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What is IBD?

IBD is a term thrown around a lot in the dog community but what does it mean? Here’s an overview of what it is.

IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and refers to the inflammation of the bowels that causes dogs to have some pretty nasty stomach issues. Despite its name, IBD is a syndrome and acts as an umbrella term for recurring stomach troubles. It’s tough to diagnose and usually takes some deeper investigation as there can be several causes. Lots of dogs can get similar symptoms by picking up a short-term stomach bug or eating something they shouldn’t have but IBD is characterized by being a chronic disease.

What causes IBD?

Since IBD is the inflammation of the intestinal tract, it can be caused by any number of things that can cause a dog to have this reaction. In most cases of IBD, it can be difficult to know the exact cause. Some dogs have food sensitivities and can react to specific proteins in their diet. Other cases are caused by either parasitic or bacterial infections. Dogs with poor breeding or compromised immune systems can develop IBD and some breeds are more likely to get it than others. Large chested breeds are slightly more at risk of getting the disease like Great Danes or Dobermans but regardless of predisposition, any breed can contract it. IBD can be symptomatic of a much larger issue in a dog’s gastrointestinal tract.

Getting a veterinary diagnosis.

One of the most important things to take note of when considering IBD is that many of the symptoms can occur initially with much more mild stomach issues. Generally, most stomach troubles will resolve in a few days but if symptoms continue then your dog will need to visit the vet to determine if they have IBD. A veterinarian won’t be able to tell solely based on sight if a dog has IBD and it often takes some trial and error with treatment options to find the exact cause and best treatment plan.

The main symptoms of IBD in dogs include a prolonged period of vomiting and diarrhea. When these symptoms last longer than regular stomach troubles, they may start to show weight loss and some lethargy in their day-to-day activities. They can also become dehydrated as they struggle to digest anything they either drink or eat. IBD can occur in different areas of the gastric tract and vets will often use a dog’s symptoms to help form a treatment plan. They will usually need to take a blood sample, fecal tests, and sometimes tissue biopsies to determine the cause of the IBD and treat it appropriately.

How is IBD treated?

It is often a recurring disease so even in mild cases it is likely that most dogs will need to be managed using a specific diet to help fend off any flare-ups. Specially formulated diets that derive protein from alternate sources can help dogs who have intolerances to some proteins. Often, different diets will suit different dogs so it’s likely that you may have to try a few before finding the right one for your dog. You can see what IBD diets we recommend here.

More severe cases are often treated with antibiotics or steroids. After treatment, most cases can be managed through diet and sometimes supplements but in some rare cases, a dog will need long-term medication.

What is the prognosis?

While the symptoms are unpleasant and sometimes scary, IBD very rarely affects a dog’s ability to live a long and happy life. In almost all cases dogs respond very well to treatment and make a full recovery, only needing some dietary tweaks to keep them comfortable and save your rugs from further mishaps.