Written by David Reich — Fact checked by Piet Hellemans, DVM
Colitis is an irritation or inflammation of the colon or large intestines. This results in a host of issues, like diarrhea, pain, difficulty defecating, and a lot of discomforts. With proper treatment, after determining the exact cause of the condition, you can avoid recurrent cases of colitis. You must also practice the prevention measures such as strict dietary control for this to happen.
Colitis in dogs
Colitis commonly but not exclusively affects human beings. Various types of pets, including dogs can suffer from colitis. Note that colitis is also known as inflammatory bowel disease.
Dogs, just like cats, are highly prone to colitis. They can get inflammation in their colon or large intestines, which causes them to experience a lot of discomfort and lots of symptoms. The colon is the part of the body that handles the final stages of digestion, like storing stools temporarily or passing it. When the stool is stored, the colon absorbs water and makes it ready for passing. However, an inflamed colon is not able to absorb water, resulting in diarrhea.
Symptoms of colitis
You can tell if your dog has colitis by looking out for the following symptoms:
- Frequent, small quantities of semi-formed to liquid feces
- Straining or visible discomfort during defecation or bowel movement. The strain may also be experienced after defecation.
- Small volumes of bright red blood passed near or at the end of a stoll movement or defecation.
- Blood and mucus in feces (this is often the case with chronic colitis)
- Expression of urgency to defecate and need to do it frequently
- Weight loss (this is a rare symptom)
Note that the symptoms of colon or intestine inflammation vary from one dog to the next. This depends on the severity of the condition and how the dog’s body reacts. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog or suspect that your dog has colitis, the best thing to do would be to visit a vet for clinical assistance.
Types of colitis in dogs
There are two primary forms of colitis
Acute colitis is where your dog suddenly experiences colitis symptoms. This form is often stress-related. For instance, it may occur when some dogs are travelling or visiting the groomer. Acute colitis can also be triggered by a dog eating something that it shouldn’t. Sometimes, this form of inflammation resolves on its own. However, it would be wise to visit a vet if symptoms continue to show.
Chronic colitis is where a dog experiences the symptoms repeatedly over the course of a month or more. Chronic colitis does not resolve on its own. This means that it warrants a visit to the vet for assistance.
Other lesser-known forms of colitis are:
- Ulcerative colitis- this is a form leads to an irritable bowel illness and it is characterised by continuous inflammation and ulceration of the large intestine
- Granulomatous colitis- this is a rare form that affects certain dog breeds like French Bulldogs and Boxers.
What is the main cause of colitis?
There are numerous causes of colitis in dogs. Below are some of the common causes of colitis.
- An infection in the digestive tract
- Intestinal worms or parasites
- Medical conditions like, irritable bowel syndrome, immune disease, pancreatitis, and bowel cancer
- Food allergies or poor diet
- Gastro-intestinal, algae, or fungal infections
- Injury to the colon
- Stress (it puts pressure on your dog’s immune system)
- Secondary reaction to medications or antibiotics
Note that the causes of this inflammatory disease in dogs may differ from one dog or breed to the next. It may also differ depending on the environment.
How do vets diagnose colitis?
More often than not, diagnosing colitis depends on dogs’ clinical symptoms and history. A veterinarian can also conduct a microscopic evaluation of your pet’s feces to determine if it has this inflammatory bowel disease. The veterinarian may also conduct other tests, like rectal examination, cytology, and blood tests.
In some colitis cases, your vet may also conduct additional colitis tests such as radiographs or X-rays. These particular tests for colitis in dogs will help the veterinarian examine the colon and intestinal tract to see if there are any discrepancies, injuries, or damages. Colonoscopies, colon biopsies, ultrasound of the abdomen, and barium enemas can also come in handy. Most of these colitis examinations are used to rule out other conditions like colonic tumors or irritable bowel syndrome.
During the colitis diagnosis, the veterinarian may also ask about the following:
- Dogs travel history
- The colitis symptoms
- Exposure to other dogs or pets
- Whether dogs have unsupervised access to your yard
- What type of dog food dogs eat or their diet
- If you have changed dogs food recently
What should I feed a dog with colitis?
An inappropriate diet is one of the causes of colitis in dogs. Feeding a hypoallergenic diet to your dog can reduce the chances of inflammation of the large intestine.
You may try increasing the fiber in your dog’s diet. You can do this by adding wheat germ, carrots, and broccoli. Foods and supplements rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, such as hemp supplements, can also soothe an inflamed colon.
Laying off dog food or fasting for one or two days may help, however, don’t starve your dog!
Treatment for dogs colitis
The specific case of colitis in a dog will determine or dictate the appropriate treatment. Your veterinary doctor may choose one or more of the following treatments:
- De-worming treatment may be done if your dog is suspected to have worms or parasites
- Probiotic treatment to help fights parasites and bacteria that cause colitis in dogs
- Anti inflammatory drugs for the gut
- Antimicrobial drugs for treating infections and getting rid of bacteria
Note that these colitis treatments must be recommended by a trained and experienced veterinarian. In some cases, the vet may recommend that your dog gets hospitalised to control the diarrhea. This happens if the colitis is severe. If you are allowed to take your dog home, you must follow the instructions provided by the vet on how to medicate and take care of your pet. You must ensure that you follow the instructions keenly to reduce the chances of the diarrhea coming back.
9 Steps To Prevent colitis in dogs
You do not have to wait for your dog to get colitis. Preventing colitis in dogs is easier than treating it. You can practice the following 9 prevention measures to keep your dog from suffering.
- Get your dog checked for worms, bacteria, and parasites regularly
- Do your best to minimize stress in your dog’s life
- Ensure that your dog eats a well-balanced diet
- Do not feed any unhealthy treats or foods to your dog
- Keep your dog from any indiscriminate eating habits by keeping garbage, scraps, and other harmful foods out of your dog’s reach
- Avoid making abrupt changes to your dog’s diet, especially if it has a sensitive stomach
- Ensure that your dog is current on all vet-recommended vaccines
- Restrict your dog’s contact with potentially ill dogs, especially in public spaces like dog daycare and the park
- Keep your dog on a leash to keep it from scavenging
Final words: What happens if your dog is diagnosed with colitis?
Once you have visited a medical professional and received the necessary assistance, the prognosis for a dog with colitis is often excellent for a speedy recovery. This means that a dog with colitis is likely to go back to normal within a short time. For instance, in the case of acute or colitis caused by stress, you can expect recovery within three to five days. On the other hand, for chronic or recurrent cases of colitis, you can expect a recovery in a bit more than a week. With proper treatment, after determining the exact cause of the condition, you can avoid recurrent cases of colitis. You must also practice the prevention measures listed above like, strict dietary control for this to happen.