Digestive System: Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Being a syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (canine IBS) exhibits a number of symptoms, which may differ in different dogs. Inflammation of the gut walls is the basis for this condition, which can be caused by a number of primary and secondary bacterial species, parasites, tumors, injuries or even due to the presence of an obstruction. The severity and form of irritable bowel syndrome in dogs is usually represented by type and anatomical location of the epithelial lining affected in the small intestine — most commonly in the stomach. On the other hand, more specifically, this condition can be classified on the basis of the type of inflammatory cells which have infiltrated the gut, such as lymphocytes, eosinophils, neutrophils or fibrous tissues.

Symptomatic Differentiation:

Though the most common symptoms in all cases of irritable bowel syndrome in dogs are vomiting, diarrhea and anorexia, these symptoms are common to many types of canine disease and conditions. Therefore they only help to indicate that irritable bowel syndrome may be the cause of a dogs gastrointestinal problem.

Dog irritable bowel syndrome may occur in any canine, irrelevant of breed, sex or age, but it is considered that dogs below age 2 years are more susceptible. However, the severity is dependent upon the causative factor and the portion of gastrointestinal tract involved.

Dogs may show signs of severe abdominal pain, progressive weight loss, straining while defecating and when the do defecate, a below normal amount of feces. The dog feces will appear diarrheal in consistency, but cannot be termed as true diarrhea.

In severe cases, blood may pass with the feces. The dog blood will appear dark, tarry and mixed with mucus. Such cases if left untreated may certainly develop into a more severe and incurable ulcerative form of dog irritable bowel.


Diagnosis is usually based upon a dog's history, clinical examination and symptoms along with any laboratory procedures. Remember, in the laboratory simple tests usually cannot reveal the exact cause of the disease, thus advanced techniques involving complete biochemical profiling, radiography, biopsy and endoscopy are usually required in most cases. In most cases, even advanced techniques usually fail to determine the exact cause of the IBS.


Treatment is usually focused on control of the disease with the focus preferably on the symptoms. If an exact cause is confirmed, specific treatment can help to resolve any issues more rapidly. In most cases, control is the only way to handle dog IBS treatment. Finding a cure is usually impossible.

Dietary modifications are important. Dog elimination diets and hypoallergenic diets can help to reduce the chance of an inflammatory response.  An elimination diet simplies what is fed to a dog down to 1 protein and carbohydrate such as a meat product and rice. 

Commercial diets contain some additional components, like artificial flavors, preservatives and additives which can worsen the condition by enhancing the inflammatory response. Thus, home made diets containing rice and/or venison are most suitable, which should be continued for 3 – 4 weeks in mild cases. In severe ulcerative forms of the condition, these are recommended for longer periods of time.

According to clinical and laboratory results of examination, Corticosteroids, Azathioprine, Metronidazole, Sulfasalazine and Ursodeoxycholic acids are some of the best drugs used in the management and control of this canine gastrointestinal problem.

Homeopathic remedies may provide some symptom relief in addition to any changes in diet. There are two types of products to consider. The first is Digestive Support which is formulated to soothe the mucus membranes in the digestive system and promotes digestive health. The second, Natural Moves, focuses on helping a dog's digestive system produce normal bowel movements.