Digestive System: Canine IBD Overview


Dog IBD is a group of diseases that are chronic in nature and whose exact cause can often cannot be determined. It refers to an unusual number of inflamed cells in the wall of the dog intestines. The causes may be numerous and may affect the physiology (condition) of the gastrointestinal tract individually or collectively. 

Most commonly, permeability defects, genetic, bacterial, parasitic, biochemical, food allergens and drug reactions are some of the main causes of IBD. Due to a variety of causative factors and possibility of predilection factors, it is usually impossible to determine the exact cause clinically. The same is true of laboratory tests.

Defective immune system regulation and hypersensitivity reactions in the gastrointestinal tract due to different antigenic components found in food, allergens, bacterial toxins, drug residues, biochemical factors etc. are considered to be the basic causes of dog inflammatory bowel disease.

The exact cause of Canine IBD or inflammatory bowel disease is unknown not because that researchers didn't get any sense of etiology or causes of the disease , but it is for the reason that many factors including allergens, infectants, drug reactions, a defect in immune regulation, fungus and some dietary components are related to its occurrence.
Now, each of these factors either acts individually resulting in canine IBD or results in a  series of actions from different agents that lead to canine irritable bowel disease. e.g. bacteria can alone cause IBD, whereas food allergens can only act if there is a defect in immune regulation, i.e. primary hypersensitivity of GIT or gastrointestinal tract. Similarly, fungus can never cause canine IBD unless the population of microflora in the GIT increases due to a severe drug reaction.

A related condition is Canine Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Canine IBD is a developed condition, which means that it is clinically definable in terms of expected levels of inflammation and the presence of ulcers.  Canine IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome on other hand, is a relatively simple condition. Canine IBS can be termed as being an initial stage of Canine IBD with the determination of a cure being potentially easy. 


Likely causes or etiology of IBD often cannot be determined by looking at the clinical representation of symptoms. Almost all cases show signs of vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. Diarrhea in case of IBD is not true diarrhea, but soft stool passes, with a dog straining while defecating.

In some cases specific signs, such as melena or the passing of dark tarry and digested blood in the feces represents the presence of inflammation in the small intestine. Abdominal pain, severe vomiting and nausea are only seen with canine gastroenteritis (Inflammation of the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines) which involves the small intestine and stomach collectively.

Some symptoms, such as watery diarrhea are not representative of dog IBD; as it is usually caused by curable inflammation in the large intestine and can be confirmed with a clinical examination of the rectum. Whereas, some diseases, such as dog bloat is sometimes associated with IBD, in which a dog may show signs of gas accumulation in the stomach or in the small intestine, which are released due to a high population of inflammatory cell infiltration. In such cases, due to inflammation, intestinal motility and gastrointestinal timing is badly affected, thus causing dog bloat.


Clinical examination and palpating (touching) the abdomen are different approaches that can help in suspecting different forms of infection or a diseased condition, but mostly, taking a history of gastrointestinal problems and therapies can help in making an initial diagnosis.

Different basic and advanced laboratory procedures, such as biochemical evaluations, CBC and histological examinations are helpful in describing different values associated with canine IBD. Thrombocytopenia (Reduced Platelet cells), Erythrocytosis (RBC defect in Blood), fluid loss and hypoproteinemia (Reduced protein level in blood) are common in cases of dog IBD.

In most cases, gross lesions are usually required to be examined; biopsy and endoscopy can also help in this regard. Clinical pathology and procedures using gastrointestinal loops and the examination of stool samples determine the severity of the disease including any erosion of the gastrointestinal tract and the existence of any ulcers. The pathology of tumors and chronic fibrosis can only be determined with pathological sampling and evaluation.

Culturing stool samples can reveal the type of primary or secondary bacteria involved. Campylobacter and Salmonella are the most common species. Similarly, Dog Giardia is the most common type of protozoa found. It can only be determined after culturing and by using a fecal flotation techniques.


Specific treatment of dog IBD is not possible unless an exact cause is determined. In many cases, even advanced laboratory procedures cannot determine the cause of the IBD. Therefore, the treatment approach remains restricted to options which focus on helping with specific symptoms. The main goals of treatment are usually focused on resolving diarrhea, vomiting and overcoming weight loss.

Diet should be modified for affected dogs by using either an elimination diet or a hypoallergenic diet. Home made diets comprised of rice and venison are effective in this regard and should be initially continued for 4 – 6 weeks. However,it can be continued in combination with a regular diet, Thereafter. supplementation of the diet with a vitamin complex and minerals are usually not effective.

High quality homeopathic remedies that target problems such as diarrhea and digestive health could be of some value in addressing IBD symptoms. Products to consider include Digestive Support which addresses any digestive symptoms and Natural Moves which can help with the consistency and passing of stools.

Drugs such as Corticosteroids, Azathioprine, Sulfasalazine, Metronidazole are effective in symptomatic management of IBD. Antibiotics, Anti parasitic drugs and some other drugs can be used but they should only be used after the confirmation of any bacterial presence or parasitic infestation.

The prognosis for canine IBD is good in terms of control but is poor in terms of finding a cure, thus long term management and nursing is the only way to treat dog inflammatory bowel disease.