Does My Dog Have Colitis? Symptoms of Colitis and IBD in Dogs

Colitis and IBD are triggered by inflammation of the intestinal tract. Symptoms for either include diarrhea and vomiting. Depending on whether it occurs in the small or large intestine, or it is acute or chronic, the symptoms can fluctuate.

The treatment largely depends on the direct cause of colitis and IBD. If you would like to understand the indicators of these ailments, look into this informative article.

symptoms of colitis and ibd in dogs mishawaka indiana

What is Colitis?

Colitis is an illness that is comparable to irritable bowel syndrome. It causes irritation in the large intestine, diarrhea, and loose stools. The colon’s job is to process any remaining food after the nutrients have been absorbed into the body. When the large intestine is inflamed, it cannot perform properly, resulting in diarrhea.

There are two types of colitis in dogs: acute colitis and chronic colitis. Acute colitis occurs suddenly and usually only lasts for a few days, and chronic colitis can last for weeks and sometimes even months.

A short-term trigger like food indiscretion or stress often precipitates a dog with acute colitis. However, a dog with chronic colitis is a more severe condition usually caused by an underlying issue like inflammatory bowel disease.

What Causes Colitis in Dogs?

Sometimes, dogs can develop colitis from experiencing stressful circumstances like moving to a new home. Stress and anxiety can be taxing on the immune system and wreak havoc. Some other causes of colitis in dogs include:

  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infection
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Food allergy or sensitivity
  • Swallowing a foreign item
  • Injury to the colon
  • Intestinal parasites

With chronic colitis, the immune system can elicit a response that attacks the colon. An example of this would be a food allergy, like beef or chicken, triggering the immune system to overreact. If you have a stressed pooch on your hands, they may benefit from a good probiotic.

What Are the Symptoms of Canine Colitis?

While colitis is treatable, you will need to know what the symptoms are to get your dog the help that they need from your trusted veterinarian. The most obvious sign of colitis in dogs is diarrhea. However, some other symptoms are:

  • Pain or inflammation in the abdomen
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Dehydration from water loss
  • Straining while trying to defecate
  • Excessive gas
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting

The severity of the symptoms and whether they persist depends on whether the colitis is acute or chronic. It also depends on the direct cause. If the colitis is acute, the symptoms should only occur for about three to five days.

How to Treat Acute Canine Colitis

Your vet may prescribe a short-term fast for your dog, followed by a diet of bland, easily digestible foods, such as plain white chicken and white rice. Sometimes, anti-inflammatories are given to decrease inflammation in the gut and help alleviate your pup’s abdominal pain. Probiotics may also be recommended.

Anti-spasmodic medication may also help calm the stomach and reduce the sensation or pressure to excrete waste. It can help restore your dog’s regular bathroom habits. Since acute colitis is often stress related, you may need to work extra hard to satisfy your pup to feel better and more at ease.

Treatment of Chronic Colitis in Dogs

With chronic colitis, your dog must receive lifelong treatment for their condition. Most of the time, this entails some changes in their diet. Your dog may need medication to control an overworked immune system. Fluids can help with hydration, and supplementing your pup’s diet with fiber will be necessary to help them heal.

What is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is described as an inflammation of the small and large colon. The lining of the intestine becomes damaged by inflammatory cells, which impedes proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. This disorder can lead to additional health complications if the canine cannot correctly assimilate nutrients into the body.

Inflammatory bowel disease disrupts the regular contractions of the digestive system. It is a condition like irritable bowel syndrome that can clear up independently. It can turn into a serious problem when it persists every day for more than once a week or longer.

What Initiates Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Many possible causes of inflammatory bowel disease are comparable to colitis, as colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease. Nearly all of the time, the exact cause is unidentified, but practitioners may have some ideas:

  • Food allergy or sensitivity
  • Abnormal immune system
  • Bacteria or parasites
  • Genetics

Some dogs are genetically more susceptible to developing inflammatory bowel disease. These include German Shepherds, Border Collies, Yorkshire terriers, and Irish setters.

An abnormal immune response can trigger inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining, colon, large intestine, small intestine, or any or all of these combined.

Are There Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

The signs of inflammatory bowel disease are distinct in the small and large intestines. You will need to watch closely to provide your veterinarian with the specifics. In the small intestine, the signs involve chronic lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Signs in the large intestine include:

  • Diarrhea with blood or mucus
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Acute vomiting
  • Weight loss

If inflammatory bowel syndrome occurs for more than a few months, weight loss may be the result. In some instances, dogs may develop a ravenous appetite due to their inability to assimilate nutrients properly.

How to Care for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The main course of treatment for inflammatory bowel disease in canines is corticosteroids. These drugs should only be used short-term, as they will decrease your dog’s immune system’s activity and control the inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. However, the long-term goal is to normalize bowel movements by integrating fiber into a healthier diet.

Some dogs with inflammatory bowel disease may have difficulty digesting fiber. In this case, it is best to heed the advice of your veterinarian. Diets high in moisture, as opposed to dry food, will also be easier to digest. Specific proteins can lead to an immune system reaction in dogs. You may want to try a protein they have never eaten before.

Ultimately, the specific treatment will depend on the cause. For example, an elimination diet is a viable solution if food allergies trigger flare-ups. It involves limiting your dog’s exposure to a particular ingredient or food or serving your dog the “bland diet” of plain white chicken and rice. If your pup’s symptoms are caused by a food allergy, limiting or eliminating the food or ingredient will help.

Antibiotics are also often used to treat inflammatory bowel disease in canines. These medications control the bacteria by restoring the delicate balance of the microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract. Antibiotics help treat inflammation of the intestines.


Colitis and inflammatory bowel disease can cause uncomfortable symptoms for your dog, as they are triggered by inflammation in the gut. It is essential to recognize the signs of colitis and inflammatory bowel disease in your dog so that, if need be, you can get your canine to the vet as soon as possible.

Sometimes, your pup may need a specialty veterinarian to treat colitis or IBD. Pawsitive Integrative Veterinary Care, located in the Midwest in Mishawaka, In, is here for you and your pet. To learn more, give us a call at (574) 256-1871 or schedule an appointment!

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