Inflammatory bowel disease in dogs

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
October 1, 2021

Inflammatory bowel disease is the invasion of inflammatory cells into the stomach and intestines. Its cause can be of unknown cause, or triggered by parasites, bacterial infection, dietary intolerance, genetic factors, and abnormal immune response to bacterial antigens. 

Inflammatory bowel disease is a “diagnosis of exclusion,” meaning underlying conditions have been ruled out.

What are common inflammatory bowel disease signs in dogs?

Early signs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased or decreased appetite

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Weight loss
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Distended abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing

Increased or decreased appetite are signs of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs.

How is inflammatory bowel disease managed in dogs?  

Treatment for inflammatory bowel disease has many approaches, with testing and treatment for parasites the first step. 

Changing to a high fibre or low-antigenic prescription diet can resolve many cases in dogs. Certain probiotics, used alone or in combination with a food trial, have shown promising results. Antibiotics can decrease intestinal bacteria and the body’s inflammatory response to bacterial antigens. Immunosuppressive medications (e.g. steroids or other therapies) are needed if treatment response is poor. 

Adding B vitamins, or anti-nausea or anti-diarrhoeal medication is often helpful. Dogs with inflammatory bowel disease need regular veterinary visits and diagnostic monitoring and discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian is important for the best outcome for your dog.

What is the prognosis for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease?

With appropriate treatment, most dogs with inflammatory bowel disease can live healthy, comfortable lives. Some dogs have a good response after a few months of treatment, or may go in and out of remission from the disease. Many dogs require a specialised diet or lifelong therapy. 

Dogs who are refractory to treatment have an underlying disease, or develop stomach or intestinal cancer, have a poorer prognosis. 

Management tips for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food and water and a comfortable location
  • Strict adherence to an appropriate prescription diet
  • Consistency with prescription medications or supplements
  • Monitoring appetite, vomiting, defecation, weight and energy level

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog stops eating; has uncontrollable diarrhoea or vomiting, a distended abdomen, or difficulty breathing; or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable or they begin losing their quality of life. 

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.