering from inflammation.

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Some dog breeds such as French Bulldogs are more predisposed to IBD. 

Causes and Symptoms of IBD in Dogs

Food travels down the esophagus, stops in the tummy, where chemical digestion breaks down the food into chyme, a more liquid substance.

The chyme is passed to the small intestine, where nutrients are further broken down in the GI tract by the bacteria that live there. The nutrients are then absorbed by the small intestine cells.

The last stop is the large intestine (colon), where waste products are excreted as feces and water are absorbed.

When this process is disrupted at any point by inflammation, the organs’ ability to perform naturally and correctly is altered.

Inflammation in the stomach is referred to as gastritis. Even in humans, gastritis will often lead to vomiting.

When the inflammation is in the colon, it is classified as colitis, in the small intestine, its called enteritis.

This inflammation makes the intestinal lining weak leading to it becoming increasingly porous. When the intestinal lining is permeable, toxins may start to leak out from the dog’s gut into his bloodstream, which can then cause several serious issues.

Even though the cause of IBD in dogs isn’t well understood, some variables can contribute to the development of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs.

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Food allergies could also be a cause for IBD in dogs.

There is speculation that some of the factors that can cause IBD in dogs include:

  • Genetics
  • Chronic stress
  • Food allergies – familiar food sources linked to IBD include meat proteins, additives, preservatives, artificial coloring, and wheat (gluten).
  • Bacterial or parasitic infections
  • Immune system abnormalities

Some of the telltale signs of canine IBD include:

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

Note: these symptoms can also be found in other gastrointestinal diseases in pooches such as colitis which also causes diarrhea and different abdominal sensitivities. Enteritis also causes weight loss, lethargy, and vomiting.

It is essential to know that food sensitivities and intolerances can cause a delayed intestine response. This means that that your pup may have eaten offending food on Wednesday, but the reaction can occur much later in the week.

Avoid feeding your canine companion the same food every single day because the repetition of the same diet can also create food sensitivities and intolerances. Feeding him the same food day after day can cause a reaction to the same food.

The overuse of antibiotics can also create an imbalance between the bacteria in the intestines and harm the bacteria in the gut, which creates a dysbiosis environment. 

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If your dog appears to be fatigued or in distress, this could be a symptom of an underlying inflammation.

Difference between IBD in Dogs and IBS in People

The clinical symptoms of IBD in dogs are a lot similar to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) in humans. However, the underlying cause is very different.

IBS in people is believed to occur when the muscle lining of the intestines experience abnormal movement. IBD in dogs, the inflammatory cells alter the actual lining of the intestine.

Inflammation is usually an overreaction by the dog’s immune system.

This can either be caused by a malfunction of your dog’s immune system or a reaction to something your pooch ate.

Both conditions interfere with the GI tract’s ability to absorb nutrients properly, resulting in discomfort.

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The vet will have to evaluate your pup’s clinical signs and symptoms to determine if he is suffering from IBD.

How IBD is Diagnosed by a Veterinarian

After evaluating your dog’s clinical signs and symptoms, your vet may suspect IBD. However, the only definitive way to diagnose IBD is through biopsy.

When the vet rules out other conditions that could be causing the symptoms, such as parasite or organ disease, he/she will ask you questions about the frequency or duration of the signs and take a detailed history.

The vet then proceeds to do a complete physical examination and then conduct routine lab tests, including biochemistry profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis.

Routine can come back normal. However, in some dogs, abnormal levels of liver enzymes and proteins, or abnormally high white blood cells may be present.

To verify the absence or presence of parasitic infections, a fecal examination will be performed. Your veterinarian may also want to evaluate small intestine functions by conducting a test that will help him determine cobalamin and folate levels in your dog’s blood.

Routine x-rays are also a possibility. For a more detailed evaluation, Barium Contrast Studies may also be conducted to enhance the visibility of the organs.

Barium contrast studies will make intestine wall abnormalities like increased thickness visible. It is given orally, then as the barium moves downward in the GI, a series of X-rays follow.

Radiographs, blood work, ultrasound, and microscopic fecal examination are performed before a gastrointestinal biopsy. The biopsy is often necessary to make a final diagnosis.

The biopsy involves the use of small forceps and a small tube with a camera to visualize and extract any samples of the GI tract issues. The camera helps the vet pinpoint where the inflammation is located and allows him to analyze the inflamed tissue carefully.

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With the right treatment, you will be able to successfully manage IBD in your dog. 

So How Do You Manage IBD in Dogs?

Once a final diagnosis of IBD in your dog is made, there are a variety of treatment options your vet will layout for you to consider.

Note: IBD in dogs has no cure – it can only be controlled through medications and diet modifications prescribed by your vet.

Conventional Treatment

Your vet may recommend conventional treatments, which includes medications to help manage the symptoms, such as antibiotics and anti-diarrheal for diarrhea and anti-emetics for vomiting.

Immune-suppressants such as cyclosporine or steroids can be used to treat the underlying inflammation.

Conventional treatment can also involve an anti-parasitic drug such as fenbendazole to kill any intestinal parasites discovered in the tests. Immunosuppressive agents such as azathioprine and corticosteroids like prednisone may also be prescribed.

If your pup is experiencing chronic vomiting and diarrhea, leading to significant fluid loss, intravenous fluids may be administered to stabilize his system and restore adequate hydration.

Caution: even though many conventional medications will provide relief for IBD, all conventional drugs can come with a risk of potential hostile side effects. Before administering conventional medications to your dogs, first, understand the associated side effects of them. Note that there are cases where the side effects are worse than the disease being treated.

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As long as you follow your vet’s instruction, your dog will be up and about in no time. 

Prescription Diets

The vet can also use prescription diets to treat IBD in your dog. These diets utilize a variety of mechanics that decrease antigens in your dog’s food allow the inflammation to subside.

Some diets limit antigenic ingredients through the reduction of protein sources. Other foods hydrolyze the proteins breaking down the molecules to a size small enough to stimulate the immune response.

Prescription diets mat also avoid other allergens like soy, corn, and wheat. People who wish to use raw diet options or home cook might find it hard to formulate a diet that will meet and complete their dog’s daily vitamin and mineral needs.

Consult a holistic or integrative vet first if you wish to prepare your dog’s food at home.

Alternative Therapies

Your vet may also recommend alternative therapies that can be used to supplement conventional treatment or on their own.


When treating gastrointestinal issues, acupuncture may not be the first treatment to revert to. However, acupuncture can help with cramping causing abdominal pain and acute symptoms of vomiting.

Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbs will help deal with intestinal spasm and cramping, while also addressing any underlying inflammation. Chinese herbal formula can also treat Stasis and Dampness in the stomach.

Even though these herbs are easy to access, find a vet trained in Chinese herbals to direct you on the best formula for your pooch’s specific pattern of symptoms.

Western Herbs

Western herbs can also help treat inflammatory bowel disease in dogs because they have anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulatory effects.

Immune-modulatory herbs will decrease the gut’s over-responsiveness because they can influence the function of the immune system.

Examples of western herbs with these effects include calendula, chamomile, slippery elm bark, and astragalus. A vet trained in herbal treatments can help you choose the best herbs for your canine companion.

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Adding probiotic supplements to your pup’s diet could help improve his digestion and allow his body to absorb necessary nutrients easily.

Dietary Supplements


The vet may also recommend probiotic supplements to help maintain a healthy bacterial environment in the gut. IBD in dogs can be prevented and alleviated with a healthy gut.

Like in people, your dog’s digestive tract health can affect other processes in his body in one way or another.

Adding probiotic supplements to your pup’s diet could help improve his digestion and allow his body to absorb necessary nutrients easily.

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids will also benefit your dog if he is diagnosed with IBD. It has anti-inflammatory effects and is found in supplements like fish oil.

However, we recommend consulting with your vet first to find out if the omega-3 supplement will be able to help your dog or whether you should consider a different anti-inflammatory supplement.


Also known as Blue-Green Algae. Adding spirulina supplement as per your vet’s recommendation to your dog’s diet can also help alleviate some of the symptoms.

Spirulina is a natural anti-inflammatory supplement that helps prevent inflammation both in people and dogs. It can further improve your canine companion in the following ways:

  • Heal eye infections
  • Fight infections
  • Boost a dog’s immune system
  • Alleviate allergies
  •  Attack free radicals
  • Healthy skin and coat
  •  Good source of protein
  • Supports a healthy gut
  • Detoxification from environmental toxins
  • Improves liver and kidney function
  • Stimulates antibody growth
  • Reduces and prevents inflammation


This is one of the favorite natural anti-inflammatory supplements. It is also accessible to food because it’s also a food spice.

It has curcumin as the active ingredient which helps with different health issues. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer, and antifungal properties that allow it to relieve and prevent ailments.


Dogs with severe conditions may experience trouble absorbing the nutrients in the food; vitamin supplementation ensures that they don’t suffer from deficiencies.

However, most pet parents tend to go overboard with vitamins. Be easy with vitamins because they can cause dizziness, mainly because there are so many unreliable products in the market.

Include vitamins only if your vet feels that vitamin supplementation will be good for your dog. The vet will recommend products they trust.

Preventing IBD in Dogs

Prevention has always been the best medicine. However, when it comes to IBD in dogs, prevention can be challenging because the underlying cause of inflammatory bowel disease is still impossible to pinpoint.

Dog parents can do a certain thing to reduce the chances of IBD developing. The good news is, when the inflammation is resolved, dog owners do all they can to prevent further return.

Consider incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet for your dog. Avoid significant inflammation culprits like many kinds of cheese, processed meats, and refined grains.

Find a way to balance your dog’s diet with anti-inflammatory foods, herbs, and supplements to reduce IBD possibility in your dog.

Specific dietary changes are notably more essential and necessary if your dog already has IBD.

The good news is, IBD can be effectively managed with the necessary adjustments to your dog’s lifestyle and diet.

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To ensure fast recovery, make sure you get the right diagnosis in order to ensure successful prognosis. 

The prognosis for IBD in Dogs

Dog parents must understand that there is no definitive cure for IBD in dogs. However, the symptoms can be managed entirely with the appropriate necessary steps which make the prognosis of canine IBD excellent.

However, if IBD is severe in your dog or left untreated, it can make him very ill. This is why you have to make sure an accurate diagnosis and treatment is done right.


If your canine companion has been diagnosed with IBD, fear not. With the right options for treatment and the best combination of therapies and herbal remedies for your dog’s individual needs, you will be able to manage the unwanted symptoms well.

Most dogs with IBD proceed to live healthy lives. With lots of patience and the help of your vet, you can expect to experience fewer messes and have a happier, more robust companion.

These tips on how to manage IBD in your dog will help you save the rugs in your house and, improve your pup’s overall health.

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