Inflammatory bowel disease in dogs

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. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website

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