Diagnosing IBD in Dogs

IBD, the inflammatory bowel disease, is a condition that causes chronic inflammation of the intestines, due to inflammatory cells. IBD is considered an autoimmune disease, as the production of the inflammatory cells is a response of the immune system. The IBD may be difficult to diagnose, but the diagnosis can be made through several tests and a biopsy may also be needed.

IBD in Dogs

IBD in dogs is caused by inflammatory cells such as lymphocytes or plasmacytes that may cause irritation in the intestinal tract of the dog.

The exact causes of IBD in dogs are not known; genetics, poor nutrition, chronic infections, immune system dysfunctions may all cause IBD.

IBD may show several symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting, which are most often intermittent.

IBD Diagnosis

IBD may be diagnosed judging by the dog's symptoms, history, a physical exam and blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds or biopsies may also be performed.

The vet may also rule out a few other possible causes of vomiting and diarrhea (i.e. internal parasites or bacterial infections) before suspecting the inflammatory bowel disease.

For a clear diagnosis of IBD, the disease must be chronic and the inflammatory cells must be present in the stomach or intestinal tract.

History and Symptoms

The dog that is suspected to have IBD must present symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and mucous substance present in the stool.

Physical Examination

The vet will examine the dog to see if he is thinner than normal. The vet may also palpate the stomach and try to feel the intestines, which will be swollen and thickened if the IBD is present.

Blood Tests

The blood tests may not reveal any problems, but the vet may perform these to rule out other infections.

However, if the inflammation of the intestinal tract is serious, this may affect the liver and the pancreas, so the blood tests may show a high number of liver enzymes and amylase (which is secreted by the pancreas).

X-Rays and Ultrasounds

The x-rays and ultrasounds may only reveal the fact that the intestines are thickened, but the vet may opt for these tests to rule out other conditions (i.e. tumors in the intestinal tract).


A biopsy is the test that will give a clear diagnosis. If the dog is affected by IBD, the biopsy will reveal the inflammatory cells that are present in the intestinal tract.

The biopsy is performed through an endoscope which is introduced in the dog's throat or rectum. A sample of the cells will be taken and these will be examined under the microscope.

Through the biopsy, the vet will also find the type of inflammatory cells, which may help to determine the most suitable treatment.

Fecal Examination

In most cases, the vet will opt to perform a fecal examination as well, which will reveal if there are parasites (i.e. tapeworm or giardia) or harmful bacteria present in the intestinal tract (i.e. Salmonella).