7 Common Causes of Colitis in Dogs

Colitis, an inflammation or irritation of the colon or large intestine, causes dogs a variety of bowel problems. Most often, colitis causes diarrhea but it can also cause constipation. Its onset can be acute or chronic. Your dog may strain to defecate and pass very little stool. Your dog may lose weight and become debilitated without treatment.

Treatment depends on the source of the inflammation. Some types are easily managed, others require ongoing maintenance or surgery.

7 Common Causes of Colitis in Dogs

  1. Parasites: Whipworms, hookworms and giardia are two internal parasites that can irritate and inflame the intestine. Be sure your dog is appropriately and thoroughly tested and treated for parasites.
  2. Dietary Indiscretion or Foreign Body Colitis: Dogs that eat a lot of grass can develop acute colitis from the irritation of indigestible fiber contained in the stalks and stems. Some dogs have a condition known a pica-they eat non-food materials. These dogs are prone to occasional, acute colitis.
  3. Bacteria: Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria can cause colitis. Salmonella contamination prompted a pet food recall in 2008.
  4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): A condition in which the body's own protective cells invade and inflame the intestinal wall can cause colitis in dogs. The cause of IBD is unknown, but food allergens may play a role. Begin providing a hypoallergenic food that contains lamb, duck or venison. If you have an overweight dog, dieting to achieve a healthy weight is helpful, too. Eliminate corn, soy and wheat from your dog's diet and do not feed any spicy, fatty or processed human foods.
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: IBS is often stress related although it can be neurological in origin also. Provide a safe and supportive environment for your pet, and be sure he gets adequate exercise. A high-quality dog food that contains a named meat as its first ingredient may alleviate some of the symptoms of IBS. Consider a commerical pet food specifically for dog diabetes; these foods are formulated with extra fiber and some types of colitis respond well to these recipes.
  6. Antibiotics: A temporary bout of colitis after a course of antibiotics is common because the beneficial bacteria in the gut die along with the infectious agents for which the drug was prescribed. Probiotics or yogurt can restore the flora and resolve this type of colitis.
  7. Rat Poisoning: Certain poisons can cause bloody diarrhea. If you suspect that your dog has ingested a poison, contact your veterinarian or poison control hotline. Induce vomiting if possible and administer activated charcoal.

Some less common causes of colitis include pancreatitis, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis or colon cancer.

If your dog suffers from an occasional digestive upset, withhold food for twenty-four hours and monitor his condition. Anti-diarrheals are available over-the-counter or through your veterinarian. For constipation, add one teaspoon (for small dogs) up to one-eighth cup (for large dogs) of unsweetened, plain pumpkin to their rations.