What is colitis in dogs? The digestive system is at its simplest a long tube running from the mouth to the anus. The last section of the tube is called the large intestine or colon. In this section, the parts of food the body cannot digest are gathered, excess water is removed and returned into the body, and stools are formed to be excreted as solid waste. Colitis in dogs occurs when there is inflammation in the colon.
Some use the term colitis interchangeably with large bowel diarrhoea, but this is not accurate. Large bowel diarrhoea can be a symptom of a number of conditions, of which colitis is one, and diarrhoea is the most commonly seen colitis symptom. There are two kinds. Acute colitis is a one-off event lasting a few days, often following eating something unsuitable. Alternatively, an undiagnosed infection or parasite burden may require treatment. Chronic colitis is an ongoing condition in which symptoms can come and go but the underlying condition can be present for the dog’s entire life. Reducing the likelihood of colitis developing involves avoiding stress for your dog, ensuring any parasites or illnesses are promptly treated and feeding a good quality diet appropriate for your dog.
Signs and symptoms of colitis in dogs
The most commonly seen symptoms of colitis in dogs are some form of diarrhoea. The affected dog will produce semi-formed or liquid faeces. The owner may see mucus in the faeces, blood, or a combination of the two. The dog will be going more often than normal, showing increased urgency, but only producing a little each time and having difficulty in going, with obvious straining. Bouts of diarrhoea can be mixed with constipation. Excessive gassiness might be seen. A painful abdomen is likely, with the dog showing a hunched position, back arched, and reluctant to have the area touched. If this is an ongoing problem, the dog can have a poor, dull coat, a lack of appetite, which can lead to weight loss, an air of depression and lethargy.
Causes of colitis in dogs
Colitis in dogs comes in two types.
Acute colitis can be caused by the dog eating something that disagrees with them, for example having eaten a large amount of grass or raided the rubbish bins or countertops to find some unsuitable food. A stressful situation can cause a digestive upset. Infections, either parasitic such as worms or with bacterial causes like Campylobacter, Salmonella or E. coli can also cause acute colitis.
Chronic colitis involves the dog having constant or repeated symptoms. This can be due to a number of causes. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one potential. There are a number of dog breeds prone to colitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a common implication in chronic colitis. These breeds include French Bulldogs, Miniature Schnauzers, West Highland Terriers, Pugs and German Shepherds. Trauma can cause chronic colitis, possibly as damage from previous parasitic or bacterial infections, which can interfere with the gut’s ability to properly digest food and so lead to diarrhoea. Immune conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease can cause the dog’s immune system mistakenly to see normal cells as foreign invaders and attack its own colon lining. Food allergies prompt an immune system response as the body recognises a dangerous substance and attempts to rid the body of the danger by causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Food intolerances present as an inability to digest the problem food properly, which makes the dog very uncomfortable with symptoms of bloating and abdominal discomfort along with the diarrhoea.
How to treat colitis in dogs
The type (acute or chronic) of colitis and the underlying cause of the inflammation largely decide dog colitis treatment options.
Acute colitis frequently resolves within a few days and with minimal treatments necessary. Vets may advise between twenty-four and forty-eight hours of starvation, followed by small, frequent amounts of a low residue easy to digest food. The vet may also prescribe specific gut-friendly anti-inflammatories. Antibiotics might be given if the cause is thought to be bacterial or anti-parasitic treatments if worms or other parasites are suspected. Anti-spasmodic drugs can be given to help the gut walls settle and stop working too much, reducing the dog’s feeling of needing to go at much-reduced intervals.
Chronic colitis is ongoing and will often show symptoms coming and going throughout the dog’s lifetime. Because of this, treatment will usually be for life. While anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic medications can help when the dog is actively showing symptoms, for chronic colitis in dogs treatment frequently includes strictly dietary changes. If immune conditions are present, the dog may need medication to suppress the over-reaction of the immune system. For many concerned owners dealing with dog colitis, natural treatment is the preferred method and switching to a quality food that has an ingredients profile that can help relieve colitis symptoms fulfils this.
Common allergens in dogs include wheat and beef. Lean white meat, fish and eggs are easy to digest and leave little residue to move through to the colon, reducing the amount of waste that the dog produces. For a number of dogs, diets low in crude fibre have helped their symptoms. Lower fat contents have also helped dogs to show fewer symptoms associated with chronic colitis.
Pure Pet Food has a range of low-fat food options for your dog with a range of protein sources (Turkey, fish, chicken etc.). For colitis, dogs are recommended food with a fat content of between 8% and 15%. Turkey Terrific and Fish Supper have a fat content of 8% and are grain free, both of which are suitable for dogs needing an easy to digest diet. We have had a number of customers come back and say that Pure Pet Food has really helped their dog with colitis, take a look at their stories below.
Other dogs' stories
A number of dogs have seen improvements in their colitis symptoms and are eating Pure recipes, check them out at our success stories section.