Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis in Dogs

Ulcerative colitis in dogs is a condition in which the large intestine, or bowels, become inflamed. It can be associated with inflammatory diseases of the large intestine, such as Irritable Bowel Disorder. Usually, it's the result of an abnormal immune reaction that affects the tissues of your dog's large intestine. Read on to learn more about diagnosing and managing ulcerative colitis in dogs.

Causes and Symptoms of Canine Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis often occurs due to an abnormal immune reaction, in which your dog's immune system attacks the tissues of his own large intestine. It can occur in animals who already have inflammatory conditions of the large intestine, such as Irritable Bowel Disorder. It usually strikes puppies younger than one year old. Vets believe that this disorder may have a genetic component, since some breeds, such as the French Bulldog and Boxer, seem to get it more often than others.

If your dog develops ulcerative colitis, he may exhibit some of the following symptoms:

  • Straining to move the bowels
  • Moving the bowels more often, without any increase in the amount of stool generally passed
  • Blood or mucous in the stool
  • Weight loss
  • Lowered appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Ulcerative colitis can make dogs feel the need to move their bowels very urgently, leading to an increase in "accidents." Dogs who strain to move their bowels due to ulcerative colitis could develop complications, including hemorrhoids or anal prolapse. Ulcerative colitis, when severe, can cause extreme abdominal discomfort and excessive bleeding in the intestines. Internal bleeding due to ulcerative colitis could be deadly. If your dog spits up blood or bleeds from the rectum, seek veterinary care immediately.

Diagnosing Ulcerative Colitis in Dogs

Your dog will need a complete medical history and thorough physical exam to diagnose ulcerative colitis. Since there are a number of conditions that can cause similar symptoms, your vet may need to run a lot of tests to rule these out. Blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, ultrasounds and other tests can help your vet rule out the possibly of an infection or other intestinal disease, to confirm a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.

Treating Ulcerative Colitis in Dogs

Treatment for ulcerative colitis is largely dietary. Steroid drugs can help reduce inflammation and soothe your dog's symptoms. Immuno-suppressant drugs can help relieve your dog's symptoms, as well. Antibiotics or other drugs might be necessary if your dog develops a secondary infection. 

If your dog develops ulcerative colitis, he will need to be fed a diet of bland food that won't aggravate his condition. Food should contain no additives or preservatives, since these can make symptoms worse. Your dog's new diet will need to contain plenty of protein and fiber, to support his intestinal health. Your vet can recommend a commercial food, or can give you advice about making your dog's food at home.

Your vet will give your dog a feeding schedule to which you will need to adhere. Feeding your dog on schedule helps reduce his stress level, and it's easier on his digestion, since it discourages eating too fast.