Managing Colitis With a Fiber-Rich Diet

Canine colitis, an inflammation of the colon, causes diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort in your dog; weight loss may follow if the condition is left untreated. Colitis is considered a "fiber responsive" disease, meaning the symptoms are relieved or reduced by the addition of a fiber preparation to the diet.

Symptoms of Colitis

Your dog may not show obvious signs of colitis. Minor bouts of diarrhea, sometimes accompanied by signs of blood or mucous in the stool are the most common symptom.

More severe signs of colitis include:

  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Poor skin and coat condition
  • Acute and Chronic Colitis

Colitis can be acute or chronic. Acute or sudden onset colitis may be caused by whipworms or bacterial or fungal infection. Treatment of the underlying cause will, in most cases, resolve the problem.

Chronic colitis-a long-term disruption of your dog's bowel movements lasting one to three weeks and recurring several times a year-requires dietary and possibly medical management. The first step in a colitis management plan involves switching to a high fiber diet.

How Fiber Helps Colitis

Fiber is well known for its role in resolving constipation problems. Fiber increases the water retention in the intestines which softens stool. It also creates bulk in the intestine which increases movement of the fecal material.

Fiber is also helpful in treating diarrhea because it slows the transit time of fecal material, which increases the amount of water absorbed from the colon. This reduces the amount of water lost in a watery stool.

The carbohydrates present in fiber cannot be digested by the enzymes in your dog's body. Of the two types of fiber-soluble and insoluble-it is insoluble fiber that will add bulk to your planned dog diet; food containing a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber will provide the best and healthiest results.

Adding Fiber To The Diet

There are several ways to add fiber to your dog's diet. There are commercially available high-fiber foods that provide increased levels of bulk. Look for foods that contain natural sources of fiber like brown rice, oats, fruits or vegetables. Avoid sources such as corn bran, peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean hulls or oat hulls.

It is also possible to add fiber to your dog's diet by mixing a high-quality bran product or slowly introducing carrots, pears or bananas to her diet. In addition, consider adding a probiotic supplement to your dog's daily diet to balance healthy intestinal flora. These supplements will increase the bioavailablity of food and aid digestion.

Dehydration is always a risk with chronic diarrhea. Be sure your dog has access to unlimited fresh water. Adding water to your dog's daily ration or adding high-quality canned food can increase your dog's fluid intake.