IBS and IBD in dogs

Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVSDr Andrew Miller MRCVS is an expert veterinary working in the field for over 10 years after graduating from Bristol University. Andy fact checks and writes for Pure Pet Food while also working as a full time veterinarian. Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) are two different conditions of the bowel (part of the digestive system), but the two names are often mistakenly used interchangeably. It can be confusing because some of the outward signs are similar.

What are IBS and IBD in dogs?

IBS (sometimes called sensitive stomach) may seem to come and go. Bouts of IBS can be triggered by a change in diet or routine: symptoms such as intermittent diarrhoea may last a few days then appear to resolve, often set off again if the trigger isn’t removed.

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In contrast, IBD is a persistent, chronic (long-term) condition so symptoms that don’t go away are more likely to be IBD.

What causes IBS and IBD in dogs?

Although no one really knows the exact cause, IBS and IBD are usually diagnosed after all other potential causes of digestive issues are ruled out, such as worms, gastroenteritiscolitispancreatitis etc. Some dogs have a dietary intolerance or sensitivity, which means their gut doesn’t respond well to certain foods. Dogs can also be allergic to certain proteins in their food; the most common dietary allergens for dogs are beef, chicken, wheat, corn, milk and eggs.

An allergic reaction will typically cause itching and the skin on your dog’s face, feet and ears may become noticeably sore. Although less common, diarrhoea, vomiting and flatulence can also be symptoms of a dietary allergy. Certain artificial additives such as colourings and preservatives can also irritate the digestive system in some dogs.

Stress and lack of dietary fibre may also play a part in bringing on IBS and IBD symptoms. Sometimes the normal functioning of the gut just goes wrong, causing it to become over or underactive.

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Signs and symptoms of IBS and IBD in dogs

If your dog has intermittent bouts of diarrhoea/constipation or episodes of frequently passing small amounts of poo containing mucus, they may have IBS. Other signs of a flare-up can include bloating, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting and a general dwindling of their usual energy.

A vet will usually diagnose IBS once all other gut-based conditions (worms, gastroenteritis, colitis, pancreatitis etc.) are ruled out. On the other hand, if similar symptoms are seen daily, your dog may have IBD. This is an inflammatory condition of the gut (which works a bit like a constant allergic reaction) that can upset its ability to use nutrients properly.

Noting your dog’s usual behaviours and paying attention to their poo quality will go a long way in helping to diagnose the problem and start the road to treatment. You know your dog best - if you think there’s something wrong, get them checked out by your vet.

How to treat IBS and IBD in dogs

The first place to start is the diet. A dog with symptoms of IBS or IBD can benefit from a natural, easily digestible diet containing limited ingredients. Avoiding highly processed pet foods, those with artificial additives such as colours and flavours, treats and table scraps can all help. Getting the right amount and type of dietary fibre is important, so check the label for natural fibre sources.

At Pure Pet Food, our diets are 100% natural and our ingredients lists are short and sweet. Our foods are bursting with unspoilt goodness and are perfect for sensitive tummies (and we hear they taste good too). Give one of our diets a try for at least a week to give things a chance to settle down.

If stress is a possible trigger of your dog’s grumbling gut, take steps to find out the root cause and how the impact can be minimised. Have you moved house recently? Has anyone (human or otherwise) moved into or left the home lately? Has your dog been exposed to loud noises such as thunder or fireworks? These are just some of the more common causes of stress in pets, which may be responsible for some of the symptoms associated with IBS or IBD. Make sure your dog is allowed to rest uninterrupted and that all household members or visitors respect your dog’s need for space. Ensure your dog is getting enough exercise and mental stimulation. If you leave your dog home alone for long periods, spend some time making sure they have something to occupy and comfort them such as a treat-release toy and a favourite blanket or item of clothing containing your scent.

Remember, IBS and IBD can be life-long conditions. Once the symptoms are under control, keep a close eye out for any recurrences.

What is the best dog food for irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowl syndrome (IBS)?

The best dog food for IBD and IBS will avoid common allergens and irritants that might be causing the condition and triggering an unwanted immune response. Some dogs are simply sensitive to common proteins like beef and chicken. In these cases, changing to a new protein source can help a pup who is suffering from IBD or IBS. If your pooch has been eating standard protein sources like beef, lamb and chicken, try switching to a recipe that uses something new like fish or duck.

Gluten and grains can also trigger IBS and can be aggravating for canines as they have a shorter digestive tract, making it difficult for them to digest grain and it can cause inflammation.

Kibble (dry dog food) can be notorious for triggering IBS and IBD because of the high cereal content used as fillers. Plus, kibble often uses artificial flavours and preservatives to give the food taste and a long shelf-life, but these ingredients are also common irritants. The best dog food for IBD will therefore avoid ingredients like fillers and artificial additives, and keep the ingredients limited so there is less chance of the food containing anything that could cause a flare-up.

Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS explains: "Dogs with a sensitive stomach can be tricky to manage. It’s therefore important to keep your dog’s diet regular, without adding variety in the way of leftovers, to avoid upsets. Pure’s range of recipes are gentle on digestion, whilst containing a minimal number of fresh ingredients least likely to cause a flare-up."

This points towards the best dog food for IBS being one that uses limited, natural ingredients that are not likely to aggravate a dog’s condition. Fresh, digestible food will also ensure the gut is neither inactive nor overworked, giving it time to heal.

Pure makes paw-some recipes suitable for dogs suffering from irritable bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Our meals are highly digestible and contain a limited list of fresh, natural ingredients to prevent irritation. It means our food is as tasty as it is nourishing, and paw-fect for soothing sensitive tummies.

Dozens of dogs with sensitive stomachs have tried Pure and are thriving. Spaniel Alfie had issues with grain-free food in the past but has had no digestion problems since he switched to Pure. In fact, many dogs who made the change to Pure food have seen their stomach sensitivities resolved.

We’ll create a healthy, personalised plan for your pooch to cater to their taste, allergies, and sensitivities. Say goodbye to filler foods and unnatural nasties, and hello to waggy tails and happy tums!