Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs Leave a comment

The group of gastrointestinal diseases known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) results in the inflammation of the intestines and chronic symptoms related to gastrointestinal system. Though the exact cause of IBD is not known, abnormal immune system response thought to be initiated by normal inhabitant bacteria of the intestine is suspected to be the cause of inflammation.

IBD can affect dogs at any age but is more common in middle-aged and older dogs. Some breeds may be predisposed to IBD, including basenjis, lundehunds, French bulldog, and Irish setters. 

Symptoms and Types

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Chronic intermittent vomiting
  • Gas (flatulence)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rumbling and gurgling abdominal sounds
  • Bright red blood in stool
  • Distressed coat hair


Though no single cause is known, more than one cause is suspected. Hypersensitivity to bacteria and/or food allergies are suspected to play a major role in this disease. Food allergens suspected to play a role in this disease include meat proteins, food additives, artificial coloring, preservatives, milk proteins, and gluten (wheat). Genetic factors are also suspected to play a role in IBD.


Your veterinarian will take a detailed history and ask you questions regarding to the duration and frequency of symptoms. A complete physical examination will be conducted and after the examination your veterinarian will conduct routine laboratory tests, including complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. The results of these routine laboratory tests are often normal. In some patients, anemia and abnormally high number of white blood cells (as in infections) may be present. In dogs with IBD, abnormally levels of proteins and liver enzymes may also be found. Fecal examination, meanwhile, is performed to verify the presence of parasitic infection(s).

Your veterinarian may conduct tests to determine cobalamin and folate levels in blood to evaluate small intestine functions. Routine X-rays are usually normal in these patients. Your veterinarian may conduct Barium Contrast Studies for a more detailed evaluation. Barium enhances the visibility of organs. It is usually given orally, followed by a series of X-rays as barium moves downward in gastrointestinal tract. Intestine wall abnormalities, like increased thickness, may be visible through barium contrast studies. Similarly, ultrasound can be of help in determining the changes in the intestine wall. More specific testing to rule if any food allergen may be the cause of this condition is conducted. Taking a small tissue sample from the dog’s intestine by surgical means can confirm the diagnosis, too.


In most dogs, IBD cannot be “cured” but can be successfully controlled. However, even after complete recovery, relapses are common. Major goals of treatment are the stabilization of body weight, the amelioration of gastrointestinal symptoms, and the reduction of the immune system’s response. Therefore, immunosuppresive drugs and antibiotics are key components of the therapy. Additionally, cobalamin is given in some dogs to counteract deficiency.

In cases of dehydration, fluid replacement therapy is started to overcome the fluid deficit. Dogs with continuous vomiting are usually not given anything orally and may require fluid therapy until vomiting resolves. Dietary management is another essential component of therapy, with hypoallergenic diets being the most recommended. Usually two weeks or so are given to see the response of your dog to such a diet.

Living and Management

The short-term prognosis in most dogs is excellent, but in cases of severe disease, prognosis is often very poor. Again, it is important to note that IBD cannot be “cured,” but can be managed in most dogs. Be patient with the forms of treatment suggested by your veterinarian and strictly adhere to diet recommendations made him or her. In stabilized patients, a yearly examination is often required.


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