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ibd in dogs

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what you need to know.

IBD in Dogs — The Basics



Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, is a very common problem in some breeds of dogs. 

Symptoms range from vomiting or diarrhea to the dreaded dog farts, but over time can progress to weight loss and death.

The underlying cause is dietary allergies, which start as food intolerance but eventually cause bleeding, swelling, and scarring of the intestinal wall.

As this scarring takes place, the intestines of a dog with IBD cannot absorb nutrients, which will cause weight loss.

Because the scarred intestines can’t absorb water from the food,  dogs with IBD develop diarrhea.

Longer term, the chronic intestinal inflammation can create cancer.



    IBD in dogs-- the basics

    it’s not the diet’s fault.

    IBD in Dogs– Dietary Allergies


    IBD in dogs, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, starts as a simple dietary allergy.  This allergy is usually directed at the MEAT or GRAIN components of the diet.

    If your dog spends time outside or roams, then you must consider anything they may be eating outside the yard.  Most dogs with IBD should thus be confined, to narrow down the dietary suspects.

    If you are lucky, a simple change of dietary ingredients may solve this for you.  Remember that any dietary change will take a minimum of 6 weeks to be fully effective, so you won’t see overnight change.

    The biggest concern with retail diets is “cross-contamination” of different ingredients, so that foods labeled as fish may also have turkey or beef in them.  There is, unfortunately, no way to know about this… until it’s too late.

    HERE ARE YOUR DIETARY CHOICES.   Generally speaking, the farther down this list you go the better your odds of success.

    • Check out the current ingredients in your dog’s food, and find an OTC diet with differing grains and meats.
    • Retail Vegetarian or Vegan diets, such as V-Dog.
    • Retail Rabbit diets (available online)
    • Veterinary single ingredient diets:  Rabbit, Kangaroo, Alligator
    • Veterinary prescription hydrolyzed diets:  Hills Z/D, etc.
    • Homecooked meals

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    IBD in dogs-- the progression

    behind the scenes

    IBD in Dogs — The Progression

    If you are unable to find a diet to which your pet is not sensitive, the inflammation in their GI tract will worsen.

    If the inflammation occurs in the stomach or upper small intestine, you will see vomiting; if it occurs lower down in the intestines, diarrhea will be the primary symptom.

    On a microscopic basis, the intestinal wall will show bleeding, inflammation, and swelling.

    If you catch it at this point, you can return a dog to normal health with the right diet.

    As the inflammation persists in your dog’s intestines, scar tissue will replace the normal cells of the intestine… and now you are dealing with a permanent problem.

    The scar tissue will prevent normal absorption of nutrients (causing weight loss) and water (causing diarrhea).

    The chronic inflammation will predispose affected dogs to intestinal cancer like lymphoma or adenocarcinoma.




    What’s Up, Doc??

    IBD in Dogs — The Possibilities

    Typical Symptoms:

    • Chronic Vomiting and Diarrhea
    • Chronic Dog farts
    • Weight loss

    If your dog shows you vomiting, diarrhea, and gas for just 1-2 days, it is much more likely to be something they ate than true IBD.  Don’t panic.

    The list of potential causes:

    • A chronic dietary change (ie, your dog is getting into something you don’t know about).  Keep them in!!
    • Dietary foreign body
    • Dietary allergies
    • Intestinal parasites
    • Spoiled food — rare, but a new bag of food never hurts…
    • IBD
    • Cancer


    IBD in dogs-- the possibilities
    IBD in dogs-- the diagnosis

    The right tests

    IBD in Dogs –The Diagnosis

    Logical tests for the dog with potential IBD include…

    The first line —

    • A dietary change for 2-3 weeks… if your pet is stable.
    • Fecal exam for parasites.  This is what we WANT to find!!
    • Complete blood count, looking for infection and inflammation
    • Chemistry panel to check organ function
    • Radiographs to look for a foreign body swallowed by your dog.

    Advanced tests–

    • Pancreatic function tests — because pancreatic problems can cause the exact same symptoms
    • Malabsorption blood tests to measure the B-vitamins in your dog’s blood.  Why?  Because B-vitamins are only absorbed through the upper small intestine, so if the tests are abnormal it tells us where and how much inflammation is present.
    • Endoscopic exam +/- biopsy.  Nice to evaluate the stomach and upper small intestine, but biopsy samples are frequently too small to get answers.
    • Exploratory surgery and biopsy.  This enables multiple biopsies of suspicious areas, but has obvious drawbacks.


    Always a great idea!!

    IBD in Dogs — Holistic Care

    All dogs with IBD will benefit from holistic care:

    • Dietary simplification — give them only one food– no treats, no scraps, no outside roaming.
    • Appropriate dietary therapy.
    • CURCUMIN — proven effective in over 100 clinical studies
    • PROBIOTICS — VISBIOME is the best for sick pets
    • FISH OIL to supply 50 mg of omega3 fatty acids per lb body weight.
    • Oral Colostrum
    • For vomiting pets, Pepsid AC or Omeprazole at a dose of 1 mg per 2 lb body weight once daily.
    • Avoid oral flea and heartworm medications if possible.
    • Avoid vaccines if possible.
    IBD in dogs -- holistic care

    Partnering with Your Veterinarian

    IBD in Dogs– Drug Therapy

    The ACUTE treatment of a vomiting dog should include…

    • CERENIA as the most potent “anti-nausea” drug we have.
    • FLUID  THERAPY to prevent dehydration and electolyte imbalances
    • ANTIBIOTICS if you are seeing blood in the vomitus
    • ANTI-ULCER MEDS like ranitidine or famotidine.
    • HOSPITALIZATION for persistent vomiting.

    The CHRONIC treatment of IBD dogs should include…

    • The above drugs as needed for flareups
    • METRONIDAZOLE as a combination intestinal antibiotic and anti-inflammatory.
    • ANTI-ULCER MEDS, above
    • IMMUNE SUPPRESSANTS  to reduce inflammation and specifically inhibit allergies
      • PREDNISONE is the old standby, lots of side effects
      • CYCLOSPORINE is more potent, but more expensive.


    Let's chat.


    NATURAL PEt.health

    Kevin Toman, DVM


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