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Canine Colitis

Colitis is the inflammation of the colon and is characterized by chronic diarrhea. It can come on suddenly and last for a short time, or it can last for longer with symptoms recurring over a period of time. This page takes a look at the common symptoms, possible causes, and treatment of colitis in dogs.

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Colitis refers to the inflammation of the colon. In dogs, colitis is rather common and accounts for about 50 percent of all cases of dog chronic diarrhea.

Dog colitis affects all dogs regardless of their breeds and ages, although Boxers are predisposed to one type of colitis called "Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis" which causes symptoms in young Boxer puppies before the age of two.

Colitis can be acute (sudden onset with short duration) or chronic (symptoms last for at least two to three weeks or symptoms recur on and off over a period of time).

Symptoms of Canine Colitis

The classic symptom of dog colitis is chronic diarrhea. While many dog illnesses can cause diarrhea, cases of diarrhea related to problems in the colon usually have the following characteristics:
  • Very often, the stool starts out normal but towards the end becomes loose.
  • Instead of watery, the stool produced is small in size, soft or slimy.
  • The stool may be mixed with blood and mucus.
  • The dog shows signs of pain during defecation, with prolonged straining and squatting.

Causes of Canine Colitis

Acute colitis is commonly caused by dietary indiscretion (e.g. eating garbage and spoiled food, overeating, ingesting foreign material, etc.).

Dogs with a nervous disposition may develop a case of acute colitis if there is a sudden change in his environment (e.g. boarding, traveling, moving, etc.).

Chronic colitis in dogs can be the result of a number of causes, such as:
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

    Chronic colitis in dogs is usually caused by one of the various forms of canine IBD, the most common form of which is Lymphocytic-plasmacytic Enterocolitis. It is caused by food allergy, giardia, and an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria.
  • Food Allergy or Food Intolerance

    Food intolerance or allergic reactions to food can cause colitis in dogs. Some dogs may have food intolerance towards preservatives, colorings or other additives, contaminants or even a specific protein, lactose, or high fat content in the food. Some dogs may develop actual allergic reactions to certain food ingredients in the diet (e.g. beef, corn). If food allergy is the cause of colitis, then the dog will be put on a special diet (a hypoallergenic diet) which contains a novel protein source (one which the dog has never had before, e.g. rabbit).
  • Parasites and Bacteria

    Intestinal parasites such as whipworms, as well as protozoa such as Giardia, are common causes of canine colitis. Bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli, and Campylobacter are also common culprits. Colitis caused by fungus is rare.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases, there is no inflammation of the colon in IBS. Instead, it is a disorder associated with stress and happens mostly in nervous, high-strung dogs. It causes diarrhea mixed with mucus. Usually, diagnosis of IBS is based on the exclusion of other causes of canine colitis.

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Diagnosis and Conventional Treatment of Colitis

Canine colitis is diagnosed by colonoscopy and colon biopsy. Fecal samples will also be taken to look for bacteria or parasites.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include the following:
  • For a case of mild acute colitis, a fast of 24 to 48 hours, followed by a bland diet such as rice and boiled chicken, and thereafter by a gradual re-introduction of the dog's normal diet is recommended.
  • For chronic colitis caused by an inflammatory bowel disease, anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs such as corticosteroids may be prescribed.
  • For chronic colitis caused by food allergies or intolerance, a hypoallergenic diet may be beneficial.
  • A high-fiber diet or adding fiber to the dog's normal diet can help colitis caused by irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Colitis caused by bacteria will be treated with antibiotics.
  • Anti-parasitic (deworming products, anti-protozoal drugs) treatment will be given to dogs with a case of colitis caused by intestinal parasites.
In addition to the above, motility-modifying drugs (i.e. drugs that regulate the motor activity of the intestinal tract) may also be given to the dog to relieve the symptoms of colitis.

A Natural Remedy for Canine Colitis

If you prefer a more natural approach, try this natural remedy if your dog has colitis or similar digestive problems:

BM Tone-Up Gold - Dog Diarrhea Support

This is a 100% herbal remedy specially formulated to support digestive health and functioning in pets. It uses herbs such as marshmallow, mullein, and Oregon grape, and more, all of which are well known for supporting, soothing, and protecting the digestive system.

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