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. 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, it can be 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 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 the result of 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
Usually one of the various forms of canine IBD causes chronic colitis in dogs. The most common form of IBD 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. Others may have problems with 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 vet will put the dog 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. Fungus rarely causes colitis in dogs.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases, there is no inflammation of the colon in IBS. Instead, it is a stress-related disorder 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.
Diagnosis and Conventional Treatment of Colitis
A vet usually uses colonoscopy and colon biopsy to diagnose canine colitis. He may also use fecal samples to look for bacteria or parasites.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include the following:
- For a case of mild acute colitis, the vet may suggest a fast of 24 to 48 hours, followed by a bland diet such as rice and boiled chicken. After that, the dog can return to his normal diet.
- For IBD-related chronic colitis, the vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs such as corticosteroids.
- For food-allergy related chronic colitis, the vet will most likely suggest a hypoallergenic diet.
- A high-fiber diet or adding fermentable fiber such as psyllium, or fructooligosaccharides (FOS) to the dog’s normal diet can help colitis caused by irritable bowel syndrome.
- The vet will prescribe antibiotics for colitis caused by bacteria.
- For a case of colitis as a result of intestinal parasites, the vet will give anti-parasitic (deworming products, anti-protozoal drugs) treatment to the dog.
In addition to the above, the vet may also give motility-modifying drugs (i.e. drugs that regulate the motor activity of the intestinal tract) 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:
This is a 100% herbal remedy that supports 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.
Prevention of Canine Colitis
Here are some suggestion to prevent colitis from recurring in your dog:
- Do not let your dog have access to spoiled foods. If your dog has the habit of eating indigestible objects, do your best to keep such objects out of your dog’s reach!
- Avoid changing your dog’s diet suddenly and abruptly. If you want to switch to a different brand or type of food, do it gradually over a period of at least 7 to 10 days.
- Don’t let your dog drink from rivers or dirty water sources.
- Let your dog live in a stress-free environment as much as possible.