Colitis is a common digestive problem in dogs. Whilst it does not often lead to fatal consequences, this condition can be agonising for our canine companion. Learn how to spot the early signs of colitis in dogs, its diagnosis, and treatment through this article.
What is colitis in dogs?
The colon or large intestine is a part of the digestive system located in the final section of the gastrointestinal tract (GI). Collecting indigestible parts of food, removing excess water and returning these into the body, and forming stools are the main functions of the colon.
Colitis is an inflammation and irritation in the large intestine. As a result, your dog may feel pain and suffer from stomach upset.
What are the types of colitis in dogs?
There are four types of colitis: acute, chronic, ulcerative, and granulomatous.
- Acute Colitis
Also called sudden colitis, acute colitis refers to the abrupt onset of colitis. It usually persists for a few days before it goes away.
- Chronic Colitis
Chronic colitis is episodic and continues for a prolonged period of time. Some cases of chronic colitis may last for weeks whilst others extend for over a month.
- Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is another form of irritable bowel disease. It is characterised by the continuous inflammation and ulceration of the colon.
- Granulomatous Colitis
Granulomatous colitis is a rare type of disease that plagues certain breeds. It is observed that French bulldogs and Boxers have high chances of developing this condition.
What is colitis in dogs caused by?
How do dogs get colitis? Canine colitis can be a result of various factors. Listed below are the most common causes of colitis in dogs:
Pica or indiscriminate eating: Consuming any kind of food may irritate the colon, especially if it contains indigestible components. A dog prone to eating inedible food is very likely to suffer from recurrent colitis.
- Bowel Cancer:
This type of cancer affects the lower bowel, colon and rectum. It commonly occurs in senior dogs.
Stressful situations add pressure to your dog’s immune system. This leads him to be more vulnerable to colitis flare-up.
- Adverse reaction to medication:
Some antibiotics are not compatible with your dog’s digestive system. They may eradicate good bacteria that helps in proper digestion. This results in stomach upset.
- Dietary intolerance or allergy:
Food allergies can trigger colitis as it may cause inflammation to the digestive tract. Intolerance to particular food such as milk can also lead to colitis.
Viral or bacterial infection can cause inflammation of the colon.
- Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease:
Several gastrointestinal diseases can cause the immune system to attack the colon’s lining.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):
Excitable and stressed dogs are prone to this condition. IBS in dogs can be caused by psychological or neurological issues. Chronic anxiety and stressful experiences can lead to intestinal distress.
Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs
The symptoms of canine colitis may vary, however, below are the most common clinical signs:
- Weight loss
- Straining or difficulties when defecating
- Inflammation of the lower regions
- Pain whilst defecating
- Semi-formed soft liquid faeces
- Small amounts of blood in the stool
- Increased defecation or flatulence
- Irregular eating habits
Is colitis in dogs contagious?
Colitis is not an infectious disease so it will not spread to dogs or humans. However, worms, bacteria, or parasites that can cause this disease is contagious. Therefore, proper sanitation is necessary to prevent infections.
Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling your dog. Washing and decontaminating his kennel, dog bed, bowls, and toys are great preventive measures.
Diagnosing Colitis in Dogs
The diagnosis of colitis may involve a series of tests. These are done to rule out conditions such as colon tumours or IBS. Listed below are the various exams used by the vet properly diagnose colitis in dogs.
- Blood tests
- Microscopic evaluation of the faeces
- Rectal examination
Additional tests may be required such as:
- Barium enemas
- Colon biopsies
- Faecal cultures
How to treat colitis in dogs?
To treat colitis, the vet will prescribe an appropriate treatment that targets the specific cause of the condition. Immunosuppressive drugs or anti-inflammatories may be prescribed if he has inflammatory or immune-mediated colitis. Depending on his diagnosis, antimicrobial drugs may be added as well.
Fasting for 24 to 48 hours may be necessary too. In this case, your dog will be provided with a hypoallergenic diet. The vet may also recommend increasing dietary fibre and adding fermentable fibre. Some dogs suffering from colitis do well on low-fibre diets.
How to prevent colitis in dogs?
You cannot completely protect your dog from colitis, however, there are several measures you can do to reduce the probability of him developing it. Here are a few handy tips:
- Let the vet check if your dog has worms or parasites at least once a year. Make sure to administer the necessary treatments.
- Minimise your dog’s stress. Provide a relaxing home environment for him. Ensure that your furry companion is rarely exposed to situations that can trigger stress or anxiety.
- Do not let indiscriminate eating become a habit of your dog. Keep garbage, table scraps, and other harmful foods from his reach. Training him the command ‘leave it’ is also handy should he be tempted to eat something from the ground.
- Dogs’ stomach is extremely sensitive to sudden dietary changes. So avoid making abrupt adjustments to his food and consistently feed him well-balanced meals. If you plan to switch to new dog food, do it gradually to avoid stomach upset.
My Dog Has Colitis – What Should I feed Him?
Every dog has different needs. It is advisable to consult with the vet to come up with a detailed feeding guide and nutrition plan specifically designed for your dog.
Proper hydration will keep your dog’s colon in good condition so make sure that freshwater is available.
When it comes to diet, high-quality dog food packed with high digestibility protein, dietary fat, and dietary fibre may be recommended. This helps protect his GI tract against toxins and boost the growth of healthy colon bacteria and colon cells.