Inflammatory bowel disease flare-ups in dogs can be concerning for dog owners to witness considering the severity of the symptoms displayed during such episodes. In severe cases, affected dogs may even need to be hospitalized until they are stabilized and their symptoms are under control.
Understanding the etiology of inflammatory bowel disease flare-ups is important so dog owners can be proactive and take all necessary measures to combat this sometimes challenging to manage condition. Following is some information about Inflammatory Bowel Disease Flare-ups in Dogs by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
The intestines make up the lower portion of the dog’s digestive tract. They comprise the small intestines and the large intestines and are about three times as long as the dog’s body. That would be between 3 ½ and 10 feet, depending on the breed.
In the dog’s intestines, the fats, proteins and carbohydrates are broken down into their smaller components which are then absorbed through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. Because the intestines are technically in direct contact with the outside environment, they are exposed to enormous variety of challenges. Therefore, diseases and disorders affecting the intestines are quite common in dogs.
Inflammatory bowel disease is actually a group of chronic diseases causing inflammation of the intestinal lining and resulting in impaired nutrient absorption. Each type of inflammation is defined by a specific type of inflammatory cell found in the lining of the intestines and involved in the disorder.
The different types of IBD include: lymphocytic-plasmocytic colitis, eosinophilic colitis, granulomatous enteritis, neutrophilic colitis and histiocytic ulcerative colitis.
In most cases, the exact underlying cause of IBD cannot be determined. In some dogs diet may play a role in the etiology, while for others bacterial proteins are involved. The only thing that is clear is that IBD occurs when the immune system overreacts.
Dog breeds that are particularly predisposed to developing inflammatory bowel disease include basenji, Chinese shar-pei and German shepherd.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Flare-ups in Dogs
The signs of IBD depend on the portion of the gastrointestinal tract that is involved in the inflammatory process. For example, when the upper portions are involved, the dog vomits and when the lower portions are involved, the dog has diarrhea.
It is interesting that as the disease progresses, the frequency of defecation increases while the quantity of stool decreases. More often than not, the stool contains mucus and blood. The vomiting and diarrhea are followed by significant weight loss.
The signs of IBD are intermittent. This means they come and go. The phases when the dog manifests visible signs of IBD are called flare ups.
Inflammatory bowel disease flare-ups in dogs causes them to become depressed, reluctant to eat and have increased body temperatures. When the flare up ends, affected dogs show no symptoms at all.
At the Vet’s Office
To make the right diagnosis, the vet will perform a full and thorough physical examination. If the vet suspects IBD, he will perform fecal examinations and blood tests. The blood test usually shows protein loss, anemia, dehydration, elevated liver enzymes and altered cobalamine (vitamin B12) levels in dogs and altered folate levels.
The crucial methods for diagnosing IBD include an endoscopic examination of the intestines and examination of biopsy specimens. In fact, intestinal biopsy is the golden standard for definitive diagnosis. When the surgical risk is a factor, a presumptive diagnosis can be set by performing an abdominal ultrasound and detecting the presence of thickened bowel loops.
Because of its nature, treating IBD requires a multimodal approach. The types of cells involved in the inflammatory process suggest that IBD is an immune-mediated disease and that food allergy should always be considered part of the problem. Dogs suffering from IBD should be fed a hypoallergenic diet.
The term hypoallergenic is different for different dogs and it means food that does not contain proteins, (or the dog food contains hydrolyzed proteins) carbohydrates and fats that the immune system may classify as foreign. Many dog food manufacturers produce such diets.
Because of its high digestibility, rice is a preferred carbohydrate source for dogs with IBD. Other safe options include potato, corn and tapioca – all of which are also gluten free. In addition, increasing the amount of fiber in the diet improves the stool consistency, colon motility and supports the growth of intestinal bacteria that aid digestion.
Besides from diet management, treating IBD implies using certain drugs. Immunosuppressant drugs such as corticosteroids are routinely used to control this disease. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as sulfasalazine are used when the inflammation is restricted to one part of the colon. Antibiotics such as Flagyl (metronidazole) are also indicated to control the inflammatory processes.
To be more precise, the exact treatment depends on the type of the IBD. For example lymphocytic-plasmocytic colitis is treated with hypoallergenic diet, corticosteroids and antibiotics, eosinophilic colitis is treated with corticosteroids and parasite control, granulomatous enteritis is treated with corticosteroids and metronidazole, neutrophilic colitis is treated with antibiotics and corticosteroids and histiocytic ulcerative colitis is treated with hypoallergenic diet, antibiotics and corticosteroids.
Prognosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
Some dogs, over time can do well on decreased doses, while others may not need long-term drug therapy. Unfortunately, there are some dogs that do not respond to treatment. Severe forms of inflammatory bowel can eventually progress to intestinal cancer.
Many dogs with chronic intestinal disease of more than three-weeks duration respond totally or significantly to a one-week food trial with a commercial elimination diet alone (dry formulation). ~Dr. Johnny D. Hoskins, board-certified veterinarian specializing in internal medicine.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She is a certified nutritionist and is certified in HAACP food safety system implementation.
She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.
Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.