Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Inflammatory bowel disease, also known as IBD, is characterized by a constant invasion of white blood cells in the intestines or colon. The white blood cells are released by a dog's body in a natural response to fight off infection, but what they end up doing is creating a lot of unnecessary inflammation in the colon or intestines. This inflammation in turn leads to the development of the condition known as inflammatory bowel disease.

Risk Factors and Causes

There's no research that points to the exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease. An excessive release of white blood cells triggers the inflammation in the intestinal tract, but it's not clear as to why the immune system becomes misguided and releases so many white blood cells into the body.

What is known about inflammatory bowel disease is that it predominately affects dogs of advanced age and it also has some breed tendencies. It is thought that the onset of inflammatory bowel disease related to age could be caused by a compromised immune system, but there is no scientific proof to back up that claim. 

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The symptoms of IBD are usually quite noticeable to a dog owner. The symptoms can range in severity and can provide evidence to indicate what the current state of the disease is. Any of the following symptoms could be signs of inflammatory bowel disease:

  • Persistent vomiting and diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst due to dehydration
  • General fatigue
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Sudden or unexplainable weight loss
  • Blood discharge in stool

Because inflammatory bowel disease can often prompt an incapacitating condition, any of these symptoms should prompt immediate medical attention.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease

All other possibilities concerning parasites, bacterial infections and viral infections must first be ruled out. In addition, the symptoms will have to be present over a certain period of time in order to be deemed chronic, and thus raising inflammatory bowel disease as a possible consideration.

Regular testing of fecal examinations and complete blood work will be done first to rule out any other possible condition. A chemistry panel may also be done to check the level of enzymes in the liver. When a case of inflammatory bowel disease is severe, the enzymes in the liver may be elevated.

However, the only actual way to make a true diagnosis is to do a biopsy of the colon. This procedure is done by taking some of the lining from the colon and testing it to see how many white blood cells exist in the colon.

Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease is usually nothing more than a trial and error period because there is no identifiable cause for the disease. If there was a direct cause that could be linked to the excessive amount of white blood cells released by the immune system, a more definitive means of treatment may be available.

Making changes in a dog's diet can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of IBD. For example, feeding more protein and less fat can help to harden up the stool, so that the symptoms of diarrhea are not so uncomfortable.

There is also the possibility of administering corticosteroids to help suppress the reactions of the immune system. The only problem with giving corticosteroids is that it can make the immune system less effective and oftencan allow other conditions to develop.