Digestive System: Colitis Overview


Canine colitis refers to inflammation of the large intestine and colon. The colon and large intestine hold dog feces before it is expelled from the body. This feces often contains bacteria, fungi, viruses etc. that are thought to cause the inflammation. Treatment approaches involve addressing the underlying cause of the condition and the symptoms themselves. Symptoms are primarily diarrhea or constipation. In approximately 1/3 of the cases dogs may also experience nausea and vomiting.

canine colitis
Canine Colitis
Emaciated young Boxer dog affected with HUC (Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis)
Source: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

A type of colitis, Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis (HUC or granulomatous colitis) is seen in young Boxer dogs.  Symptoms include stools that contain blood and mucus.  As the disease progresses symptoms include hypoalbuminemia, weight loss and anemia. if you dog is a Box that fits this profile, contact the Cornell University College of Veterinary medicine (607-253-3567) to participate in a research study.

Dietary Prescription for Treatment:

Any disease related to the gastrointestinal tract usually reveals three main symptoms, i.e. vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. In case of canine colitis, either vomiting or diarrhea is noted, depending upon the cause, while vomiting is less common and is seen in only 30% of all cases.

Dietary management plays an important role in controlling these symptoms, and in canine colitis, dietary management is considered part of any veterinary prescription, i.e. diet is part of treatment.

Affected dogs must not be given anything orally for at least 24 – 48 hours, water may be given to drink, but in some cases, it should be restricted, as per the instructions of your veterinarian. By restricting food, not only will the inflamed bowl be kept on “rest”, also vomiting or nausea will remain in control. Dogs may be given nutrients intravenously, but in most cases it is never required.

Soluble fiber should be added in highly digestible food; it should be soft, and contain water as a major component. The addition of fiber has shown excellent results in chronic cases of colitis in dogs, as it controls diarrhea by retaining water in the bowel and smooths the passage of digestive contents.

In other cases, hypoallergenic diets are recommended, which should only contain novel proteins such as providing low-fat cottage cheese and boiled white rice.

Systemic Treatment:

Treatment of any underlying cause should be carried out simultaneously, with dietary management. Different drugs can be used orally or in the form of an injection, to treat the exact cause of the colitis. Antibiotics, especially sulfa drugs are highly recommended for treatment of bacterial infections, Anti-fungal drugs for fungal infections, Anti-parasitic drugs for protozoa etc can be used, but it should be noted that systemic treatment such as a prescription diet should only be given after a confirmatory diagnosis is made and as recommended by a veterinarian.

Symptomatic Treatment:

Dogs with colitis recover rapidly if some therapeutic agents, most commonly anti-inflammatory drugs are used in addition to a prescription colitis dog food. The most common drugs used for this purpose are Salfasalazine and Prednisolone. These may be used in combination or individually, depending upon the severity of a dog's symptoms, and are considered only for the treatment of idiopathic canine colitis, or in cases where the exact cause is unknown. These drugs have been proven as an effective mode of treatment in Boxers, a breed with an above average incidence of colitis.

In some cases, where symptoms are severe, and not resolved, or in cases of severe ulcerative colitis, the use of motility modifiers are essential. Loperamide is an example of a motility modifier, which slows down the passing of fecal content, thus reducing the chance of complications in severe cases. Motility modifiers should be continued until inflammation of the colon is completely resolved.

Homeopathic or natural colitis remedies are also available as a source of supportive care. The following 2 products might provide some level of relief and sustained digestive health.

RunnyPoo Relief contains natural herbal ingredients such as Plaintain, Lady's Mantle, Podophyllum and Sulfur.  Each has properties that can help quicken a dog's recovery by contributing to the formation of firmer stools, and by providing additional support for the digestive system.

Another natural product to try is Digestive Support . which contains herbs that are selected for their ability to not only quickly recovery as a supportive therapy, but also maintain a healthy well functioning digestive system.  Commonly used herbs include Glycyrrhiza glabra (soothes the digestive tract lining), Ulmus fulva (digestive tract health) and Athaea officinalis (helps digestive membranes).