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Dog with IBD not getting better – What to do

Do you suspect your dog with IBD isn’t getting any better? Here’s the rundown of what IBD is and what your next steps are.

Defining IBD and its symptoms

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a common gastrointestinal issue in dogs. IBD is the inflammation of the intestinal tract that cannot be diagnosed through a physical exam alone. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have upset stomachs from time to time but IBD is categorized by the prolonged exhibition of these symptoms. Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy. If any of these symptoms persist for more than a few days, it’s essential you take your dog in to get a medical examination done by a veterinarian.

What happens if my dog has IBD?

If the vet suspects your dog may have IBD, they will often initially trial a new diet to rule out your dog has a food allergy. Mild IBD can be treated with an exclusion diet. Exclusion diets are usually formed from alternative proteins to avoid common sources. Protein derived from chicken, lamb, beef and turkey are usually the main contenders so your vet will recommend a diet with an alternative protein source to the one your pet is usually fed on. Exclusion diets should be fed for at least two weeks before you can assess if it has helped with your dog’s health. To introduce a new diet, gradually mix the two diets over the course of the first five days to avoid further upsets from changing over too quickly. During this period, you should not feed your dog any extra treats to better assess how the new dog food for IBD suits your dog.

What if there’s no improvement with the diet change?

After the two weeks, if there has been no improvement you will need another vet appointment to explore more options.

If diet alone hasn’t helped your poorly pup, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to try and improve their gastro health. This may include the use of probiotics or prebiotics to try and reduce the number of bacteria in your dog’s intestines. It may also include antibiotics to help them fight off any bacterial infections and get them fighting fit again as soon as possible.

Your vet may try several different medications to try and treat the symptoms. However, if symptoms still prevail after these efforts, they may recommend some other treatments. Throughout the course of trying to diagnose and treat IBD, you may be asked to collect fecal samples to test for bacteria and parasites. A veterinarian can also take a blood test, perform an abdomen scan, or in some cases take a biopsy of either the intestines or stomach.

Blood tests will help your vet rule out any other causes for your dog’s intestinal issues and check their protein as IBD will cause a depletion of their protein levels. A biopsy is only usually recommended when several other treatments have either failed or come back inconclusive. Your dog will need an anesthetic for the procedure, but recovery is usually nice and quick and only takes a day or two for your dog to be feeling back to its normal self again. From the tissue sample taken your vet will be able to determine the presence of IBD and the severity. With this information, they can then prescribe medication which in some more severe cases can include steroids.

What can I expect in the long run?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition of the immune system so any dog that has suffered from IBD is likely to need long-term management. Even in more mild cases, your dog may still get a flare-up on occasion. IBD rarely affects life expectancy, it just means that your dog may have to have a more carefully managed diet and treatment plan to keep them on track and healthy.