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IBD – Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs – Pet tip 120

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in dogs, just as in humans, is responsible for causing chronic diarrhea and vomiting in afflicted individuals. While the cause of IBD remains unknown, its mechanism has been well documented. IBD results when cells from the immune system invade the lining of the intestines and/or stomach. Almost like an allergic reaction, the immune system reacts in the gut and causes inflammation and irritation. This irritation causes the gut lining to thicken, and interferes with its absorptive function. Also, the ability of the gut to contract and propel digested food may be affected.

What does this mean for your pet? Well, if the major problem exists in the intestines, malabsorption will result in watery diarrhea. If the irritation lies mainly in the stomach, the dog will present with frequent vomiting after meals. In some cases, the disease affects both areas of the gut, and vomiting and diarrhea will be present in the same unlucky dog. There are, of course, many other causes of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs; the veterinary diagnosis of IBD is based on a number of factors in combination. Most of the diagnostic process will involve ruling out other possible causes of illness.

If your dog has a history of frequent diarrhea and/or vomiting and you suspect that he may have IBD, your veterinarian should start by performing a thorough physical exam on your pet. In most cases, dogs with IBD will not present with any obvious problems upon examination besides potentially being thin. If the disease is very severe, your vet may actually be able to physically feel the thickened intestines via palpation. The next step would be to perform blood work on your dog. Your veterinarian will check to see if there is an increase in any of the enzymes from the organs which surround the intestines, and also to see if there is an increase certain cells of the immune system.

Veterinarians may also choose to x-ray your dog to rule out the possibility of a tumour or other obstruction in the intestinal tract. It may also be possible to visualize a thickened intestine on the x-ray. Each of these tests is fairly non-invasive, and it is possible that your veterinarian may feel confident in making a diagnosis of IBD based on these findings alone. However, the only way your veterinarian can diagnose this disease with absolute certainty is to perform a biopsy on your dog. This will involve taking a small tissue sample from the gut which is analyzed in the lab. While this procedure is considered to be invasive, it can help to put minds at ease by providing you with a definitive diagnosis.

If your dog has been diagnosed with IBD, there are treatment options available. Most owners begin by using dietary management of IBD. There is no straight answer as to which types of food are absolutely the best for IBD, because the disease may manifest differently in different animals. Hypoallergenic foods sometime help, as do specialty diets which are formulated to be easy the digestive tract. Organizing food trials for your pet with your veterinarian’s guidance can help you to find which foods are most beneficial for your dog. The medications prescribed to treat IBD are mostly those which work by suppressing inflammation. A common treatment course for milder cases of IBD involves the drug metronidazole which has immune-modulating properties. More commonly, steroids such as prednisone are used for their immunosuppressive qualities.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease, and most dogs with IBD will face a lifelong struggle. Luckily, with loving, patient owners and a caring veterinarian, it is possible to manage the symptoms of IBD in your dog and minimize the effects of this illness in your pet.

By Alison Norwich – writer

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