Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs is not one disease but a group of several digestive system diseases. These diseases are recognized by certain persistent symptoms and inflammation that does not have a known cause. The different forms of the disease are classified by the type of cell involved and the location of the disease.
The cause of the disease is not known. In most cases of inflammatory bowel disease, it is unlikely for food allergies to be a cause but they may aid the development by causing inflammation due to excessive allergic reactions to food, parasites in the intestine or bacteria. The inflammation can damage the mucosal barrier, the protection of the intestinal lining, which can make it more sensitive to antigens. Persistent inflammation can cause thickening and other changes to the intestinal lining. Inflammatory bowel disease can be found in both sexes, all ages and all breeds of dog. However, it may be more common in Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds and Yorkshire Terriers than in other breeds.
The average age for the symptoms to appear is around six but it has been found in all ages. The symptoms are generally present for long periods of time, but they can come and go. The symptoms include vomiting, weight loss, change in appetite, and diarrhea. If the disease is related to the stomach and small intestine, symptoms of vomiting, abdominal pain and dark stools are present. If the disease is related to the large intestine, symptoms of appetite loss and watery diarrhea are common.
Inflammatory bowel disease is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are found in other conditions. In most cases, it is possible for a veterinarian to see intestinal changes caused by the disease through and endoscopy procedure. The objectives of treatment are weight gain, reduction of diarrhea, and decreased intestinal inflammation. If a cause is identified, it needs to be eliminated. In some cases, a diet modification alone treats the disease. Other cases may need to have the diet changed so as to enhance the medical treatment. This can allow the drug dosage to be decreased or completely removed as the animals improves. Anti-inflammatory drugs that suppress the immune system, known as glucocorticoids, are one of the most often used drugs for inflammatory bowel disease.
The veterinarian may recommend a hypoallergenic or elimination diet. This means changing the protein sources among other changes. The diet can be a commercial feed or a homemade diet of rice with lamb or venison. Commercial feed suitable for this can usually be purchased at the veterinary clinic. The new diet should be fed for four to six weeks, and no treats should be given to the animal, unless they have been approved. If the animal has large intestinal diarrhea, it may be beneficial to give a diet that is high in fiber. However, fiber supplements by themselves are not very effective in severe cases. It is important for the owner to follow the veterinarian’s instruction precisely as the veterinarian will prescribe a diet suitable for the individual animal.