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IBS and IBD in Dogs


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.

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, gastroenteritis, colitis, pancreatitis 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.

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. Sticking to grain-free recipes is recommended as grains can sometimes cause an inflammatory reaction in the digestive system. 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. If your dog is showing signs of IBS or IBD and you‘re not sure what to feed, try our Turkey Terrific, Chicken Dinner or Fish Supper diets to help get them back on track. These grain-free recipes contain natural fibre sources like parsnip and apple and are free from colours, flavourings and sweeteners (our recipes carry a ‘no nasties’ promise). With minimal processing involved, 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.

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